MY TOP 25 MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIES OF 2017

To be perfectly honest, 2016 has not been a great year in general and that is reflected in the quality of cinema in the past twelve months. It was a year plagued by mediocrity and disappointment; a year with very few awful movies not many that were fantastic either. But now that it is coming to a close, there’s no better time than now to look forward to what is to come in 2017. As usual, allow me to explain the ground rules:

  1. Movies that release in the UK in 2017 but released overseas in 2016 aren’t on this list. They still count as 2016 to me, so don’t expect to see Silence, Live by Night or The Founder here. If they’re good, they may end up on my Favourites of 2016 list come February.
  2. This is going by what films are currently set to debut  in 2017 with confirmed release dates. There are certainly movies that aim to release in 2017, mainly awards-type movies, but they don’t have dates yet and could fall into 2018. Several movies here may end up getting delayed as often happens, but they have set releases as of writing and therefore count.
  3. This is not me predicting what will be the best movies of 2017. I’ve had movies appear on my most anticipated that ended up in my most despised list by the end of the year, and most of what will probably end up being my favourites will be surprises or films I haven’t even heard of yet. This is about me telling you what movies I’m most excited to see and hopeful of their quality. I can’t guarantee any of these movies will be good. You’ll have to see them yourselves when they come out.

And so, without further procrastination, my list:

  1. The Dark Tower

Release Date: 28 July (US, UK)

2017 is going to be a big year for Stephen King, with both the first instalment of a two-part film adaptation of It and the long-awaited beginning of a multimedia series based on The Dark Tower. The first part in a planned series of films and a television series, the film will apparently serve as a sequel to the book series, which makes me question how accessible to new audiences the film will be; we don’t need another Warcraft on our hands. Regardless, bringing King’s grand multiverse series to the screen should at least make for a visually spectacular movie, and with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey leading the charge it has a lot of promise.

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  1. Life

Release Date: 12 May (UK), 26 May (US)

From the star and writers of Deadpool comes…a sci-fi thriller that essentially looks like a more realistic version of Alien? Yes, it’s an odd change of direction for the creative team responsible for #driveby, but the interesting premise and a stellar cast including Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson means this has the potential to be the sleeper sci-fi hit of the year in a similar vein to 10 Cloverfield Lane or Ex Machina.

  1. Paddington 2

Release Date: 10 November (UK), TBC (US)

The first Paddington was a lovely surprise back when it came out in 2014, bringing the lovable bear to life with respect rather than typical Hollywood pandering. Now the same creative team is back for the sequel and hopefully they can prove the first time wasn’t just a fluke.

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  1. The Mummy

Release Date: 9 June (US, UK)

Universal’s first real step in creating a shared universe out of their Monsters stable (we can all forget about Dracula Untold thankfully), this modern reinvention of The Mummy pits Tom Cruise against a female mummy (played by Sofia Boutella of Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond fame) and sets the stage for the future films with Russell Crowe appearing as Dr. Jekyll. It’s a cool concept if it can be pulled off just right, and the trailer shows off an interesting mix of blockbuster action and traditional horror, but I’ll admit it could easily fall flat on its face too. In any case, it can’t be any worse than that last Mummy film with Brendan Fraser.

  1. Coco

Release Date: 22 November (US), 8 December (UK)

The second of Pixar’s releases next year (the other being Cars 3, which shows potential with its teaser but I’m still highly skeptical), this animated musical fable from Toy Story 3 helmer Lee Unkrich dives into the world of The Day of the Dead and its mythology. It’s subject matter that’s been already heavily explored in works like Grim Fandango and The Book of Life, but I’m hopeful Pixar have come up with a fresh spin on the concept that’ll stand out from its spiritual brethren.

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  1. Beauty and the Beast

Release Date: 17 March (US, UK)

After The Jungle Book turned out so well, I’m far more open to Disney’s obsession of adapting their animated classics to live-action than before, and Beauty and the Beast is a perfect candidate for translation. The casting is absolutely fantastic across the board (well, except maybe Luke Evans as Gaston, but I’ll wait and see), and from the trailers it looks like it’s following the original film very closely but giving it a darker visual makeover. I just hope Disney doesn’t take it too far considering how many more of these things they’ve announced in the past six months. But if this movie in any way ruins the original (which remains my absolute favourite Disney animated film) like how Maleficent ruined Sleeping Beauty for me, this trend needs to be put to bed pronto.

  1. Justice League

Release Date: 17 November (US, UK)

Justice League is a movie I should be way more excited about given how much I’ve wanted to see it since I was a kid, but Batman v Superman has put a damper on my anticipation. But if the film is anything like the footage they showed at Comic Con, it seems like they might have learnt their lesson. If they can lighten the mood and let this be a fun blockbuster rather than overly grim and deconstructive, perhaps this can save the DCEU from total annihilation. Then again, if the post-BvS tampering is as jarring and obvious as it was in Suicide Squad, this would certainly kill the franchise quicker than any kind of Kryptonite.

  1. Ghost in the Shell

Release Date: 31 March (US, UK)

American live-action adaptations of manga have a worse track record than video game movies (Speed Racer, anyone?), but if the gorgeous visuals present in the trailer are any indication this could be the one that breaks the mould. The casting of Scarlett Johansson aside, this perfectly captures the look of Ghost in the Shell and if it can deliver some solid action whilst retaining the original’s thematic heft then it could be a winner. On the other hand, director Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman was the queen of “all style, no substance”, so this could easily go the other way too. Curious to see it how it pans out regardless.

  1. John Wick: Chapter 2

Release Date: 10 February (US), 17 February (UK)

The first John Wick came out of nowhere and showed the world how action movies should be done in the modern age: with top-notch choreography, intelligent cinematography and editing, gratuitous violence and a strong dose of self-awareness. Topping that is going to be a hard task, so I’m excited to see them attempt it in Chapter 2. This is the kind of role Keanu Reeves excels at playing, and reteaming him with Laurence Fishburne for an unofficial Matrix reunion doesn’t hurt things either.

  1. Captain Underpants

Release Date: 26 May (UK), 2 June (US)

The Captain Underpants books were big favourites of mine as a kid (in fact, I think that’s where I really first developed my peculiar sense of humour), and so I’m more than curious to see how DreamWorks adapts the stories to a feature film. I’m a little mixed on the casting choices however. Ed Helms as the Captain doesn’t sound so bad and Nick Kroll as Professor Poopypants is perfect, but Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch as George and Harold? Why can’t the kids be played by, you know, kids? Practically nothing has been revealed beyond the below teaser poster, but rumour has it that the visuals will be something akin to The Peanuts Movie, and if that’s the case I’m certainly interested.

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  1. Thor: Ragnarok

Release Date: 27 October (UK), 3 November (US)

After The Dark World proved to be a satisfactory but ultimately forgettable second chapter, the third Thor film really needs to pick up the pace. How are they doing that? Teaming Thor up with The Hulk and sending them on a cosmic road trip, having Cate Blanchett play the main villain, plus a mini Jursassic Park reunion with both Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill. Yep, that ought to do it. Taika Waititi is an inspired choice to helm what currently looks to be Marvel’s oddest film yet, and considering their last film was Doctor Strange that’s saying a lot.

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  1. Dunkirk

Release Date: 21 July (US, UK)

Christopher Nolan is finally getting away from the worlds of superheroes and speculative science with a war epic that could be this generation’s Saving Private Ryan. The prospect of seeing Nolan apply everything he’s learnt from years of blockbuster filmmaking into something more grounded is going to be interesting to watch, and the cast is a pretty stellar mix of talent like Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and…Harry Styles? OK, now that’s just weird.

  1. Downsizing

Release Date: 22 December (US), TBC (UK)

I’m always up for whatever Alexander Payne has cooking, and this sci-fi comedy that has been his pet project for years certainly sounds like some ripe material for his brand of humour. In what sounds like a farcical take on Fantastic Voyage, the movie features an odd assortment of serious actors like Matt Damon and Christoph Waltz paired with comedians like Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis. Whatever it ends up being exactly, it’s probably going to make me laugh and maybe even cry.

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  1. Blade Runner 2049

Release Date: 6 October (US, UK)

Ridley Scott returns to another of his classic films, but instead of taking the reigns is allowing a new generation to continue the story. Sicario and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve directs what looks to be the gritty sci-fi answer to The Force Awakens, teaming a returning Harrison Ford with Ryan Gosling for another dive into the world of the Replicants. So many films have ripped off Blade Runner since its release, so creating something truly new is going to be tricky, but they’ve certainly got the right creative team to make it possible. It might be too early to say, but I’m so confident in Villeneuve and co that I believe 2049 has the potential to be an even better film than the original.

  1. Kong: Skull Island

Release Date: 10 March (US, UK)

How do you make King Kong more terrifying for a modern age? By making him even bigger! This new take on the classic ape monster looks incredible just from the trailers, promising an intense ride that mixes Apocalypse Now with Godzilla. Top it all off will an gigantic all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson and many more, and this has a chance of becoming king of the Kong movies.

  1. The Lego Batman Movie

Release Date: 10 February (US, UK)

“Darkness! No parents!” The Lego Movie was a genius piece of satire through and through, and one of the many things that made it awesome was Will Arnett’s deconstructive take on Batman. Now the Bricked Crusader is getting his own spin-off and it looks just as funny and self-aware as the film that spawned it. The cast is fantastic, the animation looks beautiful, and the humour looks to capture that same tongue-in-cheek wonderfulness that Lord & Miller brought us with the first movie.

  1. Alien: Covenant

Release Date: 19 May (US, UK)

Now Prometheus certainly wasn’t what every Alien fan wanted, but Ridley Scott looks like he’s trying to make up for that with this interquel that’s going to start bridging the gap between the 2012 prequel and the original 1979 film. Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace return along with a bunch of newcomers including Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride, and it looks like this time we’ll actually be getting something a lot closer to a Xenomorph! If it succeeds, Scott will have successfully resurrected the franchise he started so long ago. If it fails, then perhaps Neill Blomkamp’s shelved Alien 5 will finally get off the ground.

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  1. War for the Planet of the Apes

Release Date: 14 July (US, UK)

Rise and Dawn were already fantastic sci-fi movies that elevated the Planet of the Apes franchise back into modern relevance, so I’m excited to see War for the Planet of the Apes continue to up the ante for what looks to be the finale to an epic trilogy. I’m hoping for bigger action and higher stakes whilst still retaining that moral ambiguity that made Dawn transcend the typical Hollywood blockbuster, and I’m excited to see Andy Serkis’ Caesar develop further as we approach the inevitable beginning of the original franchise.

  1. Wonder Woman

Release Date: 2 June (US, UK)

If any movie is going to give Warner Bros and DC the kick up the backside it needs, Wonder Woman looks like it has its boot primed already. Everything so far has exuded this is going to be a fun but badass piece of superhero action, and to see The Spirit of Truth finally get her own movie is a satisfaction long overdue. Gal Gadot showed promise in her brief screen time in Batman v Superman, so here’s hoping she can carry an entire movie across the finish line, and if this does well then we can expect to see more female-led superhero movies in the future. If not, this movie is going to end up on the same pile as Catwoman and Elektra.

  1. Logan

Release Date: 2 March (UK), 3 March (US)

Hugh Jackman is retiring the role of Wolverine and Fox looks like it’s finally going to hard reboot the X-Men franchise, but if Logan is how this 17 year old franchise is going to bow out then I’m happy. The trailer for this alone is gloriously satisfying, bringing in fan favourite elements like Old Man Logan and X-23, finally delivering a bloody R-rated Wolverine experience, and going out on a sombre note fitting of a well-worn franchise ready for rejuvenation. If nothing else, this movie should reset the ratio of good to bad Wolverine movies to 2:1.

  1. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Release Date: 29 September (UK), 6 October (US)

Kingsman: The Secret Service was the best spy movie of a year that include both a Bond flick and the best Mission: Impossible film so far, so you know it’s good. With Matthew Vaughn and company returning for a sequel, I’m very excited to see where they can take the franchise next. Bringing in some new talent like Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore (hey, Big Lebowski reunion!) is certainly cool, but I’m more interested to see where they take Eggsy as a character and how, as the below poster hints at, they can bring Colin Firth back into the fold.cfc228_wwaarvi4

  1. Baby Driver

Release Date: 11 August (US), 18 August (UK)

Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant-Man was certainly saddening, but if he’s instead going to use that time to do something totally his own I’m fine with that. Loosely inspired by a music video Wright directed years ago for Mint Royale’s “Blue Song”, Baby Driver sounds like a mix of 1970s car chase movies and the insanity of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World with its tale of a music-obsessed getaway driver involved in a bank robbery gone wrong. Whatever it ends up being, I’m sure it’s going to be signature Wright and that’s all I really need to be pumped.

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  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Release Date: 7 July (US, UK)

The Wall Crawler is finally back in the hands of Marvel Studios (creatively, at least) and it looks like Homecoming is going to be the most truthful adaptation of the Spider-Man mythos to date. Tom Holland showed the potential of being the best screen version of Peter Parker to date, and here’s hoping this flick can cement that position for him. I’m also loving that we’re going to see some classic villains like Vulture and Shocker come into play, what looks like a meaty supporting role for Tony Stark, and a light-hearted tone that mixes the teen comedies of John Hughes with Marvel’s signature stylings.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release Date: 28 April (UK), 5 May (US)

How do you top Guardians of the Galaxy? I have no idea, but I hope James Gunn has figured it out. With the first film having gotten everyone used to the idea of a talking raccoon and a sentient tree, Vol. 2 now has full license to go absolutely nuts, and judging by everything so far they are certainly taking advantage of that license. In no sane world should we be getting a movie featuring Mantis, Ego the Living Planet and Taserface, but Marvel really no longer needs to take chances anymore so why not? And c’mon: if you’re not sold on this movie based on Baby Groot alone, you have no soul.

