Top Five Hugh Jackman Performances


Releasing this Boxing Day in cinemas is The Greatest Showman, a musical with a star-studdded cast and the film has received three Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture in the Musical and Comedy category. In the lead role as American showman, P. T. Barnum is Hugh Jackman, who himself has recieved a Best Actor nomination for the film. In my opinion, Hugh Jackman always puts in a great performance in whatever film he is in and always elevates the material. He always tends to pick really interesting projects and portray characters in a wide range of genres as well.

I thought this would be a suitable time to have a look back at Jackman’s career so far and count down his Top Five films. These films are based on both his performance in them and their quality. To get them down to just five films was a real challenge, as he has put in so many great performances.

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I really struggled what to put in 5th and juggled between Darren Aronofsky‘s The Fountain and a guilty pleasure, Van Helsing, but I ended up letting CHAPPiE in. What all of these films share in common is the fact that they all recieved mixed reviews, but director Neill Blomkamp’s film is ultimately the most misunderstood. His third film after District 9 and Elysium saw his career crashing down and him being removed off an Alien film, but I think it’s a really thoughtful, entertaining piece. Jackman is particularly great in this film, playing against type as the mullet-wearing, hot-blooded villain, Vincent. Vincent is a South African former soldier-turned-engineer who is bitter when his Moose technology is turned away from his boss played by Sigourney Weaver and Dev Patel’s leading character’s android is given money for further development. Jackman is clearly having a ton of fun in the role and at times, his character is really quite nasty and it’s a departure from the norm for the actor.


4) The Prestige

The Prestige is a perfect film and is endlessly rewatchable. The plot is a masterclass by director Christopher Nolan and compared to a lot of his other films, is rather small in scale. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale both give tremendous performances in the lead role and the late David Bowie also stands out in a small role as Tesla. Jackman plays Robert Angier, a magician who comes into competition with Bale’s Alfred Borden and both characters go to extreme lengths to outdo each other. The film has many revelatory twists and features one of the best endings to a film ever. It’s a bit of a shame it’s never quite got the recognition it deserves, presumably being released between Nolan’s first two Batman films which are always going to be hotter property. But, The Prestige is a gem of a film and one not to be missed.


3) The Wolverine

Perhaps a bit of an odd choice, The Wolverine is a perfect film up until its final act that does what most other comic book films can’t – not just be a great comic book film but also a great action film to boot. Many people point to Logan as the best X-Men film (which I think it might be), but this comes so, so close. Jackman channels the comic-book character most faithfully in this film when it was released, Logan is in pain, bitter and wild when the film first opens and the setting of Japan really suits the character’s quest for redemption. James Mangold’s film features some great action sequences particularly one on a bullet train and at a funeral.  Until its final action sequence that frustratingly descends into generic comic book territory, the film is a perfect adaptation of what a Wolverine film should be minus the R-rating which Logan then achieved.


2) Logan

Logan is not just a fantastic superhero film, it is also a fantastic Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of Logan is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and returning director, James Mangold, directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. Jackman, with the elevated age rating is finally allowed to swear which helps establish a sense of realism in the film and when the action arrives, detail certainly is dwelled upon. Jackman’s character has clearly aged and is fragile, even from something so simple as having to wear glasses to read. It’s a brilliant film and one that will certainly feature in my upcoming Best Films of 2017 list, placing 4th on my Mid-Year list.


1) Prisoners

Prisoners is my favourite film of 2013 and one of my favourites of the decade. Denis Villeneuve’s English-language debut is a harrowing, dark account of the kidnapping of a young girl and the subsequent investigation that ensues. Hugh Jackman plays the father, Keller Dover, whose multi-layered, fragmented character goes to extreme lengths to protect his family and uncover the identity of the kidnapper. This perfect film also features a brilliant score by Jóhann Jóhannsson which is wholly original and frequently haunting and is shot beautfully by Roger Deakins. For Jackman’s sake, he’s overshadowed slightly by Jake Gyllenhaal, who also puts in a career-best performance as Detective Loki but both performances are top-notch. If you haven’t seen Prisoners, go and watch it immediately and then take a look through the rest of Villeneuve’s filmography – he is one of the most exciting directors of our time and Jackman compliments this film perfectly.

So there we go. What do you think? What did I miss? If you haven’t watched any of these films, I’d highly recommend you do so as they’re all really worthwhile and I hope this actor’s career continues to go from strength to strength.

The Greatest Showman is out now in UK cinemas 

Alternative Christmas Films

Christmas is almost upon us and when it comes to films, you probably think first of films such as Home Alone or It’s A Wonderful Life or Elf. Whilst they’re all classics in their own right, it’s always nice to have a change and watch something new from the usual catalogue. So here are five alternative Christmas films that you may not initially associate with the festival. These are not in order of quality or alphabeticised, but in order of obscurity.


Bad Santa

Bad Santa was and continues to be a great Christmas film – it manages to subvert the genre by essentially being an anti-Christmas film and is suitably raunchy and shocking. It also features a great central performance by Billy Bob Thornton as the titular character who really makes the character his own and as an audience, for all the character’s flaws, one can empathise with him. It has numerous standout sequences and is a film that holds up well to repeat viewings. Just ignore the sequel, which is a lazy, puerile and hateful film.


Die Hard

As well as a brilliant action film, Die Hard is also in my opinion, a Christmas film with its setting and how this impacts on its characters. Bruce Willis is excellent in his inaugral outing as the wisecracking John McClane and the late Alan Rickman plays Hans Gruber, an evil German terrorist who takes a building and its employees hostage. Gruber is perhaps one of the best film villains of all time. Whilst the sequels are so-so, the original is a masterpiece.


