8. Snow White and The Huntsman
When Kristen Stewart owns the screen, The Huntsman is a bit of a chore. When Charlize Theron owns it, it becomes a joy. This suffers from uneven performances (Mostly from Kristen; she’s not awful, by any means, but just so lifeless) and poor plot pacing, but it genuinely does look amazing, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought Charlize still looked hot as the sagging, powerless Queen.
7. 21 Jump Street
The funniest film I’ve seen this year (although I haven’t really seen many comedies) is by far 21 Jump Street. I probably wouldn’t have made it my business to go out and see this one in the cinema, but after seeing Cabin In The Woods, a few of us snuck into this for shits and giggles. And I’m glad we did! The premise isn’t the most original idea in the world, but that really means fuck all when you have a script as funny as this, and actors who can deliver the rib-tickling goods. Like many of my favorite comedy films, this blends the silly slapstick with clever humour, and the the LOLs-per-minute ratio is very, very high. Plus, it has the most unexpected cameo ever.
It’s rare that a movie as good as this will go undetected on my radar right up until it’s released. I pride myself on being up to date with every upcoming movie ever, the ones worth watching at least! Alas, out came Chronicle, flying in from nowhere and greeted by unanimous rave reviews. It’s a ridiculously enjoyable film, both as pure entertainment and to revel in the phenomenon that is low-budget sci-fi brilliance. In our current age, where ‘proper’ superhero blockbusters are at the height of their popularity, it’s rather refreshing to see a new take on the genre.
5. The Hunger Games
Unfairly being professed as ‘the new Twilight’ , The Hunger Games probably had just as many haters as devotees months before it even hit cinemas. If you were sensible enough to actually go watch the film, you would’ve seen that it is a surprisingly mature take on dark subject matter. There is very, very little cheesy moments; no slo-mo montages, no tacky use of popular music in the soundtrack (‘Supermassive Black Hole’ in ‘Twilight’, I’m looking at you.) and solid performances across the bar. It’s a remarkably down to earth take on the young adult book series, and I’m still impressed how clever the violence is presented. Show me another film rated 12A about killing 12 to 18 year old kids and I’ll eat my fucking hat.
4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
It’s not very often that a movie in this genre will manage to hold my full attention for 150 minutes or so, but damn, Dragon Tattoo did. Fincher is one of my favorite directors, and he did this one justice, creating a brutal and beautifully shot film that easily rivals, if not surpasses the original Swedish version. Although I will say I prefer Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. Just about.
3. The Avengers
It’s hard to find a person who didn’t enjoy The Avengers. I am THE biggest Joss Whedon fanboy you’ll ever meet, and so I was more excited to see it for his involvement alone, more than anything. On that front, it didn’t disappoint. It has Whedon written all over it, and although it might not be the best superhero film of all-time (I mean, come on folks, it’s great fun, but it’s not quite a cinematic masterpiece), it’s probably the funniest. I had a blast. The only downside is seeing how anyone other than Joss could helm another mega-superhero film with the same approach and succeed. And they will try.
This one has seemingly split viewers down the middle; half of them disappointed by the lack of character development/plot holes/proper horror/Xenomorphs, and the other half essentially putting all that aside and admiring what a fucking visual spectacle the film really is. I fall into the latter. This is Ridley Scott’s best film in years, and one hell of an entertaining big screen experience; plus, the ‘abortion’ scene was incredible. Probably the most intense scene in the Alien franchise since the infamous chestburster.
1. Cabin In The Woods
What is much harder to find than someone who disliked The Avengers is a person who liked Cabin In The Woods MORE than The Avengers. I’m one of those people, this guy right here. Cabin is everything you could ask for in a horror-comedy and more. It’s violent as shit, and proper hilarious if you “get it”. I think the whole meta aspect and the references may go over some people’s head. But I am a massive horror fan (seeing Sigourney Weaver turn up at the end made me squeal with glee like a little fanboy bitch) and if you are too, this is the most fun you could have in the cinema all year.