  1. Star Wars: Episode VIII

Release Date: 15 December (US, UK)

Yes, obvious choice is obvious, but after The Force Awakens left fans with so many questions, I can’t help but be most excited about the film that’s going to settle at least some of the arguments fanboys have been darting back and forth for the last year. Rian Johnson helming a Star Wars movie is as much a dream come true for me as I’m sure it is for him, and I’m looking forward to the prospect of Episode VIII forging some new ground in the saga after the previous film was more of a reunion tour to ease us back in. All of this is speculation on my part, but I’m hoping that VIII will go really dark and completely flip the status quo. This film needs to find a way to match the legendary twist in Empire, and I think whatever Lucasfilm has cooking is going to get fans even more pumped moving forward and maybe even retroactively fix a lot of the problems present in The Force Awakens. Again, all fanboy rambling, but that just shows how excited I am to see where Star Wars goes next.

MY TOP 20 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2015

MY TOP 25 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2016

2015 has been a pretty good year for movies, and 2016 is shaping up to be a quite a landmark year as well. So now it’s time for my annual tradition of counting down the movies I’m most looking forward to next year. As usual, let me set the rules:

  1. Movies that release in the UK in 2016 but released overseas in 2015 aren’t on this list. They still count as 2015 to me, so don’t expect to see The Revenant, Creed or Spotlight here. If they’re good, they may end up on my Favourites of 2015 list come February.
  2. This is going by what films are currently scheduled for released in 2016 with specific dates. There are certainly movies that aim to release in 2016, mainly awards-type movies, but they don’t have set releases yet and could fall into 2017. Several movies here may end up getting delayed as well (a few movies on this list were on my list last year but got pushed), but they have set releases as of this writing and therefore count.
  3. This is not me predicting what will be the best movies of 2016. Several of what were my most anticipated of 2015 are going to end up on my most despised of 2015, and there are a bunch of movies here I do have serious doubts about. This is about me telling you what movies I’m most interested in seeing and hopeful of their quality. I can’t guarantee any of these movies will be good. You’ll have to see them yourselves when they come out.

And so, without further procrastination, my list:


25. Star Trek Beyond

Release Date: 22 July (US, UK)

Star Trek Into Darkness was a disappointment to many (even my appreciation of it has withered since my first viewing), but third act quibbles aside it still had a lot of what made JJ Abrams’ first film work. Though Abrams has been too busy in a galaxy far, far away to command the Enterprise again, Fast and Furious vet Justin Lin is certainly an interesting replacement to venture where no one has gone before. The trailer definetly indicates a further emphasis on action over diplomacy, something I’m sure certain Trek fans lament, but at least so far this looks like an original adventure rather than reheated memories of the series’ past.

24. La La Land

Release Date: 15 July (US, UK)

Following up an impressive directorial debut can be difficult; just look at Neill Blomkamp or Josh Trank. Hopefully, Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle can get over that stigma and deliver something special with this musical comedy. Casting Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling together for the third time means there’ll be at least some semblance of chemistry, and reteaming Chazelle and J.K. Simmons isn’t a bad sign either.

23. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Release Date: 21 October (US, UK)

The first Jack Reacher was a surprise to both fans of the novels and moviegoers alike who didn’t think Tom Cruise could pull off the role of the grizzled ex-military detective, and hopefully this follow-up can deliver the same mix of action, mystery and wit the first film had. The lack of Christopher McQuarrie behind the quill and camera is a disappointment, but The Last Samurai’s Ed Zwick isn’t a bad replacement and Cruise is as ready as ever to leap back into action hero gear.

22. Kubo and the Two Strings

Release Date: 19 August (US), 9 September (UK)

Laika’s crop of stop motion kids’ films are wonderfully twisted and unique in such a PC world, and after such an underappreciated movie like The Boxtrolls maybe this venture will get the company the respect it deserves. The film features a wonderful voice cast including Matthew McConaheughy, Charlize Theron and Rooney Mara, and I can’t wait to see how Laika depicts ancient Japan with their expressionistic eye.

21. Hail Caesar!

Release Date: 5 February (US), 22 February (UK)

The Coen Brothers aren’t untouchable filmmakers, but even their disasters are interesting disasters, so Hail Caesar should be one to watch regardless. Featuring an all-star cast including Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johanssen and Channing Tatum amongst many others, this comedy about 1950s Hollywood scandal should be an interesting mix of the Coens’ trademark wit and dark humour in a fascinating period of Tinseltown’s history.

20. Finding Dory

Release Date: 17 June (US), 29 July (UK)

Of all the films for Pixar to make sequels to, Finding Nemo would probably be near the bottom of the list and I’m worried this may be just director Andrew Stanton running back to safe territory after his trip to Mars in John Carter proved less than fruitful. The prospect of focusing on Dory is also worrying; as a side character she’s great, but a whole movie of her sounds like it could go all Jack Sparrow. But Cars 2 aside, Pixar’s previous trips back to the well have been at least pleasant, so hopefully this is a story that needs to be told rather than just another attempt at cash grabbing.

19. The BFG

Release Date: 1 July (US), 22 July (UK)

Adaptations of Roald Dahl’s children’s stories have proven difficult over the years, and it’s weird to think that the better ones like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic Mr. Fox are the ones that stray further from the books. Steven Spielberg seems exactly the right type of filmmaker to adapt Dahl’s wonderful tale of a little girl and her gigantic friend to the big screen, and the brief teaser trailer certainly has the same magic as the source book. The film also being the posthumous work of E.T. scribe Melissa Mathison makes this a tearful reunion of director and screenwriter, and the spectacular cast of Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Jemaine Clement lends even more promise to this adaptation.

18. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Release Date: 18 November (US, UK)

Speaking of going back to the well, it was only a matter of time before we returned to the Potterverse and I’m at least glad it’s for this rather than a reboot. Featuring an original story by J.K. Rowling (with the name only taken from a plotless textbook) and four-time Potter helmer David Yates returning to direct (who also has The Legend of Tarzan opening this year), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes the appropriate prequel approach by telling a story with very little connection to Harry Potter’s adventures (as far as we know). All we can hope now is that doesn’t fall into the same traps as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings when it comes to prequels.

17. Assassin’s Creed

Release Date: 21 December (US), 30 December (UK)

2016 seems to be the year video games movies are trying to break out of their cycle of crap. With Ratchet & Clank, The Angry Birds Movie and another adaptation featured later on this list, perhaps now’s the time for video game movies to have their X-Men and break into mainstream popularity. Assassin’s Creed has promise as a movie from its interesting blend of history and sci-fi alone, but the talent they’ve assembled to create it almost seems embarrassingly overqualified. Macbeth director Justin Kurzel directs his previous collaborators Michael Fassbender (also a producer on the film) and Marion Cotillard in an original story with supposed continuity with the game series, and a great supporting cast like Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons and Michael K. Williams means this could certainly have promise as an interesting film even to people who have never picked up a video game controller.

16. Kung Fu Panda 3

Release Date: 29 January (US), 11 March (UK)

This was going to make my most anticipated list last year until its delay right before the end of 2014, but now the adventures of Po can finally continue and answer the cliffhanger left at the end of Kung Fu Panda 2. These films are far better than the title would suggest and I would highly recommend them to anyone who’s written them off as silly kids’ movies, and with some luck this third instalment will contain the same mix of humour, martial arts, philosophy and heart its predecessors delivered in spades.

15. Passengers

Release Date: 21 December (US), 23 December (UK)

The Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum directs this sci-fi romance that finally pairs Hollywood darlings Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in what sounds like a fascinating story about two people alone together on a spaceship full of people frozen in stasis, knowing they will die before the ship will reach its destination. This film is still a year out, but the concept of Pratt and Lawrence on screen together trading quips whilst in constant fear of their own mortality is enough to colour me intrigued.

14. Zootopia (AKA Zootropolis)

Release Date: 4 March (US), 25 March (UK)

After skipping 2015, Walt Disney Animation Studios returns for a double dip starting with this comedy adventure set in a world of anthropomorphic animals. The initial concept sounds basic on paper, but Disney has been great recently with taking simple concepts and putting a great twist on them, and with the respective directors of Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph steering the ship this has more than enough clout to be on your radar.

13. Doctor Strange

Release Date: 28 October (UK), 4 November (US)

It’s hard to say anything Marvel Studios does is gamble anymore after turning Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man into box office smashes. At this point they’re more like escalating dares, and adapting the psychedelic mysticism of Doctor Strange is a pretty big dare on so many levels. Sinister director Scott Derrickson is certainly an odd choice as helmsman, but the casting of human otter Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme himself should help bring in an audience completely adverse to the bizarre concepts of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s quintessentially 60s creation.

12. The Nice Guys

Release Date: 20 May (US), 3 June (UK)

Shane Black returns to the director’s chair for this crime caper that basically looks like a grittier 1970s version of Black’s own Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang mixed with a little bit of LA Confidential. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe don’t immediately jump out as a natural pair on paper, but clashing personalities in a buddy environment is Black’s bread and butter and The Nice Guys looks like it will be no exception.

11. Ghostbusters

Release Date: 15 July (US, UK)

Ivan Reitman’s original classic Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favourite movies and a pop culture phenomenon that hasn’t waned since 1984. Rebooting the franchise is an idea considered blasphemous to most of its fans, but if you’re going to do it you’d better do something different and boy have they gone different. Genderflipping the Ghostbusters is a daring and controversial move that has the Internet in a fanboy whine crisis, but if it works it’s going to set a fascinating precedent for gender roles in future Hollywood blockbusters. The cast they’ve assembled is all around fantastic, and Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig is the perfect choice to direct these funny ladies in their quest to bust some ghosts.

10. Midnight Special

Release Date: 18 March (US), 15 April (UK)

Yep, this was on my list last year and 2015 went by without it, but Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi drama is now on the docket for an early 2016 release, and the new trailer sheds some more light on the mysterious film. The John Carpenter influence Nichols has mentioned definitely comes through here and mixes well with the director’s own subdued style; it reminded me of Looper a lot in that way. This one definitely has a chance of being the year’s sleeper hit.

9. Warcraft

Release Date: 3 June (UK), 10 June (US)

I’m not at all a fan of the Warcraft video games, but I’m excited for this film for a number of other reasons. Firstly, it’s promising to be the new flagship fantasy franchise; with Middle-earth fully plundered, that’s something we could certainly use. Secondly, Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones is behind the camera and I’m willing to support anything he does. But most importantly, Warcraft stands a chance of being Hollywood’s first great video game movie and, given the talent involved and the quality of everything I’ve seen so far, I’m on board to see how it goes. But if it fails, hopefully Assassin’s Creed will be there to pick up the pieces.

8. Moana

Release Date: 23 November (US), 2 December (UK)

Moana is the first CG animated film from The Little Mermaid and Aladdin directors Ron Clements & John Musker, and the concept of exploring Polynesian mythology through the eyes of Disney is a simple but alluring concept that could be one of the company’s most beautiful and unique films to date. That and it has Dwayne Johnson in it. Since when has his presence hurt a film?

7. The Jungle Book

Release Date: 15 April (US, UK)

Yet another film that was on my list last year and got pushed, and since then it’s rattled way up the ranks thanks to the fantastic trailer. The Jungle Book looks to be a visual treat on so many levels, and the fact every character and environment except Mowgli was rendered in CG is something that makes those images seem even more amazing. With a fantastic supporting cast and Iron Man director Jon Favreau behind the magic, The Jungle Book has the potential to elevate Disney’s recent obsession with adapting their animated classics into live-action.

6. X-Men: Apocalypse

Release Date: 19 May (UK), 27 May (US)

The First Class trilogy concludes next May with the arrival of ultimate X-Men villain Apocalypse, and sh*t is going to hit the fan. With a whole smorgasbord of mutants ranging from old familiars to younger versions of classic characters and even a few brand new ones, Bryan Singer has compared Apocalypse to a disaster movie and the prospect of a huge mutant on mutant battle could fulfil the promise that was botched in The Last Stand. It’s also going to be interesting to see X-Men in the 1980s, and where the franchise’s future will stand following all the carnage.

5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Release Date: 25 March (US, UK)

Whilst this is a movie I’m still highly hesitant about, I can’t deny that I really, really can’t wait to see it. I’m still not sure about the overly serious tone, I felt they showed way too much in the most recent trailer (which I have NOT posted below in case you’ve missed it), and I’m very worried that DC is rushing to catch up with Marvel. But, on the other hand, the mere prospect of seeing The Dark Knight fight The Man of Steel is something that even with my concerns I cannot deny how awesome it sounds. Throw in the screen debut of Wonder Woman and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (screw the haters, I think it’s a brilliant idea), and there’s more than enough to make me excited, even if cautiously so.

4. Suicide Squad

Release Date: 5 August (US, UK)

Now this I have a litle more faith in than Dawn of Justice. Suicide Squad seems to be DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy: a ragtag team of second-tier characters with questionable morals, but drenched in the gritty aesthetic that DC are painting their films in. David Ayer’s dour sensibilities seem perfect for this type of Dirty Dozen story, and the cast is pretty impeccable (with the exception of walking potato Jai Courtney, but he could always surprise). I’m still not fully sold on Jared Leto’s Joker from a design perspective, but Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is casting so perfect that I can’t really think of anyone better suited to the role.