Lethal Weapon

To compliment Die Hard, the original Lethal Weapon also implores a Christmas setting and is a fantastic action film. Compared to its sequels (which are also great), Lethal Weapon is a far more serious affair and certainly not all that comedic. There are some really dark moments in this film and the violence is very nasty at times. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as the leads are fantastic, particularly Gibson’s turn as the suicidal Riggs.


Iron Man 3

A superhero film at Christmas? Yes, there are quite a few of them and to add to this list, Tim Burton’s Batman films can also be regarded as Christmas films. My pick though would be Shane Black’s Iron Man sequel, a delightfully subversive film in the series and the Marvel canon in general. Black’s film takes a lot of risks and didn’t particularly go down well with audiences, but I’d strongly recommend watching this if you want a different Marvel film to the majority of the collection that has variations in its narrative. Oh, and it’s also got a great Guy Pearce performance and an even better Ben Kingsley one…

Film Title: In Bruges

In Bruges 

I might be cheating here a bit as this film’s connection with Christmas is through the characters description and likeness of the Belgian city to the festival.Regardless, In Bruges is one of my favourite films of all time so I had to try and get it in here somehow. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes are perfect in their roles and the film is very darkly comedic and is endlessly quotable. It’s shot beautifully and Carter Burwell’s score is superb.  And with the Awards-nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri due for release in a few weeks time, what better way to get started with Martin McDonagh’s filmography and watching a Christmas film at the same time…?

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Top Five Oscar Isaac Performances


Oscar Isaac has got a little new film out this week which you may, just may, have heard of called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the latest in the ever-popular and ever-expanding saga. With the one exception of X-Men: Apocalypse where he plays the titular villain and is made to constantly shout whilst looking uncomfortable in a blue outfit, Isaac always integrates seamlessly into any film he is in, elevating the material with his performances. He always tends to pick really interesting projects and a portray characters in a real range of genres as well. In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, he returns as Resistance Fighter pilot, Poe Dameron, in an expanded role after being introduced (and underused) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I thought this would be a suitable time to have a look back at Isaac’s career so far and count down his Top Five films. These films are based on both his performance in them and their quality.



5) Drive

I’m generally not the biggest fan of director Nicolas Winding Refn and took particular offence last year to The Neon Demon, but Drive is probably his most accessible film. Isaac plays Carey Mulligan’s debt-ridden husband who has recently been released from prison. He hires Ryan Gosling’s stone-cold getaway driver for a job, which turns out to be a disaster but Isaac does really well as a character who wants to turn his life around and wants the best for his family.


4) The Two Faces of January

The Two Faces of January is the directorial debut of screenwriter Hossein Amini and a film that really holds up to repeat viewings, a kind-of Hitchock meets Agatha Christie blend. Oscar Isaac is excellent here as Rydal, a tour guide who scams tourists whose character arc is vastly developed as he meets The MacFarland’s, played by Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. What works with the film and with his performance is you’re never really sure what his character intentions are and Isaac manages to portray this brilliantly. If you haven’t seen this film, definitely one to check out.


3) Ex_Machina

Alex Garland’s debut is tense and a slow-burn, yet a very philosophical watch and the film makes for a great character study. Isaac plays here as the CEO of a search engine company against Domhnall Gleeson’s computer programmer, who wins the opportunity to spend the week with him. Isaac has a very meaty role and as the film progresses, the film asks some tough, ethical questions of its audience which his character is central to. A different role for the actor, but one that he pulls off really well.

Inside Llewyn Davis: teaser trailer - video

2) Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is an extremely underrated film in the director’s catalogue, with many quick to watch it and dismiss it. I loved it on first go and it gets better each time I rewatch it. Again, another new direction for Isaac who portrays the titular character, an individual who is trying to find his place in the world but finds himself constantly struggling. It’s a great film and one that I would rank really highly in the Coen Brothers’ entire body of work.


1) A Most Violent Year 

It has taken me a very long time to realize just how good A Most Violent Year is. I initially thought it was rather indulgent with there being a great 100 minute film in it. Since then, after rewatching it multiple times, I now consider it to be a masterpiece. You may have read when I wrote my favourite films from that year, I placed it at 12th – I’d probably now go about 5th. The film is paced so well and there are so many perfectly orchestrated scenes in the film. As well as trying to convince you to go and watch this film, you also get a career-best performance from Oscar Isaac here. Isaac’s performance channels many other crime drama’s, for example The Godfather and his character has so many layers to him. A Most Violent Year is a most incredible film.

So there we go. What do you think? What did I miss? If you haven’t watched any of these films, I’d highly recommend you do so as they’re all really worthwhile and I hope this actor’s career continues to go from strength to strength.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out now  in UK cinemas 

Ranking The Comic-Book Films Of 2017

With 2017 bringing us a slew of comic-book films, 7 to be exact (6 live-action, 1 animation) and them all receiving very different receptions now would seem like a suitable time to rank them. Although comic-book films are increasingly prevalent every year at the moment in the film industry with 2016 jumping up to 6 releases, 2017 further continues this trend.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to chug along and this year, we’ve had 3 new films – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. Marvel continue to prove with these films in their general reception that they are the current juggernauts and things look very promising indeed for next year’s big team-up which these films culminate in – Avengers: Infinity War.

2017 has been an even more important year for DC in their quest to also prop up a cinematic universe, like Marvel. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were both received very negatively last year (I liked BvS a lot and can just about give a pass to Suicide Squad) so 2017 has been very important in them proving why they should also have a share of the market. 2017 saw the releases of Wonder Woman, which practically did a U-turn for the DCEU in its brilliant reception. Although Justice League, the culmiation of the DCEU films thus far which sees our favourite superheroes team up, wasn’t received nearly as well, in terms of reception, people have accepted it a little more than either of 2016’s releases. The Lego Batman Movie also features in this list, which is not an official entry in the DCEU but it’s still a comic-book film nonetheless based on the DC character of Batman.