It’s always difficult to pick a definitive song of the year; it’s even a tough task to narrow it down to five or ten. Songs acquire and change meanings all the time, as you begin to associate them with certain events or people, or even notice tiny idiosyncrasies which become infuriating over time. So trying to make selections halfway through the year is an job littered with even more pitfalls, but it’s hard to see anything bettering the trifecta of Jessie Ware’s “110%”, Icona Pop’s “I Love It” and “Sunday (Psychedelic Situation #9)” by Crocodiles. All three are examples of the most joyful and pure pop, but in different formations. “110%” is beautiful and ethereal with its synths floating with ease into your ears, like the most natural thing in the world. The beat is stripped to the bare bones, nothing other than sprightly hi-hats and light snares propel the track forward; anything more would ruin the balance. Then there’s Ware’s vocals; subtly soulful, restrained and almost lonely, she’s basically talking for the majority of the track, teasing the hooks into your memory, and again it works. “110%” also has one of the oddest main hooks of the year, and one of my favourites; a deep, pitchshifted voice, sampled from late rapper Big Pun, barks “Carving my initials on your forehead” which in this context, comes across as quite a romantic idea, instead of quite gruesome and horribly unnecessary (a dog collar would be much more sensible).
Icona Pop’s “I Love It” is pretty much the polar opposite in terms of composition; whilst “110%” is airy and sparse, “I Love It” puts the jackhammer whirs and thumping beats of many a recent chart hit to brilliant use. The likes of LMFAO and Dr Luke make this sort pop maximalism grotesque and almost an aural assault, whereas our Swedish duo make it into three minutes of what a pop song should be; relentless, carefree, ecstatic, stupid-but-brilliant lyrics and with a “fuck everyone else, I’ll do what I want” swagger. It’s fast on its way to becoming a proper summer anthem, and it deserves every second of airplay it gets.
Whilst the previous two tracks have been straight-up pop with nothing to hide behind, Crocodiles’ “Sunday (Psychedelic Situation #9)” comes from leftfield, cloaked by the reverb, feedback and fuzz of many a great shoegaze group. Avoiding the mopey navel-gazing so often associated with such a sound, “Sunday” puts its foot on the accelerator and doesn’t stop; it’s an adrenaline rush of sugary buzzsaw guitars, whirling organs and deceptively simple hooks. If you wanted a montage of those hazy summer days of being young and free, with an Instagram filter over the top, you would have this as the soundtrack. No question.
Moving away from the sound of direct pop, and coming even more out of leftfield is Lil Ugly Mane’s “End Ya Whole Shit”. Take that in, it looks and sounds ridiculous, right? Even moreso when you realise Ugly Mane is a skinny white guy and not some intimidating gangbanger. But “End Ya Whole Shit” is not some ostentatious hip-hop joint; in fact, it has more in common with Jessie Ware’s “110%” than the typical hip-hop sound. It’s uplifting, transcendent, dreamlike and features a chilling pitch-shifted sample hook of “Swear to God, sometimes I wanna just slit my wrists”, so pretty similar to “110%” really. It’s a beautiful song in some twisted way, so much so that I left it on repeat for several hours once and didn’t notice.
Last, but never, ever least is Frank Ocean’s epic “Pyramids”. A year ago, you probably wouldn’t have expected any member of Odd Future to release a ten-minute ode, encapsulating funk, soul, pop, R&B, dance and everything in between, but Frankie went and did it. It’s not hard to imagine there are some wanting Ocean to cut his ties completely with the LA hype crew, so as to be taken seriously, but such trivial things take a back seat to an ambition and talent like this. It’s not often a ten minute jam captures your attention the whole way through its running time, but “Pyramids” manages to, with an intricately-produced electronic wall of sound surrounding Ocean’s smooth croon, which confesses the highs and lowss of being Mr. Christopher Francis Ocean. With his debut album Channel Orange out in a matter of weeks, Frankie is something special.