3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Release Date: 16 December (US, UK)

With The Force Awakens now confirmed as a successful return to form for the Star Wars franchise, it’s now much easier to get excited for the massive expansion of the universe that’s about to take place with the Anthology movies. First out of the gate is Rogue One, which tells the story of the group of rebels that stole the original Death Star plans (a story told several different ways in the Expanded Universe before, but no longer canon. Sorry, Kyle Katarn). Though I haven’t been hugely impressed by Gareth Edwards’ work on Monsters and Godzilla, he’s a director that certainly knows how to sell scale and magnitude, and the concept of a gritty war film in the vein of Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down set within the Star Wars universe is irresistable.

2. Captain America: Civil War

Release Date: 29 April (UK), 6 May (US)

It’s heroes vs. heroes in the follow-up to The Winter Soldier, and the first stop on the road to Infinity War. Though the staggering array of characters crammed into this movie suggest this might as well be Avengers 2.5, this is still primarily Cap’s movie and to see resolution to his story with Winter Soldier and how he deals with this crisis of loyalty is going to be a moral dilemma that will divide both heroes and audiences. All that plus the introductions of both Black Panther and Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are more than enough to get excited for Civil War.

1. Deadpool

Release Date: 10 February (UK), 12 February (US)

Hardly a classy choice for most anticipated, but Deadpool has me excited more than any other movie in 2016 because it’s such a risky move. An R-rated action comedy based on a C-list comic book character full of self-referential humour and sex gags? It’s no wonder this film was in development hell for so long, but the fans have spoken and 20th Century Fox has finally listened. Ryan Reynolds is getting the second chance he deserves as Deadpool after getting f*cked over in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and this could be his opportunity to finally escape from the toilet his career has been in lately (I mean, did you see R.I.P.D.?). It’s certainly going to be a divisive movie and if it bombs we’ll never see another like it, but if it pays off it’s going to open up a whole new world of possibilities for comic book cinema. Have your chimichangas ready, because we only have to wait til February for this monster to be unleashed.

MY TOP 25 MOST DESPISED FILMS OF 2014

As good a year for film as 2014 has been, no 365 days can be completely crap free. In my somewhat masochistic goal to see as many movies as possible (I saw over 100 in 2014), I’ve come across some really bland, disappointing or just outright awful cinema. Some of these you may disagree with me on, others you may have never even heard of, but again this is all subjective; that’s why it’s called my “most despised” list rather than “worst”. But enough procrastinating. Let’s start digging through the trash.

First, a few dishonourable mentions that managed to scrape by:

Need for Speed – Aaron Paul shows he doesn’t have leading man potential in this lame brained car movie that makes The Fast and the Furious movies seem reasonable by comparison. The cool practical stunts are fun, but what isn’t fun are the thinly broad characters, ludicrous plot and the cringe-worthy attempts at humour.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Kenneth Branagh’s attempted reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise wasn’t exactly bad, but it was achingly bland; a store-brand imitation of the modern spy thriller. I never thought I’d say this, but Chris Pine is no Alec Baldwin.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles A lame and derivative reinvention of the classic franchise that combines all the worst elements of modern reboots and Michael Bay-isms. Only saved by some cool action sequences and the strained efforts of Will Arnett.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – The definition of “too little, too late”, this belated follow-up to the 2005 film is just more of the same with no new tricks despite the nine year jump in film technology and technique. As much of a has-been as Frank Miller himself.

  1. The Quiet Ones

I know I’m starting the list off weak here, but that’s only because this movie is so bland that I’m actually struggling to remember most of it. Full of the same old horror tropes but with a superfluous 70s filter, The Quiet Ones is a dull and obvious horror flick that has ambitions of doing new things but always chickens out and goes for the expected scare.

  1. The Expendables 3

It’s the best of the franchise…but that’s not saying much. The Expendables 3 is still the complete waste of an idea that all of these movies have been. A thin plot, an abundance of poorly-written characters, bad humour that mostly relies on puns and movie references, and action sequences neutered by a PG-13 rating all contribute to this movie once again failing to live up to the series’ potential. Everyone involved here should know better and I wish they’d spend their time making better movies. Except Kellan Lutz. He just needs to go away.

  1. The Equalizer

Denzel Washington wastes his time and talent in this adaptation of the TV show of the same name. Feeling like an episode of the show stretched out to over two hours, The Equalizer is a slog of a film full of clichéd villains played by wasted character actors (seriously, why even hire Chloe Grace Moretz if she’s only going to be in the movie for about ten minutes?) that only remains vaguely watchable thanks to Washington’s own natural charm.

  1. That Awkward Moment

This movie poses itself as a romantic comedy for men. Pity the film’s definition of “men” has been replaced with “immature douchebags”. Wasting the talents of its impressive main cast of Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Zac Efron (yes, this movie is even below Efron’s usual standards), That Awkward Moment seems less like a modern view of romance and more like a series of rejected plots from a bad sitcom. Crass, immature and loud in all the wrong ways, That Awkward Moment proves that rom coms for men can be just as pandering as those for women. Let’s just hope Teller and Jordan’s luck together is better with this year’s Fantastic Four.

  1. Horrible Bosses 2

There are bad comedy sequels, and then there’s Horrible Bosses 2. Played like if an idiot tried to remake the first film, the flimsy plot and dumbed down characters sink what few vestiges of humour are left in this premise. Every actor here is either bored or embarrasses themselves, and do I need to mention that Charlie Day essentially gets raped at one point and it’s played for laughs? Thought so. My advice: just watch the first one again and try to forget this one even exists.

  1. The Maze Runner

Young adult adaptations have gotten so cocky at this point that they’re convinced they’ll get a sequel. That’s especially a problem when it causes the filmmakers to not even bother explaining the rules of their two-hour movie before it’s over. The Maze Runner is the prime example of how not to create a mystery, replacing vagueness and dangling questions in place of the tension and intrigue that should be there. There are so many moments of illogic in this movie that it infuriated me, and the cock-tease ending just makes it all the worse. There is some potential for a good movie here, but the complete lack of consistency and rationality make this one a really hard sit for those who like their stories to make sense.

  1. Transcendence

transcendence-poster

Over a year ago, I had this on my most anticipated films of 2014 list. Now the mere thought of it makes me both shudder and laugh at the same time. Transcendence is one of those films that thinks it’s smart and has something to say, but is actually about as intelligent and informed on the subject of technology as an 80 year old luddite. The pacing is sleep-inducingly slow, the characters all act like idiots, the message of the film is confused and keeps switching sides, and even for an advanced super AI system some of the things Johnny Depp does in this movie are head-slappingly idiotic. Wally Pfister, you may be Christopher Nolan’s buddy but an accomplished storyteller you are not.

  1. Divergent

Whilst Maze Runner was merely confusing, Divergent’s main sin is being mind-numbingly dull and hackneyed. When the film isn’t just ripping off The Hunger Games but without any of the stakes, all that is left is a bad teenage love story and supposed “social commentary” for people whose only experience of hierarchy is the structure of high school cliques. Who the heck wants to watch that for two and a half hours? Teenage girls obviously, as thanks to them we’re getting three more of these. [groan]

  1. The Giver

I’ve never read the book this film was based on, but despite that I can tell this is a horribly done adaptation. The core ideas at the story’s heart are strong, but the execution is just bafflingly awful on every conceivable level. Great actors like Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep are bad, everyone else in the cast is even worse, the pacing and structure are all over the place, and the symbolism is so forced that everything might as well have a “this means something important” sign on it. The Giver might be trying to say something good, but it goes about it in the worst way possible.

  1. Dracula Untold

If this is how Universal wants to start the reboot of their Monsters series, then they’re off to a really bad start. Dracula Untold is a complete mess of a film that acts less like a horror movie and more like a bad superhero origin story. The legendary vampire is depicted here with a tragic back-story and noble motivations, but yet we’re somehow supposed to still be scared of him. The story then completely loses any moral complexity by pitting him against a villain so shallow and remorseless that you end up disliking both sides of this idiotic conflict. The plot rushes past so quickly just to get to the next CGI-filled action set piece, there is literally no time to linger on anything and the result is unfulfilling and incomprehensible. Sorry, Dracula Untold. Not even the presence of Charles Dance could save you.

  1. I, Frankenstein

I, Frankenstein

Did anybody actually expect this to be good? All I was hoping for was at least something as enjoyably dumb as the Underworld movies, but this didn’t even manage that distinction. Being surprisingly reverent to the source material and featuring a renowned but utterly wasted casted, I, Frankenstein doesn’t quite seem to know what it is. Is it a horror movie? An action flick? Fantasy? Science fiction? A weird, nonsensical combination of all of the above? Yeah, I think it’s that last one. Combine that with dated special effects, inconsistent logic and a complete lack of self-awareness, and this is one concept that probably should have stayed just that.

  1. Lucy

Continuing on the theme of movies that act like they’re smarter than they are is this preposterous sci-fi action movie from the long past his prime Luc Besson. Scarlett Johansson does her best with the limited material, but is left throughout most of the movie looking like a mannequin and yet is still the most compelling character. I can excuse a film having a preposterous premise as long as it entertains, but Lucy is so off the wall that it becomes dull. Johansson becomes so untouchable and overpowered by the film’s climax that there is absolutely no tension or drama, and in the final few scenes the movie suddenly decides it wants to be 2001: A Space Odyssey for no reason. Lucy tries to be both intellectual and entertaining, but instead ends up just being stupid.

  1. 3 Days to Kill

Speaking of Luc Besson, he wrote this next piece of action-packed drivel. Kevin Costner’s character may be the one dying in 3 Days to Kill, but it’s his own career that should be put on life support after this turgid mess from hackmaster McG (and yes, that is really is the director’s name). The action sequences are dry, the humour feels like it was taken from a completely different film, Costner looks like he’s going to fall asleep at any second, Hailee Steinfeld continues failing to live up to her promise in True Grit, and what the f*ck was up with Amber Heard’s character?

  1. Exodus: Gods and Kings

Another year, another reminder that Ridley Scott is not the director he used to be. Tackling the story of Moses, a tale told several times on screen already, it seems Scott’s angle on the material was to make it really boring and emotionally detached. Despite a staggering 150 minute run time, the film makes little effort to establish a strong relationship between Christian Bale’s Moses and Joel Edgerton’s Ramses, leaving the film’s central conflict feeling hollow and uninteresting. Scott also wastes his excellent supporting cast, leaving such recognizable faces as John Turturro, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul and Sigourney Weaver with essentially nothing to do. When Exodus isn’t just dull, it is laughable; this is epitomized in several scenes where Moses talks to God, who is depicted as a precocious and monotone kid and all sense of seriousness is lost. It’s a profound waste of time and money for everyone involved, but especially the audience’s.

  1. (A New York) Winter’s Tale

I honestly couldn’t describe this movie to you in a way that makes sense nor that lives up to what watching it is actually like. All you need to know is that there is a magic horse that is actually a dog, Russell Crowe with a terrible Irish accent, and Will Smith as the Devil. No, I’m being serious. Will Smith is Satan. That’s not even mentioning the laughably bad screenplay full of ridiculous dialogue and awkward plot turns that essentially make two-thirds of the story entirely pointless. All I had to say was “Will Smith plays the Devil”, and you’d know there’s something wrong with this picture. Stay away unless you really enjoy laughing at bad movies, because there are some priceless moments here.

  1. The Anomaly

I hate to pick on the little guy here, but The Anomaly is just flat-out bad. Noel Clarke of Doctor Who and Kidulthood fame directs and stars in this wannabe sci-fi thriller with production values that even the most average TV show would laugh at. The plot, whilst having a decent premise, is a poorly structured and over-expositional mess that lacks personality and development. The fight sequences are over-choreographed and uninspired copies of those you could find in a Zack Snyder production, whilst the special effects look unfinished and not much better than what a 14 year old could do whilst messing around with Adobe After Effects. The British film industry really could do with more genre fare instead of relying on the usual costume dramas and bad comedies, but if this is all it can muster then maybe that explains why we don’t get more.

  1. Ride Along

When making a comedy, a key thing you need to make sure of is that your movie is actually funny. Sounds obvious, I know, but so may comedies somehow forget to do this and instead just shout nonsense to fill the void. Ride Along is yet another entry into the buddy cop genre with barely an original idea in its head, with every plot development and character beat predictable to a T. Ice Cube just looks bored throughout whilst co-star Kevin Hart attempts to liven the proceedings but just ends up embarrassing himself. Not much more to say but dull, dull, dull…and somehow we’re getting a sequel in 2016. Oh, Hollywood. You so silly.

  1. Pompeii

The idea of mixing Titanic and Gladiator sounds like a good idea…if any more effort was put into it beyond that elevator pitch and it was the year 2001. But in 2014, Pompeii looks about as lifeless of a film as the ash-covered victims of Mount Vesuvius itself. Kit Harington utterly fails as a leading man, and his co-stars do little to help; only Kiefer Sutherland manages to entertain, and that’s only because he’s so awfully OTT. Derivative, poorly paced and laden with corny dialogue, Pompeii certainly fits in with the majority of director Paul W.S. Anderson’s filmography.