The trend of comic-book films aimed more towards adults , which kicked off with Deadpool last year, continues with Marvel’s solo X-Men offering this year, Logan and it is also Hugh Jackman’s swansong as the character.

So this hasn’t just been a typical year in this genre hence why I have felt the need to rank them. Let’s get started!


7) The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie is a film of two halves – its first act is particularly impressive and constantly cracks jokes left, right and centre and is surprisingly very cine-literate. The opening sequence which is a fight between Batman and the Joker is particularly well-crafted and the gags keep coming at a rapid pace and there is so much to absorb on-screen, little references to the character and previous incarnations scattered across the screen – it is pure eye-candy. The voice cast are generally pretty strong and Lorne Balfe’s score is generally competent and there are a couple of memorable, dark and brooding themes that elevate the narrative, particularly in the opening fight sequence. Unfortunately, the film completely tanks in its second half. The reason why it tanks, primarily is because it chooses to go down a specific narrative which I won’t spoil but it really doesn’t do the film any favours. Part of why the first act works really well is because the filmmakers are clearly respectful of the source material but all that respect goes out of the window in the second half and this very much becomes a film centered for children. (My full review here)


6) Justice League

I debated whether to put Justice League in last position because between this and The Lego Batman Movie, at least the latter has a brilliant first half. But because that film so violently tanks in its second half and at least, Justice League has a bit more promise, it just edges that film out. Still, Justice League is an absolute mess and is the result of again in the DCEU, too many cooks in the kitchen. Snyder and Whedon as filmmakers pull in completely different directions, with Whedon injecting more humour into the film whereas Snyder has always been the more visionary filmmaker. Whilst I was watching the film, I never felt the stakes faced against these characters and the film has no sense of flow. 120 minutes is a very short run time for the story this film tries to tell and is the shortest DCEU installment thus far. The film neglects to develop its new characters of Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash that it introduces and has a very forgettable, one-dimensional CGI villain with typical end-of-the-world antics. One also has to wonder what this fim could have been. I’m confident that if we ever see a Snyder cut of the film, it will be leaps and bounds ahead of the theatrical cut and could really elevate the film. (My full review here)


5) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is unevenly paced and overstuffed but the amount of heart it has allows it to just about be successful. Gunn hasn’t made your typical sequel but the story he chooses to tell is all over the place and at times, incoherent. The film retains much of the heart the first film had and this is what allows the film to work better than a film such as Avengers: Age of Ultron or X-Men: Apocalypse which were lunk-headed, equally overstuffed and had zero heart. Gunn manages to further expand the mythology of this sub-universe of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Guardians of the Galaxy are very much an important and established strand of this behemoth. I just wish the film was better. It is only because of the characters and the amount of attention invested in them that I can just about be positive in my overall opinion. (My full review here)

And now for the good one’s…


4) Wonder Woman 

Wonder Woman is immensely enjoyable for a long strength of its lengthy runtime, has a lot of heart and is surprisingly quite human for a comic-book film. Action sequences are used quite sparingly in this film, Jenkins really puts these characters at the forefront and develops them strongly. The performances, pretty much across the board, are excellent and the film looks great visually. Unfortunately, it does fall into the trap of stumbling in its final act where it becomes quite formulaic and contrived but until this point, it is a very fine film and definitely the strongest DCEU film so far. (My full review here)


3) Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a Taika Waititi film through and through – it retains his signature humour and really inverts expectations on what a Thor film should be. This feels refreshingly different from the first two films, more vibrantly coloured and more comical. The film is extremely entertaining and puts the characters that we have grown to like over the course of the films in rather vulnerable positions throughout the film and there is a real sense of danger prevalent. Unlike recent comic book films which have a great, big (and boring) action climax at the end of the film to save the world, Thor: Ragnarok actually earns its finale. The marketing for this film has also been extremely impressive upon viewing the final product – there’s a lot that Marvel have managed to withold from its audiences which is very satisfying. (My full review here)


2) Spider-Man: Homecoming

It was a tough choice where to place this with Thor: Ragnarok but ultimately Spider-Man: Homecoming, to my surprise, was more of a breath of fresh air in what has been quite a convoluted genre of late. I thought it struck just the right tone between seriousness and humour and it is a very realistic and grounded film in the Marvel canon. It also features one of the best villains we’ve had in Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is extremely sinister and narcissitic. The whole cast are generally excellent and I was really invested in the narrative that Watts portrays. Watts also does well to not aim too high in terms of visual effects and although there are a couple of impressive action sequences, they never reach the heights of some of the other Marvel films which further helps to keep this film very grounded. (My full review here)

And the best comic-book film of 2017 is…


1) Logan 

There was never any competition as to which film would get the top spot as Logan absolutely floored me in terms of how good it was. It’s not just the best comic-book film of 2017, it’s also one of the best films overall of the year. Logan is not really a superhero film, it is more of a Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of Logan is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and Mangold directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. I’m not sure if it’s better than The Wolverine but it is definitely equal to it and both of Mangold’s efforts are the best comic-book films since The Dark Knight. (My full review here)

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister


Top Five Roger Deakins-shot Films


With Blade Runner 2049 out in cinemas and Roger Deakins’ spectacular cinematography within it, I thought now would be a suitable to list my favourite work of his. Deakins is one of the best cinematographers of our time, all of his works rich in memorable imagery and scope. To prove my point, Deakins still hasn’t earned an Oscar for his work despite being nominated 13 times, who along with George J. Folsey, holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography without a win.  I’m hoping Blade Runner 2049 corrects this crime as he does some fantastic work again and it would be a nice amalgamation of his work if he were to win. Please note that I am not ranking the following films based on their quality, I am ranking them based on the quality of Deakins’ cinematography. Without further ado, here are my Top Five Roger Deakins-shot films:


