Your second helping of Burton magic: A black-and-white animated valentine to old Universal and Hammer horror movies which celebrates inquisitive and creative children that play with dead things. Love, loss, friendship and mutated corpses, all wrapped up in a lush, evocative, bombastic Danny Elfman score and gorgeous visuals.
Serbuan maut (The Raid)
A moving picture that really, really moves. It always feels somehow inappropriate to try and encapsulate in words the visceral, breathless thrills of a truly great action movie. I should just be able to point you at it and tell you to see it yourself: Every vertiginous back-flip, every excruciating bone-snap, every gravity-defying physical contortion. I saw it in an auditorium where the cinema rumbled for the duration with sympathy-groans at every cracked skull and shattered kneecap. I remember the first time I saw Die Hard and Hard Boiled and Enter the Dragon. Watching The Raid for the first time was exactly the same. Extraordinary and exhilarating are only two of the inadequate superlatives that just don’t do it justice.
On the junket circuit recently, Quentin Tarantino has been making a lot of noise about the importance of a filmmaker’s legacy and the sanctity of a solid filmography, arguing that directors in their later years lack the passion, potency and innovation present in their earlier work. He obviously hasn’t seen Killer Joe. Dark, playful, twisted and disarmingly funny, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe is the work of an old master refusing to go gently into that good night, with a blistering psychosexual thriller that shows he has every intention of continuing to burn and rave at close of day. It’s also worth pointing out that Friedkin and his cinematographer Caleb Deschanel get some moody, bright and beautiful footage shooting digitally. (So don’t write off digital cameras just yet, Quentin).
Matthew McConaughey has always been big. It's the pictures that got small. After far too long in the multiplex wilderness, picking up pay cheques for smirks and shirt removal, McConaughey slides into the role of Killer Joe like one of those snug black leather gloves he seems so fond of, knowing that the only way to play the part is to go all the way over-the-top and into the darkness. Surrounded by incredibly strong support from Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church and a particularly fearless turn from Gina Gershon, Killer Joe has the finest ensemble acting in any movie this year. My absolute favourite film of the year, and here comes my second favourite...
Berberian Sound Studio
"This is not a horror film – this is a Santini film!". Peter Strickland lingers lovingly on the obsolete audio technology of the recent past, the demolished innards of violated vegetables and the excruciating sounds of unseen giallo The Equestrian Vortex, as timid foley artist Tony Jones gets to grips (or is that loses his grip?) on the noises he has been tasked with making in the name of art. Slippery, sickly, gorgeous and with an unexpected streak of gallows humour - in particular the verbal descriptions of the action that is always just out of shot: "The dangerously aroused goblin prowls the dormitory". Very much looking forward to Strickland’s third feature The Duke of Burgundy, a dark melodrama that is currently in production with Ben Wheatley’s Rook Films.
Repeat after me: Time travel movies are not mathematical equations. They don’t have to fit together perfectly. They can’t fit together perfectly. If you spend all of your time trying to figure out how everything slots together seamlessly, you just won’t enjoy yourself. And if you don’t want to enjoy yourself, you have no business going to watch something as enjoyable, rich and multi-layered as Looper. That’s the true paradox of a time paradox film. Through his scrubby beard, Jeff Daniels warns the audience: "This time travel crap, just fries your brain like a egg..." You would do well to heed his words.
When Bruce Willis was 31, he was appearing in the Second Season of Moonlighting. When Joseph Gordon-Levitt was 31, he was playing a young Bruce Willis in Looper. I find this bit of trivia endlessly distracting now, especially when I look at Levitt’s prosthetic nose and wonder why he doesn’t look like David Addison...
The moment I saw that 70s-era Warner Brothers logo at the beginning of Argo, I had a feeling I was going to enjoy myself. Deliberately invoking an era of classic political thrillers like Three Days of the Condor or The Parallax View is a ballsy, dangerous gambit, but Ben Affleck pulls it off. Argo is far pulpier than its forebears, and the final movement of the film certainly feels like it indulges in a hefty dollop of dramatic licence just to amp up the tension, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a confident, accomplished and compelling yarn about a largely unknown part of our recent secret history.
When I started thinking about this list, I wasn’t sure that it would make the cut. But I would be guilty of the worst kind of inverse snobbery if I didn’t find an eleventh spot on this list for The Avengers. Joss Whedon pulls together all the strands of the Marvel Universe that have been building towards this moment for years and ties it all together with spectacle, snappy banter and a handful of genuine punch-the-air crowd-pleasing moments. Unlike The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall, The Avengers is not remotely embarrassed of its source material and wholeheartedly embraces it. Colourful, epic, just the right side of silly and heaps of fun. On top of that, Whedon does what no-one has been able to do since the days when Lou Ferrigno ruled the cathode ray: He not only made the Hulk work in a movie, he made him the star. Incredible and Smashing.