  1. Transformers: Age of Extinction

Ripping apart a Michael Bay movie is kind of pointless since it’s clear he doesn’t care what people with brain cells think, but it’s a task that still needs to be done. Whilst not as offensive as Revenge of the Fallen, Age of Extinction is certainly the most tiresome Transformers film yet. The plot is meandering and feels improvised, the runtime is grossly overstretched, the product placement is so overdone it’s practically disgusting, and the main cast actually makes me pine for the days of Shia LaBoeuf. Bay says he’s done with the franchise and that’s nothing but good news. Then again, he said the same thing after Dark of the Moon, so it’d be no surprise if he came back for more incomprehensible robot carnage. I was willing to defend this man after I enjoyed Pain & Gain so much, but now he’s once again lost any goodwill I had towards him. Good luck in movie hell, Michael Bay. You’d better hope they have teleprompters.

  1. Palo Alto

When James Franco isn’t hanging out with Seth Rogen, he’s making pretentious twaddle like this. Based on his collection of short stories, Palo Alto is also the directorial debut of Gia Coppola (yes, there is yet another Coppola) and it just reeks of indie nonsense. It’s the kind of film where every character is a wretched human being, but not the interesting, engaging, Scorsese type of wretched. No, this is essentially watching a bunch of dumb teenagers making stupid mistakes or just generally being arseholes with no real motivation or meaning. I get that it’s meant to be a slice of life, but can’t that slice at least have some meat to it? This is easily the longest and most excruciating 100 minutes I have ever endured, and you would have to tie me down Clockwork Orange style to make me watch it again…and we haven’t even hit the top five yet.

  1. Sabotage

Speaking of unlikable characters, David Ayer’s Sabotage managed the impossible task of making Arnold Schwarzenegger not only boring but also utterly repugnant. He and the entire cast of this film are absolutely awful as both characters and actors, behaving like a bunch bro-douches and not even having the decency to do it convincingly. The plot is somehow both needlessly convoluted and bafflingly predictable, and the film’s grimy tone and pessimistic attitude just makes for a soul-crushing experience but not in a good way. Thank the movie gods for the fantastic Fury, because otherwise I’d be after Ayer’s head for this.

  1. The Legend of Hercules

I’d say this movie is actually far too hilariously bad to feature on this list, but The Legend of Hercules is just an utter disaster on every level. The acting is marginally better than a primary school nativity play, the writing is trite and moronic, the action sequences are outdated and lacking in impact, the costumes look like they were bought at a fancy dress store, and even the music isn’t very good. However, The Legend of Hercules gets everything so wrong that it actually starts to become entertaining in a riffable kind of way. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys Mystery Science Theatre 3000, this might actually be one worth watching; it’s even available on Netflix right now, so go ahead and laugh your ass off. Otherwise, just stay away and watch Dwayne Johnson’s surprisingly enjoyable Hercules movie from this year instead.

  1. Tarzan

And it’s strike number three for Kellan Lutz on this year’s list for starring in this utterly curious CG adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic ape-man. Beyond the motion capture animation looking stilted and the character models lifelessly off-putting, this version of Tarzan just doesn’t really make any sense. When the story isn’t just meandering around without any real purpose, with events stitched together by bafflingly written narration, it’s just ripping off Avatar. The characters are stock and dull, the dialogue is laughably simplistic and performed by actors who don’t even sound human, and it doesn’t even seem to understand the key concepts of Tarzan. I have no idea how this movie actually got made, but it exists and it is just bemusing to the nth degree.

  1. Maleficent

Whilst many movies on this list are objectively worse, no movie pissed me off more than Maleficent did. I have talked about this movie at length several times already, so please read my detailed autopsy here if you want to know why this one ticked me off so much, but allow me to cover the basics. The plot is an utter mess with no cohesion or structure, the characters are so watered down and simplistic that they make early Disney characters seem as complex as those on Game of Thrones, the acting is abysmally lifeless thanks to poor direction, the supposedly feminist message is utterly ruined by completely misunderstanding the concept of feminism, and do I really need to repeat why that wing-cutting scene is distressingly awful on so many levels (and yes, Angelina Jolie has said since that the subtext was totally intentional)? It just confounds me to no end that not only did Disney OK this movie and spent $170 million on it, but that it is the fourth highest grossing film of 2014. People, have you learnt nothing from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland? Keep your money and stop encouraging them to keep doing this. Disney, I love 90% of what you’re doing right now, but this trend either needs to stop or you need to actually put some effort into these.

And for the longest time, that would have been the end of it. But in my quest to see as many films as possible before the year ended, I actually came across a film I loathe more than Maleficent. Behold! The utter abomination of cinema that is…

  1. Sex Tape

Where…do I even…start? Well, remember how I said that comedies need to actually be funny? Sex Tape goes the extra mile and confuses being gross for being funny, and therein lies this movie’s crippling flaw. Every “joke” is just talking graphically about sex and, whilst not wanting to sound like a prude, I tend to find that makes me wince more than laugh. I enjoy some pretty messed-up stuff for entertainment, but Sex Tape doesn’t do it in a creative or interesting way. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel are utterly awful in this, interacting and reacting to each other in ways no sane human being would do in this or any situation and instead come off as sex-obsessed mental patients. The constant Apple product placement is excruciating, literally stopping the movie to showcase Siri or comment on how durable iPads are, and I haven’t even gotten into the plot of this monstrosity yet. The set-up of having to race around trying to stop people from seeing a sex tape isn’t a wholly bad idea, but the way it’s executed here is just idiotic beyond relief; once it’s revealed who’s behind this whole ordeal and their motivation (or completely unconvincing lack therof) is brought to light and then inconsequentially shoved to the side, I knew I had found the worst film of 2014. The movie ends with Diaz and Segel violently destroying their sex video Office Space-style, which just made me want to do the exact same thing to every copy of this movie in existence.

MY TOP 25 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2014

2014 has been a magnificent year for film, and now has finally come the time for me to honour my personal highlights. Just be clear: these films aren’t picked and ordered based on their achievements, merits or contribution to the art; that’s why it’s called a “favourites” list and not a “best of” list. These are purely the films I enjoyed most this year; the ones that got the most emotion out of me and that I’m sure I’ll watch several more times in the future, both foreseeable and distant.

Before I start proper, a few quick honourable mentions:

Bad Neighbours – Gut-bustlingly hilarious and surprisingly thoughtful, Bad Neighbours is the classic frathouse movie done right and features a wonderful comic turn from the often-maligned Zac Eforn.

Chef – Jon Favreau returns to his indie roots with this pleasant and comical road movie. If nothing else, it will make you really hungry.

The Fault in Our Stars – A film that is equally charming and tear jerking, The Fault in Our Stars manages to find the right balance of sympathy and sadness in this romantic drama.

The Skeleton Twins – Bill Hader delivers one of the most overlooked performances of the year in this charming but incredibly black comedy. Well supported by the likes of Kristen Wiig and Luke Wilson, it’s a depressing delight.

Snowpiercer – This one would have made the list if it actually got UK distribution (I was lucky enough to see it at the Edinburgh Film Festival), but because it didn’t I unfortunately can’t officially count it. But when and if it does, I urge you to check out this bleak Korean sci-fi actioner that is equal parts Paul Verhoeven and Terry Gilliam.

  1. Paddington

Starting off the list is a film I certainly couldn’t have predicted would make it. A delightful and unequivocally British film, Paddington perfectly captures the charm and spirit of the beloved children’s character. Mixing slapstick, Mary Poppins and the quirks of Wes Anderson into one, the fact that this film not only works but even exists is a marvel. Sure, it’s predictable and cheesy but that’s all part of the experience, and this movie just wouldn’t be a Paddington Bear film if it took itself any more seriously. If you’ve been holding out on this one for fear it’s another disaster on the level of Alvin & The Chipmunks, put your fears to rest and watch Paddington.

  1. Selma

A shocking and no holds barred depiction of the events in Selma, Alabama in 1965, Selma is the Martin Luther King biopic this generation deserves. Featuring a fantastic leading performance by a nearly unrecognisable David Oyelowo and impeccable direction from Ava DuVernay, it’s one that has really been overlooked this awards season in major categories and certainly deserves an audience. It’s a brave, provocative and important film that isn’t afraid to show the depravity of the events it depicts, and you should be sure not to miss it.

  1. The Boxtrolls

Animation studio Laika continues to top themselves with this disgustingly charming creature of a film. Harking back to the days of Labyrinth and Return to Oz, when kids’ films weren’t afraid to be scary, The Boxtrolls is a quirky and humorous adventure that also manages to be a satirical jab at the class system. Featuring fantastic voice work from the likes of Ben Kingsley and Richard Ayoade and gorgeously grimy animation, this is certainly a film not for the more squeamish children but is perfect for those kids who are looking for something just a tad darker.

  1. Cold in July

A simple but suspenseful thriller that constantly changes gears, Cold in July is an old school film from its setting to its aesthetics to its amazing synth score. Michael C. Hall is great as a simple man who gets caught in an ever-deepening hole of an odd situation, finding himself caught up with an unstable Sam Shepard and a scene-stealing Don Johnson. The three of them together create one heck of an odd trio, and watching them delve deeper into one depraved situation after another keeps you hooked. A small but satisfying tale, Cold in July should be one to seek out if you like a dark mystery.

  1. The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is a love story first and a Steven Hawking biopic second, and that’s what makes it so accessible and wonderful. Rather than glorifying Hawking’s scientific achievements, it focuses on the man behind those theories and the truly spectacular life he managed to live in spite of his unfortunate illness. The film could have been seriously trite in the hands of someone less skilled, but under the direction of Man on Wire’s James Marsh and with fantastic performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything is a sweet and heart-warming film that never becomes too treacley for discomfort.

  1. The Imitation Game

The story of Alan Turing is one that needs a movie in this day and age, and The Imitation Game fills that need stupendously. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is as great as you’d expect, portraying one of the most important but also overlooked and mistreated figures in World War II, but also features strong turns from the likes of Keira Knightley, Mark Strong and Charles Dance. It’s a story that shows the dangers of keeping secrets, why some should be kept and others brought to light, and what happens when one man’s simple choice negates the importance of his accomplishments. It’s a captivating and important movie, and one that should definitely be seen by fans of history and young people struggling to come to terms with themselves.

  1. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal is near unrecognizable as the darkly charming Lou Bloom in this dark look into the world of news broadcast, and his Oscar snub is a serious misstep in my book. It’s a film about a bad guy but one we disturbingly learn to understand as he manipulates his way to the top, leading to a finale that is both shocking and unprecedented for any film to take. Gyllenhaal isn’t the only one to shine, with both Rene Russo and Bill Paxton giving some of their best work as they get tangled in this one man’s unsettling job. Comparable to the likes of Taxi Driver and Network, Nightcrawler will get under your skin and make you feel incredibly uncomfortable, but you will be unable to take your eyes off it.

  1. Fury

David Ayer’s had one schizophrenic year. After releasing Sabotage, one of the worst films of the year, he quickly follows it up with one of the best. Fury is bleak even for a war film, depicting the final days of World War II as depressing and scarring even in the wake of victory. Brad Pitt may be the one on the poster but it’s Logan Lerman who’s the real star here, perfectly portraying a boy forced to become a man in a war he wants no part of. Pitt and Shia LaBoeuf are equally terrific in their roles, whilst Jon Bernthal and Michael Pena are harsh but relatable in their parts. It’s a film full of dark characters, morbid situations and harsh imagery, but one with enough hope that you want to see it through to the end. Fury is not for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly a journey worth taking and solid proof that Suicide Squad is in capable hands for comic book fans.

  1. 22 Jump Street

Comedy sequels rarely ever work and this movie knows it. Through sheer personality and incredible self-deprecation, 22 Jump Street manages to be just as satirical, self-aware and absolutely hilarious as its predecessor, if not more so. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are among the best comedy duos in genre history and take everything up to 11 from the action sequences to the hysterically overt homoeroticism. All of that, plus the best credits sequence ever conceived, and you’ve got yourself not just the best comedy sequel, but also the best straight-up comedy of the year in general.

  1. The Raid 2

Gareth Evans’ The Raid was one of the most refreshing actions films in recent memory, and with the sequel he has done everything he can to try and top it. Whilst the plot is a little bloated compared to the first, the action sequences are far more varied and better in every conceivable way. The final third of this movie is an onslaught of fantastically visceral fight scenes that will leave you wincing but begging for more. Hollywood has already taken some notes from the first Raid, but now they really need to update them thanks to this gut-bustingly glorious follow-up.

  1. Wild

Reese Witherspoon delivers a fantastic and emotional performance in this true story from Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee. Telling the story of a woman walking a thousand mile hike in order to figure out her life, Wild manages to avoid becoming a pretentious piece of nonsense about the human spirit in the vein of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and instead focuses on our character rather than the environment she is in. Featuring an equally spectacular turn from Laura Dern, Wild is certainly a journey worth taking.

  1. Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s artful and disturbing Under the Skin is certainly not for everyone, but I do urge you to at least try it; I won’t blame you if you decide to turn it off though. Scarlett Johansson has had a really successful year, but here she delivers one of the best performances of her career as a cold but alluring alien/sexual predator who slowly learns what it means to be human. The beautifully morbid cinematography, haunting imagery and eerie score all contribute to make a cinematic experience unlike any other, and one of the bigger surprises of the year.