5) Fargo 

I really, truly struggled on what to have as my 5th choice. I debated between Prisoners, Skyfall, Kundun and The Shawshank Redemption, I ultimately chose Fargo, one of two Coen Brothers’ films that feature on this list. Not only is Fargo one of their best works, a rich and darkly comic crime thriller with some fantastic performances, it is heightened by Deakins’ awe-inspiring cinematography that perfectly encapsulates the isolated community both through the characters that live within it but also its chilly climate. Out of the five films on this list, this seems as though it was probably the easiest film to shoot but Deakins does so much with so little and manages to attain the sense of a boring, bland habitat of America the Coens wanted to shoot this gem of a film on.


4) Blade Runner 2049

Deakins’ latest project sees him reteam with Denis Villeneuve (the first of two films directed by him on this list) and whilst I have some problems with the film on first viewing, I have no problems with Deakins’ cinematography at all. His work truly elevates the film and distinguishes between the macro and micro elements of the world created. A fight sequence in a theatre is particularly wonderfully staged as is a three-way sex scene. Every single shot by Deakins feels meticulously crafted throughout the film and there are many instances in the film where my jaw dropped in amazement. Deakins was the perfect choice to take over from Jordan Cronenweth’s work on the original and he takes respectful inspiration from him. Surely this must earn him the Oscar this year? (My review here)


3) Sicario

The second of the two Denis Villeneuve films on this list, Roger Deakins’ work on Sicario is sublime. The film contains some exhilarating action sequences to its merit, the highlight being Deakins’ shooting of what is possibly one of the most intense traffic jams in cinematic history and very creative use of night vision for an action sequence set underground. Deakins is able to distinguish between the binary oppositions of good and bad, light and dark, urban and rural, America and Mexico through his use of lighting and contributes to the panic-inducing, kept-in-the-dark feeling the film manages to sustain throughout its run time. For Deakins’ sake, it’s a shame that The Revenant was released in the same year which cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki blew all the other nominees out of the water but any other year, Sicario would be a fine winner. (My review here)


2) No Country For Old Men 

The second of the two Coen Brothers films on this list, No Country For Old Men is Deakins at his best. In this revisionist Western, Deakins beautifully contrasts the light and dark, both physically and metaphorically with the rich and vivid characters portrayed on-screen. There are multiple instances where Deakins’ work is just jaw-dropping, particularly in Javier Bardem’s scenes and an extremely intense shoot-out in a hotel and the surrounding vicinity late on into the film.


1) The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford 

For me, there was never really any competition – my favourite Roger Deakins-shot film is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Deakins makes maxiumum effect of this Western period setting and his cinematography is dream-like. A train robbery sequence early on in the film at night is simply staggering and Deakins maximises and juxtaposes the use of lights (through lanterns and natural light) and shadows. It’s a very sensory and human experience. Deakins also makes use of his self-titled ‘Deakinizers’, blurred effects around the border of a frame by taking old wide angle lenses and mounting them onto other cameras which really help attain the period feel of the film. Both this film and No Country For Old Men were nominated for the Best Cinematography Academy Award but lost out to Robert Elswit for his work on Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. This is the film that should have won and not only is the actual film incredibly underrated, this by far is Deakins’ best work.

So there we go, there’s my personal Top Five. It was an extremely tough task and there are a lot of other works of his that are fully deserving to be of mention. What are your opinions of his work? What are your favourite Deakins-shot films? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Blade Runner 2049 is currently playing in UK cinemas 


Ranking The Films Of Darren Aronofsky


With Darren Aronofsky’s latest film ‘Mother!’ making a distinctive impression this September, now would seem a suitable time to do a ranking of his filmography thus far. Aronofsky is one of my favourite film directors and most of the time, makes extremely thoughtful and original films. Even the weakest film on this list, I have respect for. So without further ado, here is how I would rank Aronofsky’s films.

Pi - 1998

7) Pi 

The only film I don’t like by this filmmaker, ‘Pi’ is, in my opinion, a self-indulgent, loud and annoying slog with a pathetic main character. Perhaps I need to rewatch it a few more times but it’s just a film that I cannot get into. It’s not a ‘bad’ film by any means and it’s certainly very surreal in sections and I do have respect for its ambitions. It just doesn’t seem as magical or as enticing as his other works. That’s not a bad thing – I enjoy some of his other films that others have not so if there’s something here that people revel at, it clearly works on some levels. It’s certainly not a film a mainstream director would be allowed to make in this day and age!

Now for the excellent films…


6) mother!

I still haven’t really made up my mind on ‘mother!’ and I doubt I will until I have watched it a few more times. The first two acts are particularly grim and brooding and develop really neatly into what is a bonkers third act. I think I enjoy the film more for its conceptual nature rather than the actual film itself which I found a little hard to get into at times. That said, the film has made a very long lasting impression on me and I keep thinking about it. Aronofsky crafts some really strong and memorable images and I really enjoyed the characterisation. ‘mother!’ reinforces my love of film and is why I continue to be enamoured with the medium of film. It’s films like ‘mother!’ that challenge their audiences and aren’t just acceptable and dumb that really keep me driven.  I’m not really sure (and it is surely deliberate by Aronofsky) what the film means but on first viewing, I found the film to be delirious, deeply allegorical, manic, paranoid and genuinely unnerving. ‘mother!’ is definitely a film that deserves and I appreciate exists. This film has the potential to crawl up the list as time passes but for now, I have to put it 6th. You can read my full review here.


5) The Fountain

‘The Fountain’ is a rather misunderstood film and received mixed reviews on its release. It is frequently enthralling and is a pure spectacle to behold on screen – it’s very impressive to see what one can do with a limited budget. This is in my opinion, Aronofsky’s first explicit exploration of religion and is perhaps one of the director’s most personal films. It features great performances across the board and features a magnificent score by Aronofsky-regular Clint Mansell and stunning cinematography by Matthew Libatique. So why it doesn’t it rank any higher? Its pacing feels rather disjointed and the film is a bit of a slog in parts and goes too quickly in others. A more ruthless editor who knew how to assemble the film in a better way, I’m sure would have put this up there with his best films.

There is now a big step-up in quality…


4) Black Swan 

‘Black Swan’ is perhaps Aronofsky’s most mainstream offering and certainly elevated his oeuvre with a Best Director Oscar nomination. It is a dark, panic-inducing film that tackles a strangely hypnotic and hegemonically calm sport. Natalie Portman is electric as the titular character which she won an Oscar for and the cast is rounded out by Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder who all put in very convincing performances.



3) The Wrestler

‘The Wrestler’ is a subdued and melancholic investigation into its main character, played magnificently by Mickey Rourke in a comeback role. Rourke is outstanding as Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson who is a calm yet determined character and Marisa Tomei co-stars here too in what is perhaps a career best performance for her. ‘The Wrestler’ builds up to an outstanding conclusion and features outstanding cinematgraphy by Maryse Alberti, a departure from Matthew Libatique and a subtle yet memorable Clint Mansell score.


2) Noah

‘Noah’, a passion project for Aronofsky is perhaps one of the most unconventional and controversial mainstream film of recent times. It delivers visually with some visceral action sequences and fantastical creatures yet is a strangely adult film for its 12 rating. It tackles some really controversial and hard to stomach themes and is in many ways, a morality tale. Russell Crowe is outstanding here as the titular character and across the board, the cast are brilliant with Emma Watson perhaps making the best impression as the barren Ila. ‘Noah’ really narked audiences off and religious devotees but this is a really special film that goes against the grain and really delivers. And again, Clint Mansell’s score and Matthew Libatique’s cinematgraphy once again elevate the film!

And the best Darren Aronofsky film is…


1) Requiem For A Dream 

‘Requiem For A Dream’ is my pick for my favourite Darren Aronofsky film and is perhaps one of my favourite films since 2000 so far. It is a hallucinogenic, nerve-wracking, depressing experience that will put anyone off narcotics far more effectively than a school drugs talk. Aronofsky experiments with form and imagery and Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is especially kinetic and unnerving. Clint Mansell’s score is one of the most haunting of our times and has gone on to inspire many other films. It is a note perfect film and doesn’t degrade on each rewatch. It is a masterpiece.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister



Top Five Guy Pearce Films


Guy Pearce has got a new film out this week called ‘Brimstone’, a Western thriller directed by Dutch director Martin Koolhoven and co-stars Dakota Fanning, Kit Harrington and Pearce’s wife, Carice van Houten. Pearce always integrates seamlessly into any film he is in and always elevates the material with his performances (even something deeply flawed as ‘Alien: Covenant‘). In ‘Brimstone’ he plays the villain, a ruthless Reverend. Pearce has played some brilliant villains, which will feature in this list and hopefully he’ll be the highlight of this film again. I thought this would be a suitable time to have a look back at Pearce’s career and count down his Top Five films, in my opinion. These films are based on both his performance in them and their quality – if I was ranking simply based on his performance, the list would dramatically change.


5) The Proposition

Australian director John Hillcoat‘s feature length debut is his best film to date with a very subdued performance by Pearce in the lead role as Charlie Burns. Charlie goes through all manners of hell in this film and Nick Cave’s script puts Pearce front and centre in this epic. It’s a really underrated and underwatched film and features multiple performances as well as Pearce in this film that are highly worthy of mention, in particular the late John Hurt.


4) Memento

‘Memento’ is Christopher Nolan’s second film after ‘Following’ but his first with a fair budget and a well-known cast. Guy Pearce is excellent as the amnesiac Leonard who tries to learn through conversations, violence and tattoos to search for the people who attacked him and killed his wife. ‘Memento’ is highly original in having its narrative play backwards and also experimenting through colour. It’s an ingenius concept and ‘Memento’ really put Nolan on the map of filmmakers to take seriously.  If you want your first film to watch from this director and have a great Guy Pearce performance within it, this is a great place to start.


3) The King’s Speech 

Tom Hooper’s ‘The King’s Speech’ recieved many accolades and recieved many nominations for its performances but Guy Pearce, in my opinion, was unfairly left out. Pearce plays Edward, Prince of Wales who becomes King temporarily until he abdicates due to his relationship with Wallace Simpson, a twice-divorced American. One can really sense in Pearce’s performance the inner turmoil the character has to go through, trying to conform to expectations whilst at the same time doing what enriches him best. It’s a very meaty role and one that Pearce wholly succeeds in pulling off.


2) Iron Man 3

It may come a bit of a surprise that I have ranked this entry in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe behemoth. But ‘Iron Man 3’ is one of the most original entries largely thanks to Shane Black’s direction and a fair amount of plot surprises sprinkled in. Guy Pearce excels as Aldrich Killian. Again, Pearce plays a character who is suffering his own personal problems and Pearce is really able to elevate the material with his performance. 