  1. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer returns to the franchise he started 14 years ago to deliver another awesome X-Men movie that definitely pushes the series’ good/bad ratio over to the right side. Loosely adapting one of the comics’ most beloved storylines and combining the cast of the original trilogy with First Class, Days of Future Past delivers everything you could want from an X-Men movie: an entertaining story, a multitude of characters old and new, memorable action beats and, most importantly, a good heart. It’s rare to see a film series acknowledge the mistakes of its past and work so hard to try and fix them, but Days of Future Past does that to the best of its ability.

  1. The Guest

From the creators of the indie horror gem You’re Next comes this 80s throwback picture that should not be missed by any genre fan. Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame is creepily charming as a soldier staying with the family of his deceased friend whilst hiding a dark secret, and whether busting school bullies or just having a beer he’s a magnetic presence. Mixing elements of thriller, horror and action in a fashion most comparable to the early works of John Carpenter and James Cameron, The Guest is a gloriously entertaining hodgepodge of a movie.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Who would have thought that one of the best superhero movies in recent memory would star Captain America? But once you’ve seen The Winter Soldier, you’ll understand why. Harking back to the classic political thrillers of the 70s whilst mixing in elements of their contemporaries, The Winter Soldier asks more difficult and divisive questions than most straight thrillers of its type. Analyzing the ethical problems surrounding drone warfare, pre-emptive strikes and the warped world view of the American government, and then pitting that against a hero so patriotic and optimistic that even Superman would say he’s overdoing it, creates for a superhero movie that is far more than it seems on the surface. Featuring fantastic action sequences, great chemistry between Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie, and one hell of a twist that shifts the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way, Captain America: The Winter Soldier proves that superhero movies can be both entertaining and thought provoking.

  1. Edge of Tomorrow

One of the most disappointingly unseen films of this year, Edge of Tomorrow may suffer from a troubled production history, misrepresentative marketing and a title that makes it sound like a bad soap opera, but it is certainly worth far more than that. Tom Cruise lets go of his ego and allows himself to play the coward in this sci-fi action flick that plays like a mixture of Aliens and Groundhog Day, in turn delivering one of the most honest performances of his recent career. Emily Blunt steals the show consistently, proving she has serious action chops and providing one of the best examples of a female badass since Ellen Ripley. As funny and clever as it is bombastic, Edge of Tomorrow is a perfect blend of brains and brawn that should satisfy any audience.

  1. Boyhood

Richard Linklater spent 12 years slowly making this deceivingly simple little film about one boy’s life, and in the process created a coming of age tale that truly encapsulates what growing up is like. This isn’t a sentimental film that paints youth like a corny piece of nostalgia where everything is perfect. It has its highs, but it also has its lows as we follow this boy deal with pretty much everything a child deals with at some point. Featuring wonderful supporting work from Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, Boyhood is a remarkable and unmissable film that would be a landmark even without its strange production history.

  1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes reignited the long dormant franchise and provided both an interesting sci-fi tale and some of Andy Serkis’ finest work to date. That’s a high bar for a sequel to cross, but Dawn leaps over that hurdle effortlessly. The film has plenty of entertainment value packed into its action beats, but it’s the quieter moments that make Dawn so special. It balances that fine line that most movies fail to stay steady on by making every character relatable and justifiable in their actions; no obvious heroes and villains here. It paints a dour picture of our future, but one still filled with hope, and in doing so creates one of the best sci-fi dramas since District 9. Apes together strong indeed.

  1. How to Train Your Dragon 2

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The tale of Hiccup and Toothless continues in this animated fantasy adventure, and I do mean continue. The creators could have easily rested on their laurels and made a rehash of the first film, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 moves the story forward in a natural, meaningful and surprisingly adult way. It is just as fun and full of whimsy as its predecessor, but the story has matured with its characters and audience, allowing the franchise to go to places most kids’ films are too afraid to go. With endearing characters, breathtaking animation and plenty of heart, How to Train Your Dragon 2 surpasses the original and is easily DreamWorks’ finest achievement to date.

  1. Noah

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Want to make your biblical epic more than just the usual pandering nonsense made purely for devout Christians? Hire an atheist director. Darren Aronofsky’s daring, grand and often bizarre interpretation of the tale of Noah’s Ark often resembles The Lord of the Rings more than The Ten Commandments, creating something very different from the director’s usual work but one that also perfectly fits in with them thematically. His vision of Noah isn’t a paragon of all that is good, but a flawed and possibly deranged man whose decisions are constantly questionable, and that skewing of the norm is something found throughout the movie. It makes for a story that works for both a religious audience and a general one, painting everything from its characters to its message in an ambiguous light. It can be enjoyed as a religious film, an art film or a straight-up fantasy film; it’s all up to your own taste. It’s divisive for sure, but if you haven’t seen Noah yet I urge you to at least try.

  1. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman is easily one of the most cynical films I have ever seen, which I usually don’t like especially when targeting this subject matter, but it does it so right. The film doesn’t just go on about how film and acting and the media are bad but offer nothing in return. It approaches everything with a sharp and biting wit that points out everything wrong with the Hollywood machine and the egos of its stars. However, it does so whilst being self-aware, ripping to shreds even the cynics who do that all the time. Michael Keaton’s performance here is sure to define his career and I would be overjoyed if he picked up an Oscar this year, and the rest of the supporting cast including Edward Norton and Emma Stone deserve similar praise. Alejandero Gonzalez Inarritu’s engrossing tale of art and insanity is an absolute joy from start to finish, and anyone with an interest in any creative medium needs to see this now. You may learn a thing or two.

  1. Gone Girl

Gone Girl is a stellar example of a simple premise done to perfection. This is the type of film that most directors would do in their sleep, but David Fincher’s meticulous directing style means this is far more than just another mystery thriller. The story starts out as typical as you could imagine, but soon spirals down paths that cannot even be discussed without going deep into spoilers. Ben Affleck gives a fantastic performance as Nick Dunne, an imperfect man who is looking for his missing wife, but maybe not because he loves her and he quickly becomes as big a suspect as anyone. The entire supporting cast is equally excellent, especially those playing against type; this is a film that makes Tyler Perry look awesome if you want proof of that. But it is Rosamund Pike who steals the entire show, ridding herself of her usual persona and giving us one of the most fascinating characters of the year. I can’t say much more without giving the whole thing away, so just stop here and go see Gone Girl.

  1. Whiplash

Whiplash is an experience more thrilling, suspenseful and eerie than most major motion pictures, and that’s saying a lot considering it’s a film about jazz drumming. Damien Chazelle’s directorial debut is both an inspirational and cautionary tale about the lengths one must go through to achieve their dreams, and the toll it can take when pushed too far. Miles Teller is fantastic as a talented but egotistical drummer who will do anything to be the best, but it’s J.K. Simmons that’s the one to watch as an incredibly deranged music teacher but with methods to his madness. Exciting, shocking, and with a catchy jazz soundtrack, Whiplash is quite unlike anything you’ve seen before.

  1. The LEGO Movie

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You would have every right to be suspicious about The LEGO Movie on first glance, but you would have to be a complete idiot to right it off as nothing but corporate pandering. Taking the typical hero’s journey formula and flipping it on its head, The LEGO Movie is a deconstruction and a celebration of every classic story told that pulls everything apart and sticks it back together in new and creative ways; much like real LEGO when you think about it. Everything from the animation to the writing to the voice acting is pitch perfectly off kilter, filled with that infectious charm and wit that permeates all of Phil Lord & Christopher Miller’s work. It’s a film that works just as well for adults as it does for children, teaching both audiences a valuable lesson about creative freedom and examining the nature of our increasingly controlled society. As the movie so often declares: “Everything is awesome!”

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy

There were certainly more important films made this year; films that say important things and revolutionize the art form. But in terms of pure entertainment and enjoyability, in terms of what impacted me and pop culture at large as well, my favourite film of the year has to be Guardians of the Galaxy. An irreverent, humorous, action packed and heartwarming romp of a sci-fi adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy is proof that out of the box concepts can be successful in this day and age. Sure, a large part of its success is down to its connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it stands well enough on its own too. Chris Pratt owns it as the lovably goofy Star-Lord, ably supported by Zoe Saldana’s deadly assassin Gamora, Vin Diesel managing to gain huge sympathy with just three words as the sentient tree creature Groot, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is as awesome as you’d expect as a gun-toting raccoon, and Dave Bautista is a deadpan revelation as the literally confused Drax. The story may be standard and the message can be summed up as “having friends is good”, but it’s the characters, the world and that rocking soundtrack that keeps me coming back. It truly is the Ghostbusters of this generation: a concept so bizarre on paper but also full of so many fun ideas and quotable lines that it manages to break through to the mainstream. I truly hope this film’s success encourages Hollywood to take a chance on more risky ideas, and I can’t wait to see the further adventures of these space-faring rapscallions.

And now, as is my tradition, please enjoy this video compilation of my picks for you to reflect on:

MY TOP 20 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2015

The end of a great year of film has arrived. As you all get ready to celebrate New Year in whatever way you see fit and reflect on what’s occurred over the past twelve months, one must also look ahead to the events of the twelve months to come. As such, it’s time to take a look at the twenty films coming out next year I’m most looking forward to.

Before we begin, a few notes:

  1. This list is based on what is scheduled to come out in 2015 as of this moment. Some of these may get delayed to 2016 for a variety of reasons, but as of now they are due for release next year.
  2. I’m only counting films that have a confirmed release for next year. I know Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is expected to release next year among others, but because there’s no set date as of this moment, I cannot count it.
  3. Films that will be released here in the UK in 2015 but were released in the US in 2014 don’t count, so don’t expect to see films like Whiplash, Foxcatcher or Big Hero 6 on this list.
  4. This is not a prediction of what I think will be the best films of 2015; some of them I even have serious doubts about. These are merely the movies I am most excited and/or interested to see, and their quality will be judged when I have actually seen them.

And now, we may begin…

  1. The Jungle Book

As much as Disney has been doing well lately with its animated films and partnerships with Pixar and Marvel, their live action films haven’t received exactly the same success on a critical level; for every Oz The Great and Powerful, there’s an Alice in Wonderland. The company has two live action reimaginings coming out next year: the first, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, certainly looks like its going to fall into the bad camp, but despite little information at his moment about Jon Favreau’s version of The Jungle Book, I certainly have a lot of hope. Favreau has proven himself as a director of both blockbusters and indie fare, and he’s assembled a great cast as well for this live action/motion capture hybrid. Heck, it’s got Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie. Need I say more?

  1. Chappie

Neill Blomkamp, director of the spectacular District 9 and the good-but-not-as-good-as-District 9-was Elysium, returns for another sci-fi tale. Tackling the familiar but still interesting theme of artificial intelligence, Chappie looks to be Blomkamp’s attempt at a softer film after his first two explosive outings. We’re still getting plenty of grime, robots and South African accents that we expect from Blomkamp, but with perhaps a bit more heart. It could end up just being a supped-up version of Short Circuit, but count me intrigued.

  1. In the Heart of the Sea

Ron Howard is often a hit-or-miss director and, considering his last film Rush was a real high point, that doesn’t bode well for In the Heart of the Sea. However, this could be the film to buck that trend. Telling the true story that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick, the film features an all-star cast and some tremendous looking special effects and set-pieces.

  1. Ted 2

Seth MacFarlane’s sophomore effort A Million Ways to Die in the West was a bit of a disappointment, so let’s hope this sequel to his first hit film doesn’t prove he was a one-hit wonder in the movie world. I’m not exactly sure what a sequel to Ted would entail, but I’m sure MacFarlane has enough imagination to come up with a decent scenario to send Ted and John on an interesting adventure. Hopefully this can be the next 22 Jump Street rather than the next The Hangover Part II.

  1. Terminator: Genisys

I really, really want another good Terminator film, and at the moment I’m getting some mixed signals here. Going all Back to the Future Part II on the first film and bringing in a great cast with likes of Emilia Clarke, Matt Smith and the return of Schwarzenegger look cool, but pulling an in-canon reboot isn’t anything new, the CGI looks more dated than the effects from Terminator 2, and it still feels like they’re too reliant on the iconic imagery from the original two films. This could easily go either way, and I’m hoping it goes the right way, but if it doesn’t I think we need to tell Arnold, “No. Don’t come back.”

  1. Midnight Special

Not much is currently known about this latest effort from Jeff Nichols, director of Take Shelter and Mud, other than it is an ode to the classic films of John Carpenter. Honestly, that’s all I need to know. I love John Carpenter, I love Mud, and I love Michael Shannon, so I might as well just buy my ticket now and expect the best.

  1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Mockingjay – Part 1 was a bit dragged out, but I was somewhat expecting that and what was there was pretty good. It’s now at least got me pumped up to see the climax play out on the big screen. Having read the book, I can promise this second part will be much heavier on the action, similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and bring an intriguing and satisfying close to this great series.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

I’m not a huge fan of the Mad Max franchise, but the trailers they’ve released for this looks astounding. The crazy amount of real car carnage and gorgeous visuals on display here is enough to get me pumped, as is the casting of Tom Hardy in the shoes once occupied by Mel Gibson. I know this film has been in the works forever, and whether anything else in it will be of note is yet to be seen, but I’m sure this will at least be a visual treat.

  1. Mission: Impossible V

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was a welcome kick in the pants for this long-running franchise, and with Christopher McQuarrie taking the helm for this fifth installment I couldn’t be happier. Looking forward to more crazy stunts, exotic locales, and lots and lots of Tom Cruise running.