1) Lawless

‘Lawless’ is the weakest film quality-wise on this list but Pearce absolutely knocks it out of the park as the villainous Marshal Charley Rakes who antagonises the Bondurat brothers by trying to shut down their Prohibtion-era moonshine business. Pearce plays a really nasty, slimy character who is unpredictable, suitably ruthless and menacing. He really steals the show here and dramatically elevates the quality of the film. ‘Lawless’ would otherwise be a slightly above-average but a deeply flawed crime film. It still is largely but at least the threat from Pearce’s character seems extremely real.

So there we go, there’s my personal Top Five. You’re probably wondering though, where are ‘L. A. Confidential’, ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘Animal Kingdom’? Well whilst I do like those films, I feel that these five are more special to me although these films do contain some of his best performances too and are mostly excellent films in their own right. Pearce has such a wide range of performances and films that he his career has spanned across many genres.  Here’s hoping ‘Brimstone’ is worthwhile (it has all the signs)and that this very versatile and talented actor’s career continues to flourish.


‘Brimstone’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 29th September

Ranking The Films Of Christopher Nolan

With Christopher Nolan’s latest film ‘Dunkirk’ making a huge impression on the Summer box office, now would seem a suitable time to do a ranking of his filmography thus far. Nolan is my joint favourite film director along with Quentin Tarantino and I genuinely believe that the both of them consistently make extremely thoughtful and original films and both are yet to make a ‘bad’ film. Even the weakest film on this list, I still enjoyed. So without further ado, here is how I would rank Nolan’s films.

Please note that I am yet to see ‘Following’, his debut feature so as of present, it doesn’t feature in this ranking. 


Bodega Bay

9) Dunkirk

Whilst there is undoubtedly a lot to admire in ‘Dunkirk’, unfortunately I also have a lot of problems with it. It’s not a bad film by any means but Nolan misses the mark for me in a story that is too ambitious and hard to have any care towards. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the actual tone of the film seems off and I didn’t really find myself caring much for not just the characters but the actual event as the approach for me felt too conservative. It’s a very strange approach to take and I applaud Nolan for taking it but along with other reasons which I will discuss, I couldn’t find an emotional response. I’d still recommend going and seeing it as it is a story that needs to be told and there are quite a few nice moments but ultimately, the film left me rather cold in its depiction of this momentous event. Also, it is his newest film and I have only seen it once so perhaps it warrants further viewings. (Review here)

Now for the excellent films…


8) The Dark Knight Rises

Already, I’m very stuck on how I would rank the next three entries in this list but I have to go with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for 8th place, Nolan’s final film in the superb ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy. It rounds off the trilogy extremely well and features many memorable moments and isn’t your typical three-quel – Nolan develops the character of Batman a lot. Tom Hardy’s villainous Bane is another highlight and although not quite as good as Heath Ledger’s Academy Award winning turn as The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ proves a more physical enemy for Batman. The reason why it ranks a little lower in my list is because it is overlong at a rather mammoth 165 minutes but boy, does Nolan do the trilogy justice!


7) Batman Begins 

‘Batman Begins’ is the film that started the trilogy and propelled Nolan more into the mainstream. Nolan’s origin story was a first for a comic-book film and although definitely overused now, he implements it extremely well. The performances in this film are across the board outstanding and Nolan’s sense of realism really gave the comic-book film more respect from both fans and critics alike. It too features many memorable moments and a handful of sinister villains. Compared to the rest of Nolan’s films and the reason why it’s 7th is because it is a little simplistic compared to some of the labyrinthine plotting that Nolan is most famous for. But compared to many other films, it is still far more intelligent.

There is now a big step-up in quality…


6) Insomnia

‘Insomnia’ is generally regarded as Nolan’s weakest film but is still reviewed very positively. I think it’s a little bit of an unfair judgement to be fair as I think ‘Insomnia’ is a fantastic film. It features great performance from all of its cast and Robin Williams particularly gives a memorable performance in a very different role that he would normally take. It does a brilliant job of invoking a sense of paranoia and offers many moral questions to its audience. One also has to remember that ‘Insomnia’ is a remake of the Swedish film of the same name so for a remak to not just be good, but great is no short feat.

We now reach the almost-perfect films…


5) Memento

‘Memento’ is Nolan’s second film after ‘Following’ but first with a fair budget and a well-known cast. ‘Memento’ is highly original in having its narrative play backwards and also experimenting through colour. It’s an ingenius concept and ‘Memento’ really put Nolan on the map of filmmakers to take seriously. Guy Pearce is excellent as the amnesiac Leonard and the film packs some truly wild twists and turns. If you want your first film to watch from this director, this is a great place to start. 


4) Interstellar 

‘Interstellar’ is pretty much perfect for most of its lengthy 168 minute run time, until it reaches the last half an hour or so which become ridiculously complicated, bamboozling and its last scene a little too neat. But for most of the feature, Nolan doesn’t put a foot wrong and ‘Interstellar’ is extremely atmospheric and has some stunning cinematography by first-time Nolan collaborator Hoyte van Hoytema after departing from Wally Pfister who shot the rest of his preceding films. Matthew McConaughey gives a fantastic performance as Cooper who is endlessly empathetic and there is a career best performance by a very famous actor who to reveal would be a spoiler for the film. There are frequent moments of awe-inspiring shots and Hans Zimmer’s score is also extremely memorable. It’s my favourite film of 2014 and it would be perfect if it ended as perfectly as the rest of the film.

And now for the perfect films…these would all rank in my favourite films of all time…


3) The Prestige

‘The Prestige’ is a perfect film and is endlessly rewatchable. The plot is a masterclass by Nolan and compared to a lot of his other films, is rather small in scale. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale both give tremendous performances in the lead role and the late David Bowie also stands out in a small role as Tesla. The film has many revelatory twists and features one of the best endings to a film ever. It’s a bit of a shame it’s never quite got the recognition it deserves, presumably being released between two Batman films which are always going to be hotter property. But this is a gem of a film and one not to be missed.


2) The Dark Knight 

‘The Dark Knight’ is the best comic-book film of all time. There, I said it. And there’s a reason why this film is constantly the benchmark that the sudden influx of comic-book films strive towards but can never quite reach. It’s not just perfect as a superhero film, it’s perfect because Nolan continues in his quest for utmost realism and also Nolan goes for more of a crime film, only it just happens to have a superhero starring in it. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is nothing short of incredible and is not just one of the best comic-book villains but one of the best villains of all time. It is a staggering achievement and it too packs its own collection of twists and turns in its story. An absolutely mesmerising film.

And the best Christopher Nolan film is…


1) Inception

For me, Nolan’s best film is ‘Inception’. It has an incredibly layered and grounded plot and is breathtaking throughout. Wally Pfister’s cinematography here is genius and there are many moments where the film is visually arresting. The performances throughout are fantastic and the characters are all really well developed. This is filmmaking at its finest and particularly in the run-up to this film, many blockbusters were big, dumb, fun affairs but Nolan proves to the film industry that blockbusters can be smart and still make money. It also proves that his Batman films weren’t just a one-trick wonder. An utterly spellbinding film and one that if you haven’t seen yet, I urge you to watch it right now!

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister



Top Five Christian Bale Films

'Knight Of Cups' Photocall, Berlinale 2015

Christian Bale has got a new film out this week called ‘The Promise’ which is the new film directed by Terry George and co-stars Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon. I thought this would be a suitable time to have a look back at Bale’s career and count down his Top Five films, in my opinion. These films are based on both his performance in them and their quality – if I was ranking simply based on his performance, the list would dramatically change.


5) Batman Begins

Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film that redefined the comic-book genre and introduced the idea of an origin story, Bale gets a lot to do here and his performance as Bruce Wayne / Batman is very conservative.


4) 3:10 To Yuma

I’m a sucker for Westerns and James Mangold’s remake of ‘3:10 To Yuma’ had me giddy. It is perhaps one of the best remakes to date – Mangold manages to use the iconography of the genre but also stick his signature stamp onto it. Bale’s character is very multi-dimensional and he really goes through a lot of stick and Russell Crowe also gives a great performance here.


3) Out Of The Furnace 

A very unlikely choice and although ‘Out Of The Furnace’, on paper is Scott Cooper’s worst film, for me the film is near-perfect. It is a revenge thriller full of many layers and Bale’s performance as the troubled protagonist is completely full of conviction and his character goes through a hell of a lot in this film. Forget ‘American Hustle’ of that year, this was the film Bale shone in!


2) The Prestige

A very close race and I was tempted to put this first, Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Prestige’ is a masterpiece and full of brains. It is endlessly rewatchable and I always notice something new in this film each time I watch it. Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are excellent here but I think Bale gives the better performance as a character full of layers. It’s a shame that this film is quite underrated when it comes to Nolan’s filmography but if you can seek it out, it is more than worth your attention.


1) The Dark Knight

What would a Christian Bale list be without this iconic film? ‘The Dark Knight’ is the film that rules all comic-book films and which all comic-book films strive to reach the quality of. It is simply breathtaking and features perfect measures of action, brains and narrative. Performance-wise, of coure this is the late-Heath Ledger’s film with his daring turn as the Joker which ultimately earnt him a posthumous Academy Award. Bale’s Bruce Wayne / Batman does get sidelined but Bale really develops as a character here and particularly in the now-iconic prison interrogation sequence, Bale more than holds up his own against Ledger. Great film and a measured Christian Bale performance.

So there we go, there’s my personal Top Five. You’re probably wondering though, where are ‘The Machinist’, ‘American Hustle’, ‘The Fighter’ (for which he won an Oscar for) and ‘The Big Short‘? Well whilst I do like those films, I feel that these five are more special to me although these films do contain some of his best performances too. Here’s hoping ‘The Promise’ is worthwhile and that this very versatile and talented actor’s career continues to flourish.


‘The Promise’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 28th April

Ranking The Best Picture Nominees


The Academy Awards have now been and gone and ‘Moonlight’ ended up being triumphant edging out ‘La La Land’ which took the Golden Globes and BAFTA’s by storm. Here I rank the Best Picture nominees in order of my own personal preference. Unfortunately, I have only recently managed to watch ‘Hidden Figures’ hence why I am a little late.

Let’s get started…


9) La La Land

The film that everyone loved and expected to win Best Picture, it is with heavy heart that I found ‘La La Land’ to be an incredibly disappointing film that is totally undeserving of all the praise it received. I really wanted to like this film and I kept trying to make excuses for Chazelle but there’s just too many mis-steps to ignore and the film feels very disjointed in its pacing. The performances are admirable and Gosling and Stone carry the film well but by no means are they awards-worthy and the script in particular, which is normally Chazelle’s main attribute is dismally lacking and doesn’t have any direction to it. The whole plot of the film is by extension, confused and the film doesn’t know what it wants to be and the many elements of the narrative just aggressively don’t come together. Did I miss something in this film? Did I watch a different film to everyone else, not the one that has made such an impression on both critics and audiences and has attracted sterling reviews? (My Review here)

There is now a big step up in quality…


8) Moonlight

‘Moonlight’ makes for quite a mixed watch and starts off well enough in its first two segments only to undo itself in its third. I couldn’t really connect with the characters in the third act and found the film quite alienating. That said, the film is not an easy watch and this is a film that warrants rewatching so the rating of this film has the potential of increasing. Aside from my issues with the film, it features some great performances, a superb score  and some interesting cinematography and the film can only be admired for what it is trying to do even if Jenkins doesn’t quite have the experience to fully execute his vision. In terms of positioning on this ranking, I did have to juggle this with my no. 7 pick, ‘Fences’ and whilst this film warrants a rewatch, the reason why I am ranking it below is because I found ‘Fences’ a little more fulfilling the first time. (My Review here)