  1. Victor Frankenstein

We really need another good Frankenstein movie, especially in the wake of I, Frankenstein, and perhaps this could be exactly what this old monster story needs. Directed by Paul McGuigan of Sherlock and Lucky Number Slevin fame, written by Chronicle scribe Max Landis, starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and giving the tale a spin that supposedly mixes together pretty much all pop culture interpretations of the story, Victor Frankenstein already has me sold.

  1. The Fantastic Four

This reboot of the first superhero family has been kept relatively under wraps which has worried fans, as has its unconventional casting choices, but this sense of mystery has me intrigued. From what we know, the film is inspired by multiple runs of the comic but specifically Ultimate Fantastic Four, which explains the younger cast and more grounded tone they’ve talked about. In my opinion, the cast sounds fascinating and with Chronicle’s Josh Trank at the helm, I’m hoping this could be next summer’s big surprise. Fox certainly has a lot of faith in the project considering they’ve already scheduled a sequel, and I hope their non-existent marketing so far is being done to make the eventual reveal that much better. But if it does fail, just hope that the rights will revert to Marvel.

  1. Crimson Peak

I love me some Guillermo Del Toro, and this return to the horror genre for him sounds like it could be the horror film to beat next year. Taking the classic haunted mansion genre and imbuing it with Del Toro’s unique sensibilities sounds like a winning formula, and throwing heavyweights like Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain into the mix makes it sound even sweeter.

  1. Jurassic World

I predicted Colin Treverrow would be going places after his spectacular feature debut Safety Not Guaranteed, but I never expected he’d reach this high so quickly. Jurassic Park remains one of the greatest and most nostalgic movies of my generation for a reason, and hopefully this long overdue sequel will be the follow-up fans truly deserve. A fully operational park, hybrid dinosaurs, and Chris Pratt riding a motorbike with his raptor buddies? Count me in.

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service

This spy action flick has been pushed around the release calendar quite a lot, but from having read the comic and hearing the buzz from early screenings, I couldn’t be more excited. Mixing the style and lunacy of classic James Bond with the mad stylings of Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar is a genius idea, and hiring such classy folk as Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine to help sell it is even more awesome. Just think a mix between Moonraker, X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass, and I think you’ve got a good idea of what to expect from Kingsman.

  1. Ant-Man

My anticipation for this one has certainly been quelled since Edgar Wright abruptly left the project earlier this year, but Marvel have yet to let me down and so I’m hoping Peyton Reed has what it takes to hold this ship together into another hit. An impressive cast, a bizarre superhero and talks that it most resembles a heist movie is enough to keep me hooked despite the lack of Wright’s involvement.

  1. Spectre

Skyfall was one of the most impressive James Bond movies in recent memory, and with the same creative team back at the helm for the follow-up I couldn’t be more excited. With the previous film’s conclusion suggesting a return to the classic Bond formula, bringing back MI6’s old nemesis SPECTRE is the perfect move for the franchise right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Christoph Waltz doesn’t turn out to be a certain bald, cat-stroking villain (no, not Dr. Evil!). That and it’s going to have Dave Bautista in it. Can we just call this race now?

  1. Inside Out

Pixar have been in a bit of a lull recently, their last three films not reaching their previously ultra-high standards and behind-the-scenes problems with The Good Dinosaur causing them to skip out on 2014 entirely. The world desperately needs another great Pixar film, and this concoction from Up director Pete Docter could potentially be that one. The idea of exploring the mind as if its run by people isn’t an entirely new concept, but Pixar have such a good reputation of putting a unique spin on traditional ideas that I’m sure they’ll make it all their own. With Disney and DreamWorks really upping their game in recent years, Pixar cannot afford to slouch anymore.

  1. Tomorrowland

Speaking of Pixar, Brad Bird’s newest venture is looking to be something special. Its teaser trailer is near perfect, tantalizing us with the potential for an amazing ride but still without letting us in on what exactly is going on; all we know is that it’s got George Clooney, a magic pin and jetpacks. Sure, the presence of Damon “I-don’t-know-how-to-write-a-third-act” Lindelof as a writer is a worrying aspect, but the imagination of Bird is hard to deny. I’m ready to adventure to Tomorrowland.

  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes reassemble for what looks to be the movie to beat this summer. After facing an alien invasion in the first film, the threat of Robot James Spader might initially seem like a step down, but I promise you this is probably going to get insane. With more action, more banter, and more characters with some high stakes and a creepy interpretation of a Disney song, Age of Ultron would have to do something spectacularly stupid to upend Marvel’s winning streak right now.

  1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

It’s the obvious choice, I know, but this is my list and I stand by it wholeheartedly. Nothing has had an impact on my life the way Star Wars has, and I want to see it done right. I’ve said for years that new Star Wars films are not only possible, but also have the chance to be great again, if only George Lucas would step down and let a new generation take the reigns. I never thought it would actually happen, at least not so soon, but it did and my excitement cannot be contained. Even with a year to go until its release, The Force Awakens has already made some great moves. Bringing back the old cast whilst hiring some great new talent as well, putting a great focus on using old filmmaking techniques rather than just a lot of CGI and, the best thing of all, keeping the whole thing shrouded in secrecy. How rare is that in this day and age? One of the most talked about movies on the landscape right now, with news and rumours flooding in every week and even a trailer released well in advance, and yet we still know next to nothing. That is how it is done. I’m not going to say you’d be wrong to still be cautious, as Star Wars is a property that has let us down several times before and even I’m trying to remain as reserved as I can, but if you’ve written The Force Awakens off already and have absolutely no hope of it being good, you really have turned to the dark side.

MY TOP 25 FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2013

Now that the shaming is out of the way, it is high time I finally got round to listing my favourite films of the past year. Now, just to get this out of the way, this list is entirely subjective; what are your favourites are certainly not guaranteed to be mine. But most importantly, I’m not ranking these based on how well made or important to the cinematic lexicon these motion pictures are. I’m ranking them based on how much I enjoyed them. So don’t be surprised when I put a Hollywood blockbuster over an Oscar worthy tour-de-force. Because I do that a lot in this list.

25. Mama

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Now this is how horror is done: suspenseful, creepy and with careful thought. Director Andres Muschietti solidly adapts his own short film into one chiller of a ghost movie. Jessica Chastain puts as much effort into this as she would in a much more serious production, and her dedication helps raise this film even higher. I hope Muschietti finds further success (he is currently circling The Mummy reboot), and this won’t be the last time we’ll see Guillermo Del Toro’s hands on this list…

24. Frances Ha

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Frances Ha is a great example of taking an old style and giving it a modern perspective. Whilst it is very reminiscent of the films of the French New Wave and the early works of Woody Allen, it does have a strong relevant view of the lives of those struggling to grow up and enter the real world; a subject matter I can very much relate to. Frances is a likeable character who makes some terrible judgement calls, but they are the relatable kind I’m sure many of us have made at some point. Beyond that, it is just a good character study and is a film that pushes its minimalist approach to the limits.

23. Oz The Great and Powerful

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I know this film certainly had a mixed response; heck, I’ve seen it turn up on some people’s worst of lists. But I’m sticking with what I feel and I must admit I really enjoyed this one. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of when kids’ films could be simple and fanciful, maybe it’s the fact it doesn’t completely miss the point of the source material the way Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, or maybe it’s the just the simple fact that I’m a sucker for Sam Raimi. It may not have all the brains, heart and courage you want, but it’s got just enough for me.

22. The Conjuring

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You can’t get more classic an approach to horror than The Conjuring. It certainly isn’t the most original film on the market, but it terms of what it is trying to achieve it is damn near perfectly executed. A horror film that has likable characters, a thick chilling atmosphere, and doesn’t rely on jump scares? How does everyone keep messing this up so bad? I’m just glad there’s a film like The Conjuring out there to show that horror is not dead.

21. The Wolverine

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He’s the best there is at what he does, and thankfully that statement is true this time around. Making me all but forget the travesty that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this is the solo adventure that Logan deserves. In many ways, this is less of a superhero movie and more of a samurai/Western type film, and a damn good one at that. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to slow down and give time for character, but when the action does come it impacts sufficiently. If you haven’t checked it out already, The Wolverine is the perfect appetiser before Days of Future Past arrives this May.

20. Star Trek Into Darkness

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Whilst JJ Abrams may have now moved his attentions to a galaxy far, far away, he leaves the crew of the Enterprise with a solid effort. Admittedly, the overt references to the franchise’s past can be grating (I think everyone would like to forget Zachary Quinto’s yell that ranks up there with Darth Vader’s “NO!” from Revenge of the Sith). But when the film is allowed to do its own thing, it shines just as brightly as its predecessor. The new cast sinks their teeth more into their roles, there is some great action spectacle, and Benedict Cumberbatch makes for one hell of an intimidating villain.

19. This Is the End

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In what ranks as probably the most plain fun movie of the year, This Is the End is a wonderfully self-deprecating romp that has laughs crammed up the wazoo. It’s crass, unrelenting and gut-bustlingly hilarious. There’s not much to say beyond that. Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut ranks highly amongst their finest work yet, and I can’t wait to see all they have in store for the future.

18. Side Effects

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The first part of Steven Soderbergh’s swansong to cinema (I’ve yet to see Behind The Candleabra), Side Effects is a simple but thoroughly well put together thriller. Rooney Mara’s performance as a woman suffering from depression is one of her finest to date, and the film expertly crafts a tale full of shocking turns leading to a conclusion I could not have imagined. I personally don’t think Soderbergh is going to stay away from the director’s chair for too long, I’m sure something will tempt him back, but if this is to be one of his last efforts it’s a good way to go out.

17. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Now this is what I wanted from the first Hobbit movie. Peter Jackson has thankfully made his second chapter in the somewhat needlessly extended trilogy a much more exciting romp than the first one. The film is much better paced, filled with some really stupendous action sequences, and it has Benedict Cumberbatch as a dragon. What more could you ask for? It’s still not quite Lord of the Rings good, but if the final film can nail it I’d say this trilogy was a solid effort.

16. Don Jon

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt, how come you are so talented? As if acting wasn’t enough, he’s now taken a shot at writing and directing and done a fantastic job of that too. Don Jon is a very well handled examination of relationships and how they can fall apart when we hold them on too high a pedestal. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is wonderfully layered as probably the most unintentionally manipulative woman put to screen, and the film offers plenty of both laughs and heart. JGL, keep it up.

15. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Now this is a film that definitely deserves a special ‘Most Improved’ honour. The Hunger Games was a solid but flawed film, but Catching Fire manages to take everything wrong with its predecessor and fix it as well as adding to and improving on everything else. It’s got a more riveting story, better-defined characters, comprehensible and imaginative action scenes, and one of the most well handled cliff-hangers I’ve seen in a long time. Mockingjay can’t come fast enough.

14. Mud

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The first of three Matthew McConaughey films to make it into my list, Mud is a simple but very effective little motion picture. Creating a somewhat modern fairy tale, Mud is a film firmly grounded in reality and a very well crafted look at the concept of love and maturity. Tye Sheridan’s performance shows he has a lot of promise as a young actor, and everyone else around him supports the film very well. Heck, even Joe Don Baker comes off as good here.

13. Dallas Buyers Club

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And all right, all right, all right: here’s McConaughey again! In this true story set during the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s, McConaughey delivers a career-defining performance that deserves all of the Oscar buzz he’s been getting. Right up there too is Jared Leto’s wonderful portrayal of a transgender woman that pulls just as many heart strings as his co-star does. Not much else to say but go see it.

12. The World’s End

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Where would a best of list for me be without the presence of Edgar Wright? Whilst I found The World’s End to be my least favourite of his directorial efforts, that doesn’t stop it from being a wonderfully hilarious ride. The film both pays tribute to its predecessors whilst also managing to flip the expected dynamics into a fresh narrative. Whilst the “trilogy” may be over, I’m sure Wright, Pegg & Frost will return one day to make us laugh once again. But for now, Wright can finally make that Ant-Man movie I’ve been waiting bloody ages for.

11. Frozen

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In what is easily Disney’s greatest animated feat since the 1990’s renaissance, Frozen is a film that both respects the classic Disney formula whilst changing and updating it enough to get rid of its more archaic elements. And damn it, months later I’m still finding myself humming the songs. Don’t let the stigma of it being a children’s film dissuade you. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a massive favour and watch it. I can almost certainly guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself.

10. Captain Phillips

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Master of the Shaky-Cam Paul Greengrass proves why he’s the only one who knows how to use it properly in this masterfully taught tale. Tom Hanks’ performance as the titular Phillips is his finest in a long time, and newcomer Barkhad Abdi is truly menacing as pirate leader Muse. But apart from that, this is an effectively paced thriller that not only manages to sympathise with victims, but surprisingly with the pirates to a degree as well. A wonderfully entertaining and pulse-pounding piece of filmmaking.

9. Nebraska

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Bruce Dern delivers a performance that defines his extensive career in Alexander Payne’s latest. A very down to earth and relatable story about family, Will Forte and June Squibb also deliver great work and the script is chock full of those awkward family moments that I think we’ve all experienced at some point. A simple but thoroughly enjoyable film and another hit for the ever-reliable Payne.

8. Pacific Rim

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I can’t deny it. This movie is way too fun to not have it this high on the list. A rollercoaster of epic proportions, this is exactly the type of blockbuster that we should be getting more of: self-aware fun that doesn’t have to take itself too seriously. There is just enough story and character to keep the ship afloat, but in the end it is the spectacle of seeing giants mechs fighting giant monsters that makes this film such a pure joy. Pay attention, Michael Bay: this is how you do it.

7. The Wolf of Wall Street

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Martin Scorsese. Need I say more? An exploration of debauchery and greed, The Wolf of Wall Street is depraved and bombastic and that’s exactly why I love it. Leonardo DiCaprio continues to prove what a phenomenal actor he can be when given the right material, and Jonah Hill proves that Moneyball was no fluke; he really can act. Filled with potently hilarious dialogue and cast list full of huge names, this is one three hour epic that I’d be happy to let go on even longer.

6. Rush

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One of the most compelling and exhilarating sports films I’ve ever seen, Rush does everything it needs to do perfectly. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl make excellent rivals, playing off each other incredibly well. The story is expertly told, making us root for both of these people in equal measure. Ron Howard’s wonderful direction is also applied to the racing sequences, which put you right in the action and will have your heart racing. If Formula 1 races were shot like this, I’d be watching them all the time.

5. Iron Man 3

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I stated at the end of my review to this that this might be one of the best superhero films of all time. And, having watched it again and having had more time to think about it, I stand by that statement. All the fanboy hate on this one is narrow-minded and pathetic, as it completely ignores all that this movie does so well. It’s a film that reminds you why Tony Stark is one of the best characters to come out of a Hollywood blockbuster in a long time, and adding the genius of Shane Black to the mix just sweetened the deal. As far as summer movies go, Iron Man 3 stands as a gold standard and manages the impossible task of topping The Avengers. Yes, I said it. Iron Man 3 is better than The Avengers. Just my opinion.

4. Gravity

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Alfonso Cuaron’s groundbreaking space thriller (no, it’s not sci-fi just because it takes place in space) may not quite beat his previous effort Children of Men in my book, but it is still a film that demands to be seen on the big screen. Not since Avatar has a film wowed so much on a technical level, but manages to back it up with a simple but very effective story about survival. Gravity also manages to keep the notion of 3-D alive, proving that it can be a great filmmaking tool when it actually has purpose beyond upping ticket prices.

3. 12 Years a Slave

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What is there to say about 12 Years a Slave that hasn’t been said? It is an instant classic that does everything right. The performances are phenomenal, the direction superb, the cinematography gorgeous, the story unforgettable. Other than minor nitpicks, I can’t say a word against how brilliant this film truly is. One of the best films of the year, though it is so impactful I may never feel the need to watch it again. It is that powerful. If you don’t come out of this feeling seriously emotional, you have no emotions.

2. Prisoners

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Prisoners is just as heart-wrenching and difficult to watch as 12 Years a Slave, but I rate it slightly higher because, to be honest, it is a slightly more relatable film. It tackles issues that are constantly found in today’s society and not just our past. Prisoners feels like a documentary at points; an examination of how different people cope in such a frightening situation. Hugh Jackman’s performance is the most underrated piece of acting of the past year, portraying a man at the end of his wits that will do anything to get his daughter back. The rest of the cast is equally wonderful, particularly Jake Gyllenhaal and Melissa Leo. This is a movie that I nearly cried in multiple times and will keep you at the edge of your seat waiting for a moment of relief. I’m not normally one for deeply depressing movies, but this one really just works. If you haven’t already, go watch Prisoners. It is just damn near perfect.

1. Her

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I held out on making this list until Her came out, as I was certain it would make the list once I did. Boy am I thankful I was patient. Her is again, like many of my highest-rated films this year, is an emotional journey but one not so agonising. Like life itself, its feelings fluctuate between high and low but luckily the film’s quality never does. I cannot think of a single thing in this movie I didn’t like, and I tried. The acting is superb, the entire movie looks and sounds beautiful and, most importantly of all, the story is wonderfully told. It is one of the most human and captivating stories I’ve witnessed in a long time; somewhat ironic considering the subject matter. Spike Jonze has once again knocked it out of the park and created a spectacular piece of filmmaking that hits all of the right notes. I left Her overwrought with emotions and thoughts, but not ones of sadness or grief. I left feeling hopeful and inspired. And when a movie can do that, it’s certainly done something right.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a video montage of my favourites:

MY TOP TWENTY-FIVE WORST FILMS OF 2013

2013 wasn’t exactly a great year for movies. For every good movie, there was a bad one or two or sometimes three. So before we highlight the best that 2013 had to offer, it’s time to scrape out the sh*t. Now most of these movies I’ve covered in full review or in one of my Rental Round-Ups, but others won’t receive the full treatment until the next instalment. But regardless, if you have yet to see any of these movies I have one word of advice: don’t. Unless you’re a masochist or something.

25. Stoker

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What a confusing mess of a film this was. This movie was so bizarre that I’m struggling to recollect what it was even about, but from what I do I just remember a lot of “what the fuck?” When this movie wasn’t being bizarre, it was just being generic or pretentious. Park Chan-wook, Oldboy was awesome and I will always respect you for that, but maybe you should stick to your native tongue.

24. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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What’s worse than an utterly generic movie? An utterly generic movie that thinks it is special. But no, Walter Mitty, you are not special. Ben Stiller is pushing way above his calibre here and is clearly trying to make something meaningful. But this isn’t The Tree of Life. It’s a travel agency ad full of product placement and bumper sticker philosophy. The plot is predictable, the characters are one-note, and it goes on and on. Sure, it looks pretty but that is about all there is to enjoy here. Stiller, I don’t hate you but you are really trying my patience.

23. Carrie

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Hooray, another pointless remake! I’m not completely against remaking a film as long as you can do something new with it. But this new version of Carrie does absolutely nothing but add moblie phones and waste your time. Chloe Grace Moretz tries her best to hold this picture together, but even her efforts are wasted because she is so unfortunately miscast. And by god, the bullies in this are the most cookie cutter arseholes ever put to screen. The original Carrie was a little ridiculous, but everyone in this movie is so caricatured that I just couldn’t take a frame of it seriously.

22. RED 2

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The first RED was a goofy but fun little action movie that mainly rode off the charisma of its cast. But did we really need a sequel? No, we didn’t but the box office on the first said otherwise. What was barely enough of a premise to sustain one movie has been stretched so far it has snapped, creating a movie that seems to have been made from the leftovers of the original. Take away the impressive star power of this movie and the decent production values, and this is a flick that would barely skate by direct-to-DVD. But hey, at least it’s not as bad as this interview with an incredibly rude Bruce Willis about the picture:

21. The Counsellor

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What do you get when you combine Ridley Scott, one of the most well-known and respected filmmakers alive, with the talents of famed author Cormac McCarthy? You’d think something good, but that would make some sort of sense. But much like the confusing mess that is The Counsellor, it doesn’t make sense. Full of pretentiously obtuse dialogue and bizarre choices across the board, the only thing this movie will be remembered for is the scene with Cameron Diaz and a convertible. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.

20. Filth

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Let me get this out of the way: James McAvoy’s performance in Filth is brilliant. But take him out of the picture and this is just a bunch of depraved prattle. This is one of those examples of a novel just not adapting to the screen. It’s a film that is everything and nothing; it is filled with sex, violence, drugs and other such things but has nothing to really say about it. It has a great cast, but utterly wastes most of them. By the end of it all, I was just left confused by what I had witnessed. I know a lot of people liked this movie, more power to them, but I just found it dull.

19. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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A recurring theme on this list will be “comedies that aren’t funny”. 2013 had an abundance of them, and to kick us off is The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Why on earth such talented people as Steve Carrel, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde and the late James Gandolfini signed on to this confusing mess is beyond me. This is what Will Ferrell scripts must be like without all the improv, and considering how unfunny this movie is it really could have used his presence.

18. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

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Pretty much every YA novel on the market is getting a movie now, so here’s another one. The Mortal Instruments may not be as bad as some of its brethren, but that is mainly because this movie is so unintentionally hilarious. I swear, if you aren’t laughing by the time it reaches the climax where a serious of ludicrous plot twists occur, either you’re dead or you actually like this movie. It’s a shame that talents like Lena Heady and Jared Harris attached themselves to this pre-teen drivel. Thankfully they’re barely in it, but this isn’t the last we’ll here from Cersei Lannister on this list…

17. The Bling Ring

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Hey, want to watch a movie about spoiled LA kids stealing sh*t and having no remorse about it? No, of course you don’t. Not unless you’re a fan of mindless reality TV. The premise, based on a true story, has the potential to be fun social satire. But this film is directed by Sofia Coppola, so instead enjoy dull, lifeless direction and shallow characters with no redeemable qualities. Sofia, I love Lost in Translation as much as the next person, but you really need to step up your game because I don’t want to sit through another slog like this.

16. Bullet to the Head

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A title that describes what I wanted after watching this. Sylvester Stallone mumbles his way through this generic piece of pulp that wastes the time of its decent cast and legendary director Walter Hill, who is clearly past his prime. I can barely remember a damn thing about this movie other than it had an axe fight between Stallone and Sh*tty Conan, and that Christian Slater was in it for about ten minutes. Sly, I know you want to call back to your heyday in the 80’s, but you can do much better than this.

15. The Purge

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What a wasted opportunity this was. This is a film set in a future where, for 12 hours a year, all emergency services are disabled and all crime is permitted. Forgetting about how implausible this premise is, it has the potential to do something really cool. But nope, it’s just another home invasion movie where that set-up does little more than explain why they can’t call the cops and why their inevitable resort to violence is justifiable. It contains every thriller trope imaginable and features some of the dumbest and ridiculous characters and decisions I’ve seen in a long time. Ethan Hawke and Lena Heady are much better than this, and I can’t believe we’re actually getting a sequel to this drivel.

14. The Host

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We thought we had killed it, but it came back: Stephanie Meyer wasn’t guilty enough for inflicting Twilight upon the world, but now she is guilty of this atrocity. The Host has the potential to be an intriguing film, but wastes it on the same teen romance crap that has been shoved down our throats since 2008. What on earth was Saorise Ronan, a very talented actress, thinking when she signed on for this? If In Time was the first nail in the coffin for Andrew Niccol, The Host is close to final. One more f*ck up, and he is dead to me. You made Gattaca, man! What the hell happened?!

13. Broken City

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Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…huh, what? This movie is still going? Let me go back to sleep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…what? You want me to give an opinion? OK. This movie is dull, pointless and a waste of its talents’ time. Next. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

12. I Give It a Year

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Continuing our parade into “unfunny comedies” is a slightly different beast: an unfunny British comedy. What tries to be a play on the tired Brit rom com formula driven into the public consciousness since Richard Curtis met Hugh Grant is instead a film riding on awkwardness. Here is half of the jokes in I Give It a Year: “Yes, my wife is lovely. We did it the other night and it was great. Oh sh*t, that was rude. Oh f*ck, I said sh*t. There I did it again. This is very awkward. Oh dear, a picture of my privates. What a disaster!” Over and over and over again. Sound like fun to you? Then go knock yourself out, because certainly was tempted to.

11. Olympus Has Fallen

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We got two “Die Hard in the White House” movies last year. One was the cheesy but fun White House Down, probably my biggest guilty pleasure of the year alongside Pain & Gain. And the other was the dumb, uninspired, jingoistic headache of a movie that was Olympus Has Fallen. Guess which one is getting a sequel? Yep, the sh*tty one. I never thought I’d say this but its true: Gerard Butler was the only good thing about this movie. Without his efforts, this movie would be much further up the list.

10. Spring Breakers

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I know people like this movie. I even somewhat get why people like this movie. But if I wanted to hang out with a bunch of douchebags high on coke and their own ego whilst surrounded by pastels and Skrillex, I’d go to a rave. Yes, James Franco’s bizarre performance is fascinating to watch, but when everything around him is as warped as he is it just fails to do anything. This is a prime example of having your cake and eating it: making a statement about how rude and desensitised our youth is whilst jerking off to the concept at the same time. I’d expect nothing less from the director of Trash Humpers.

9. Parker

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Jason Statham, you’re usually awesome but this…even this is beneath you. This is one of the dullest action-thrillers I have ever witnessed. Generic plot, dull characters, unimaginative action scenes, unfunny dialogue. Other than the amusement of seeing Statham do a horrendous Southern accent, there is nothing to see here. Please, Statham. Go find Neveldine & Taylor and make Crank 3 already. We miss you guys.

8. R.I.P.D.

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R.I.P.D. isn’t just bad because it’s got a cliché-ridden script, a complete lack of chemistry between its two main stars, and some of the worst CGI I’ve ever seen in a major Hollywood blockbuster. It’s bad because it had so much potential to be good. There are moments when a much better film is screaming out, waiting to be unleashed. But the film squanders its unique premise with poor attempts at humour and a confusing sense of logic. Jeff Bridges, you’re better than this. F*ck, Ryan Reynolds, even YOU are better than this. This is a train wreck of a film that just gets worse and worse as you watch it.

7. The Hangover Part III

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Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Hangover was a really good comedy, one that started a trend of imitators and skyrocketed its stars to the top. Then The Hangover Part II came out. It was the same movie, but with more dick. So, having learned their lesson (apparently), the third and (thankfully) final chapter in the “epic trilogy” goes for a completely different feel. Pity it sucks even more. I don’t think I’ve seen a more mean-spirited and vile movie that calls itself a comedy, because there is nothing here to like. What should be a send-off for these characters just becomes a lazy and irritating bunch of dreck. Toodaloo, motherf*ckers! Don’t come back!