7) Fences

Just edging out ‘Moonlight’ but this could very easily swap places on rewatching it, the big problems that hinders ‘Fences’ for a considerable amount of its lengthy run time is that it isn’t particularly cinematic. Straight off the bat, the film felt this way and the film made me want to be in a theatre experiencing this narrative on stage. For the first half an hour or so, this is particularly problematic but I began to settle into the film when its narrative kicked in and through its excellent performances. Even when the film settles, it can still never quite shake off this feeling. Funnily enough, it is in the film’s quieter moments where it isn’t so dialogue-laden that it begins to feel more cinematic and it is on the strength of August Wilson’s screenplay which is a terrific piece of work that the film overall just about works. There are a number of really touching scenes peppered throughout the film that are stunning to behold and I found the narrative in Wilson’s script particularly strong. It’s a good film but I don’t think it’s Oscar material. (My Review here)

Now we get to the excellent films:


6) Arrival

‘Arrival’ is masterfully constructed by Villeneuve and for its first two thirds is particularly gripping. The performances are strong here too and yet again, Villeneuve’s team behind-the-camera do some good work. However, the film bites off a bit more than it can chew in its last third and although the film is still very interesting and original, it does begin to derail and struggle through towards its ending. I’m not going to go into spoilers as this is a film that needs to be watched blindly but I felt the film did leave a lot of questions unanswered and the ending does have a few plot holes to it. This is a film that warrants multiple rewatches so perhaps things will become clearer on subsequent viewings. It’s a film that for a sci-fi is very low on action and big set-pieces – this is very much a thinking person’s sci-fi and is not too dissimilar thematically from films such as ‘Contact’ or ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ for example. Denis Villeneuve is one of my favourite directors currently working in Hollywood so for this film to come 6th is testament to the quality of not only this film but the subsequent films in this list. (My Review here)


5) Lion

To my surprise, I really liked ‘Lion’ and found it to be an emotionally rewarding and heartfelt experience and the material was respectfully judged by Garth Davis. It features some very real performances with the standout being Dev Patel and although it can’t quite shake off the biopic feel at times, its narrative manages to do a lot of the heavy lifting. It also features a very memorable score that is respectful and well-judged and the cinematography is equally effective in encapsulating the narrative of the film. (My Review here)


4) Manchester By The Sea

‘Manchester By The Sea’ is a heartfelt, expertly crafted film that features a career-defining performance by Casey Affleck and it takes its time in really developing its characters and allowing its audience to emotionally connect with them. The rest of the cast are also very strong and the narrative really goes to town with these characters who all go through their own equally debilitating experiences. That said, the film does have some flaws in its tone which is a little unbalanced at times and a couple of baffling musical choices also awkwardly impact the film. (My Review here)

And now the top three…


3) Hidden Figures

‘Hidden Figures’ is an extremely easy film to like and barely puts a foot wrong; I was utterly charmed by it the whole way through. It is competently directed by Melfi and has just the right blend of comedy and factual drama in it to prevent it from being too laborious or too comedic. Not only are the performances are great in this film, but the characters are all really well-developed and the screenplay by Melfi and Allison Schroeder is wonderfully written. What stops this film from being perfect is it is fairly conventional in parts and there are a couple of story arcs that are a little underwritten. But these are very small nitpicks in an otherwise near-perfect film. (My Review here)


2) Hacksaw Ridge

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of the best war films I have ever seen and features some stunning performances with Gibson’s signature gory yet visceral battle sequences that really throw these men into hell-and-back. Gibson is able to really portray the hardship that these men endure time and time again and whilst I am ever respectful of those fight for their country, this film elevated my respect even more for them whilst watching this film. The film is extremely well-shot and features many memorable sequences – this film fully deserves the Awards attention it is getting! That said, the film is not without fault and an inconsistency in tone is this film’s biggest problem as the two distinct halves of the film don’t quite gel together. The first half in particular of the film which develops these characters and prepares Doss for the battle that lies ahead often head into conventional territory and it is quite bizarre as it almost feels like Gibson is knowingly do this but to what purpose, I’m not sure. However, when the film is able to go berserk, it does and it is immensely satisfying. (My Review here)

And the best film is…


1) Hell Or High Water 

Far and away the best film of this selection, I loved ‘Hell or High Water’ on first viewing and it gets better on every rewatch. It is a very well directed film that boasts some terrific performances by its cast, particularly Jeff Bridges and I normally don’t like Chris Pine so for him to not only be in a great film but give a great performance is a miracle. The film has a lot to say on American society and it perfectly develops its characters and features some terrific sequences. It also features one of the very best scores of the year by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. There wasn’t a chance in hell that this film would ever win but at least it’s getting the recognition it deserves – go and see this film!


Overall, this is not the strongest collection of films nominated for Best Picture by any means, but it generally a consistent and worthy selection of films with the exception of ‘La La Land’ but I can see why many people have taken to the way that they have with the film. ‘Moonlight’ ultimately won the Best Picture Award which is deserving due its subject matter and I hope the film manages to reach the heights of the others on this list on subsequent viewings – it does have that spark but I couldn’t quite connect with it. ‘Hell or High Water’ is by far and away the best film here but it didn’t connect with critics and audiences as much and many were surprised to see it even nominated. I’m just happy that ‘La La Land’ didn’t win as I cannot understand the praise that that film has received, as much of a fan of Damien Chazelle as I am, it really missed the mark.