6. A Good Day to Die Hard

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It pains me to say this but…you had a good run, Die Hard. Now please die before you embarrass yourself anymore. From the word go, this was a doomed project. The script is atrocious, the directing is uninspired, the acting is half-assed, and the action scenes are so implausible that it makes Wanted look like a documentary. This is a massive slap in the face of a franchise that deserves better treatment than this. It’s this kind of movie that really pisses me off because it thinks its audience are a bunch of idiotic sheep who will go see anything because it says Die Hard on the poster. Bruce Willis, you clearly just don’t give a sh*t anymore. Now stop being a smug schmuck and let this franchise die while it still has an ounce of dignity.

5. Texas Chainsaw

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It wouldn’t be a worst of list without a sh*tty slasher flick, and oh boy is this one a doozy. You though it couldn’t get any worse than those Michael Bay produced Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, didn’t you? Now witness this: a movie where we are supposed to SYMPATHISE with Leatherface. F*CKING LEATHERFACE! The deranged killer of the franchise is supposed to be our misunderstood hero. I’m sorry, but that is just f*cking stupid! “Go get ‘em, cuz!” Why don’t you piss off and let this dead franchise stay dead?!

4. After Earth

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Wow, M. Night Shyamalan still has a career? Who keeps funding this guy? Now to be fair, I’ve read that this isn’t mostly Shyamalan’s fault. Nope, the person we should be pointing the finger at is the Fresh Prince himself. Never have I seen a sci-fi movie this utterly lifeless and unimaginative. The plot is too basic for an NES game, the acting is so wooden you could make furniture out of it, the directing is typical Shyamalan awkwardness, and who the f*ck thought that Cypher Raige was a good sounding name? Seriously? CYPHER F*CKING RAIGE? Who thought of this? Oh right, Will Smith did. This was all his elaborate $130million plan to make his son Jaden a star. Pity that he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. Will, you are awesome, but please don’t ever attempt to write anything ever again.

3. Only God Forgives

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And now we come to the biggest piece of pretentious bollocks I have ever witnessed. This is a movie that has got nothing, absolutely nothing, but blood, karaoke, and admittedly beautiful cinematography. If there were a competition for Most Polished Turd, this would win the gold medal for sure. I’ve seen plenty of people on the Internet try to explain what this movie means, but right there that means the movie has failed: I should not require supplementary material to understand what the f*ck you are trying to say! Nicholas Winding Refn, whose previous film Drive was my favourite film of 2011, has managed to something thought impossible to science: he has found a way to go up his own arsehole. I don’t know what kind of black magic he conjured to do it, but he did it. Refn, you’d better hope that God forgives because I certainly won’t.

2. Movie 43

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Let me recount to you what horrors lie within the depths of Movie 43. (clears throat) Hugh Jackman with balls on his chin. Naomi Watts possibly having an incestuous relationship with her son. Chris Pratt having explosive diarrhea. Batman talking about Supergirl’s muff. Gerard Butler as a foul-mouthed leprechaun. Stephen Merchant in yellowface. Terrence Howard shouting “you’re black” for three minutes. And finally, a cartoon cat jerking off to pictures of Josh Duhamel. All of this and much more lie within the depths of the most bizarre waste of time and money ever thrown at the screen. Every single writer involved in this project should have their right to be called writers revoked permanently, and every single actor involved in this travesty should distance themselves from this as much as possible.

And now, the biggest turd of them all. Drumroll please…

1. Identity Thief

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No movie this year caused me more pain than Identity Thief did. At least Movie 43 was so utterly insane that it was fascinating. This is just pure garbage from start to finish. It isn’t enough that this so-called comedy failed to make me laugh even once. It isn’t enough that this plot is so implausible and ludicrous that it defies all logic. It isn’t even enough that this wastes the talents of some actors who really would be better off doing anything else. No, this movie is so vile, so heinous, so deluded, that it has created one of the most vile and detestable characters I have ever seen put to the screen in all her annoying glory…and then it has the sheer audacity to say “Now sympathise with her”. I think a sh*tty movie deserves a quote from another sh*tty movie, so: Tracy, take it away.

No, Identity Thief. I refuse to sympathise with Melissa McCarthy, a character that ruins people’s lives for her own benefit and feels no remorse for it. I don’t care if she comes around near the end, she is still a horrendous example of a human being and how dare you think I’m as stupid as Jason Bateman is in this to fall for it. This is a movie that thinks its audience are a bunch of morons who will laugh at anything and eat up whatever sh*t it throws at it. But no, movie. Audiences are smarter than this, and you should but some f*cking effort in to entertaining your audience and treat them with a little respect. F*ck you, Identity Thief! F*CK YOU!

And there you have it. The worst of the worst. I apologise for the amount of profanity near the end there, but that felt SO good. Now that that business is done and dusted, we can focus on the good things in life. Tune in soon for what I thought were the best films of 2013.

MY TOP 20 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2014

Well, 2013 is almost gone and it’s around this time of year many critics round up their favourite films of the year. But many of 2013’s movies have yet to release here in the UK. Films like The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave and Her are all films I really need to see before making a proper conclusion on this year, and as such I won’t be doing a summation of 2013 until I have seen as much as I can. So before that, let’s take a look at the year ahead.

Two points I want to make here. One: these release dates are subject to change, so some may get pushed back to 2015 and muck up the list (one of the films on this list was on my most anticipated of 2013, so go figure). Two: this is NOT me predicting what I think will be my favourites by the end of 2014. This is a list of films that I’m really excited for or just interested to see. So without further ado…

20. RoboCop

Paul Verhoeven’s original RoboCop is one of my all time favourite movies. It’s full of glorious ultra-violence and memorable quotes, but it is also a brilliant satire of 1980’s culture. Many would call attempting to remake this film blasphemous. I would say that if done it would really need to do something special. From what I’ve seen from all the promotional material, I’m not fully convinced yet. But regardless, I want to see what they can do with it. It’s got an impressive cast and a talented director, but I’m still worried that this could be another cash-in. Let’s hope I’d buy it for more than a dollar.

19. Gone Girl

Seven. Fight Club. The Social Network. David Fincher is a force to be reckoned with, and I’m hoping that his next effort can match up to the rest of his impressive filmography. It’s got a very odd cast, with heavyweights like Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike teamed up with more left-of-field choices like…Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry?! Huh. But you put Fincher’s name on it, and I’m certain me and many other film fans are guaranteed to be there.

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18. A Million Ways to Die in the West

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane made an impressive feature debut in 2012 with Ted. And before he goes to tackle the sequel, his sophomore effort is…a western comedy? Considering the recent box office failures of westerns like Cowboys & Aliens and The Lone Ranger, it’s a pretty ballsy move. I can’t make much of a statement on it considering nothing from the film has been shown, but if it can match MacFarlane’s other efforts it should be worth a few laughs.

17. Transcendence

Christopher Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister is making his directorial debut with this sci-fi thriller, and judging from the trailer it looks pretty interesting. It certainly has a lot of elements from previous works in the genre; hopefully it can give it a new enough spin on these ideas. It’s also nice to see Johnny Depp in a movie and not have him play a flamboyant bumbler.

16. Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise’s recent filmography has been pretty strong with films like Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Jack Reacher, so hopefully his new sci-fi action film can keep up this streak. It’s got an interesting premise, a decent cast, and some cool looking designs and action beats. Plus, anything involving mech suits AND time travel immediately gains some badass points.

15. The Monuments Men

George Clooney’s latest directorial effort was unfortunately delayed, causing it to miss out on the Oscar race. Regardless, this looks to be one to watch. Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and The Ides of March are both excellent films (let’s just ignore Leatherheads, shall we?) and this one certainly has a lot of the same elements. With good mixture of drama and comedy, an excellent cast and shinging light on an area of WWII rarely seen, I think this one could be another winner.

14. 22 Jump Street

21 Jump Street was a big surprise for me. It was full of hilarity and gave me a whole new perspective on the acting skills of Channing Tatum. Now he and Jonah Hill are back for a new adventure, and I’m looking forward to see what mayhem they cause this time. The trailer does paint a picture of it just being a rehash but, considering the very self-aware nature of the first film, I’m guessing this uneasy sense of familiarity is all part of the joke. And this won’t be the last time you see directing partners Phil Lord & Chris Miller on this list…

13. How to Train Your Dragon 2

The original How to Train Your Dragon is arguably Dreamworks SKG’s best film, and certainly helped create a new image for them. But can they strike lightning twice? Hopefully, they can. I’m not exactly sure if I was really asking for a sequel, but in a world where Cars and Madagascar can somehow generate sequels, I guess the further adventures of Hiccup and Toothless sounds much more appealing.

12. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

This film has been in development hell for nearly a decade now, and was among my most anticipated films of 2013. But once again it was delayed, and hopefully for the last time. Featuring both old and new faces, I’m very much interested to delve into the gutters of Basin City again to see what tales will unfold. Knowing Frank Miller’s work, I’m guessing it will involve a lot of violence, constant inner monologues and a plethora of scantily clad women. Let’s just hope this one doesn’t end up on my most anticipated of 2015 list.

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11. Big Hero 6

Walt Disney Pictures is finally taking advantage of the fact they own Marvel Comics and adapting one of their works into their next animated classic. And they’ve chosen a comic book so obscure that even I’ve never heard of it. But from looking into it, it certainly looks like it has some potential. It’s got an interesting world and characters, and combining Disney magic with the might of Marvel certainly sounds like something I’d want to see.

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10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Sticking with Marvel, their first picture this year sees the return of the star-spangled man with a plan. The Russo Brothers, mainly known for comedy, could be Marvel’s oddest choice of directors yet but the trailer paints a very different picture. The Winter Solider storyline is a perfect choice for adaptation, and the film certainly looks like it’s another win for the True Believers.

9. The Hobbit: There and Back Again

The Desolation of Smaug gave The Hobbit franchise a well-deserved kick up the backside, and now I’m very excited to see how they wrap it all up. Peter Jackson has left very little material from the book left for adaptation, suggesting that we’re going to get even more original content. As long as it’s interesting, engaging stuff and not a load of padding, then that’s fine with me. The Return of the King is my favourite of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I’m hoping this final chapter can match the epicness of that franchise’s finale.

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8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a major surprise in 2011, instantly reinvigorating the franchise and making everyone forget about that Mark Wahlberg movie. It’s a shame that Rupert Wyatt decided not to return, but Cloverfield director Matt Reeves certainly looks like he’s picking up the material well. This looks like a much darker film with a post-apocalyptic vibe, and I’m very interested to see how close to the original Planet of the Apes this tale will reach.

7. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

The Hunger Games was a pretty good movie with a fair few issues. But, much like The Desolation of Smaug, Catching Fire was a massive improvement of its predecessor in every facet and I’m now majorly invested in where the story of Katniss Everdeen is going. Once again, we’ve got one book being split into two movies and, having not read the book, I’m not sure if this is a good idea. But anyway, considering how Catching Fire felt very much like The Empire Strikes Back, let’s see if the Mockingjay films can be at least as good as Return of the Jedi.

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6. Interstellar

Get ready, fanboys: Christopher Nolan is making another movie. What’s it about? I don’t know; something about black holes. The film is so shrouded in secrecy that the trailer is basically pointless, but that’s what to expect from the man who brought you Inception. The Dark Knight Rises was somewhat of a disappointment for me, so let’s hope Nolan can redeem himself with this picture.

5. The Lego Movie

Here’s that other Phil Lord & Chris Miller film, and here they’re making a movie out of one of the most beloved toys of all time. Literally. Their zany sense of humour looks like a perfect fit for this picture, creating what looks like a film made in a nerd’s wet dream. It’s got an awesome cast. It’s got awesome looking animation. And it’s got the goddamn Batman! What more do you want?

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I still stand by it: The Amazing Spider-Man was a damn good movie. It’s certainly not perfect, but what’s good about it is so, so good. Now that they’ve got that pesky origin business out of the way, we can finally get on to some new territory. The multiple villains are a little worrying (it didn’t work very well last time they tried that), but the film certainly looks like it captures the essence of the wall crawler with some cool acrobatic feats of derring-do. Excelsior!

3. Godzilla

The King of the Monsters has been reborn, now Matthew Broderick-free! Gareth Edwards take on the classic monster certainly looks to be one hell of a ride. Naturally, the filmmakers are holding a lot close to the chest, but what they’ve shown so far has got me hooked. Let’s just hope that if Godzilla gets taken out this time, it’s by another monster and not teeny fighter jets.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

I started reading some Guardians comics recently, and man will it make a good movie. Madman James Gunn directing a film that features Chris Pratt, a talking racoon and a sentient tree as main characters? You had me at “James Gunn”. I’ve yet to see a lick of footage from this picture, but I don’t need to say anything else. I know I’m there on day one.

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1. X-Men: Days of Future Past

A few years ago, I was thinking to myself: “What X-Men storyline would I like to see made into a movie?” The answer to my own question: Days of Future Past. And now they’ve done it, and it looks like it could be an event movie that rivals The Avengers in the sheer amount of fan service. Adapting a storyline best summed up as “X-Men meets The Terminator?” Good start. Bringing back series veteran Bryan Singer to the director’s chair? Sweet. Combining cast members of the original trilogy and X-Men: First Class? Fangasmically stupendous! The only way this movie could sound even more awesome if it somehow led into a movie where they fight Apocalypse or…oh wait, they are doing that! If this movie is anything less than spectacular, I’m going to be seriously disappointed. I know I shouldn’t get myself too hyped up, but this movie sounds way too awesome to not be awesome.

And that’s the list. Now just let me catch up on everything and I’ll soon be back with my Best and Worst of 2013!