Film of the Year 2017

A good year for films, somehow I saw more films that usual whilst Beth saw fewer. So to the lists…

Beth’s List
Beth completed a full list, however, I (Jonathan) took so long compiling this list that we lost it… So here is her number 1:

1. Beauty and the Beast
I have a certain fondness for the original, so I really really liked this one. It was also special to me as one of the first night’s out with friends after having Joshua. It also became Joshua’s first trip to the cinema.

 

Jonathan’s list

10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
9. The Big Sick
8. It
7. Hidden Figures
6. A Monster Calls
5. Get Out
4. Thor: Ragnorak
3. Dunkirk
2. Logan

1. Baby Driver

A perfect musical, where the choreography happens to involve car chases and bank robberies. The story is strong, and builds tension well. Obviously Spacey’s name is now mud, however, as usual he puts in a great turn as the kingpin. Ansel Elgort does a great job in the lead role as Baby.

Previous winners:

Beth

2016 – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
2015 – Trash
2014 – Interstellar
2013 – The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
2012 – Trade of Innocents
2011 – King’s Speech
2010 – Toy Story 3
2009 – Beth was indecisive and picked 5 films
2008 – Juno

Jonathan

2016 – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
2015 – Inside Out
2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy
2013 – Gravity
2012 – Django Unchained
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
2010 – Inception
2009 – The Wrestler
2008 – The Dark Knight
2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Image of Baby Driver courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Film of the year 2016

A good year for films, somehow I saw more films that usual whilst Beth saw fewer. So to the lists…

Beth’s List
Due to the arrival of a tiny human, I only saw 12 and half films this year, plus one more without sound. There were at least 15 more films I would have liked to see (indeed, one night I set out for the cinema and sat down in the theatre but was called home to the tiny human as the trailers began), so I’m certain that some of the unseen films would quickly have bumped off several of my lower-ranked films.

10. Hail Caesar: a few funny bits, but this definitey would not be on my top ten list if I had seen even one more film this year… Moana, Bridget Jones, Rogue One Star Trek, or any number of other ones would easily beat this!

9. Zootropolis: fun and cute, with clever sequences such as the DMV being manned by sloths.

8. Spotlight: I initially didn’t want to see this as I thought it would make me feel sad, but actually it was suspenseful and had a happy endning in that justice was served and the truth exposed.

7. Our Kind of Traitor: kept me tense, interested and in suspense the whole way through (though I preferred The Night Manager).

6. Money Monster: good performances from George Clooney and Julia Roberts in a suspenseful, thought-provoking story.

5. The BFG: a gorgeous adaptation of a fun and funny book (Queen Elizabeth enjoying “whizpoppers”…)

4. The Jungle Book: Nostalgia for the Disney original edged this into 4th place. Amazing CGI and creative echoes of the book and previous film.

3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: an exciting and fun expansion to the Harry Potter Universe.

2. Finding Dory: a five-year old pointed out to me that this story has no bad guy. It’s a journey story about a collection of disabled characters working together and encouraging each other on.

1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: a whimsical and suspenseful story of a unique family. It frequently made me laugh with surprise.

 

Jonathan’s list
10. The Jungle Book
9. Spotlight
8. The Nice Guys
7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
6. Big Short
5. Finding Dory
4. Doctor Strange
3. Room
2. Star Wars: Rogue One
A strong addition to the Star Wars saga, I wasn’t expecting much, however, this blew me away with a well told (if occasionally too self-referential) story. I preferred it to Force Awakens.

1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
This film was wonderful, very funny and brilliant characters, set in a country that I love.

So 2016 saw our first unanimous vote for favourite film in the eight years that we have compiled this list. Hunt for the Wilderpeople really was fantastic and worked for both of our senses of humour. Ricky Baker is Gangsta.

Previous winners:

Beth

2015 – Trash
2014 – Interstellar
2013 – The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
2012 – Trade of Innocents
2011 – King’s Speech
2010 – Toy Story 3
2009 – Beth was indecisive and picked 5 films
2008 – Juno

Jonathan

2015 – Inside Out
2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy
2013 – Gravity
2012 – Django Unchained
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
2010 – Inception
2009 – The Wrestler
2008 – The Dark Knight
2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Hunt for the Wilderpeople image from Sundance.

Film of the year 2015

Once again in 2015, Beth and I saw about 20 films each. Here are our top 10 films.

Beth’s list:

10. Spectre: a good Bond instalment with great performances and a satisfying ending.

9. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: continues the fun gadgets, camaraderie, and action of the series.

8. Man From UNCLE: a fun, action-packed, and visually captivating reimagining of the TV show (which I never saw, so I have to admit I cannot compare them).

7. Jurassic World: also brought back the best bits of the original film while giving us creative and startling new characters.

6. Into the Woods: a funny, creative twist on favourite fairytales, with technically difficult music performed well and contemporary messages.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Captured some of my favourite bits from the original trilogy while giving us a brand new episode. Also I was tickled to recognise one of the filming locations.

4. Bridge of Spies: tense plotline, interesting characters, excellent performances, and a message about justice.

3. Inside Out: I enjoyed this more the second time around because I noticed more clever details and little jokes.

2. The Martian: a witty and exciting story that kept me guessing (and hoping) right to the end and also points out the incredible value of even just one human life.

1. Trash: a suspenseful and action-packed (yet utterly believable) mystery which has a lot to say about poverty and justice.
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Jonathan’s list:
10. Bridge of Spies
9. Spectre
8. Spooks
7. Man From U.N.C.L.E
6. Spy
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. Trash
3. The Martian
2. Ex Machina
1. Inside Out
2015 was largely dominated by spy movies, the second half of my top 10 attests to that. Surprisingly for me, James Bond did not top that pack. Instead of a parody of the genre was my favourite of the bunch. At the top, it was difficult to decide between The Martian, Ex Machina and Inside Out. In the end, I found that Pixar’s movie struck me and stayed with me most with its story about what is going on inside your head.

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_poster
Previous winners:

Beth

2014 – Interstellar
2013 – The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
2012 – Trade of Innocents
2011 – King’s Speech
2010 – Toy Story 3
2009 – Beth was indecisive and picked 5 films
2008 – Juno

Jonathan

2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy
2013 – Gravity
2012 – Django Unchained
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
2010 – Inception
2009 – The Wrestler
2008 – The Dark Knight
2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Image of Trash from Working Title, image of Inside Out from Wikipedia.

Film of the year 2014

2014 was a good year for cinema, there were a lot of great big releases and Beth and I each saw around 20 films, making a top 10 more difficult.

Beth’s list:

10. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
9. Dallas Buyers Club
8. Calvary
7. Belle
6. The Imitation Game
5. The Judge
4. Godzilla
3. The Lego Movie
2. 12 Years a Slave
1. Interstellar
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Jonathan’s list:
10. Dallas Buyers Club
9. Godzilla
8. Belle
7. Edge of Tomorrow
6. Imitation of Game
5. Her
4. Interstellar
3. Gone Girl
2. 12 Years a Slave
1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Beth and I both picked Sci-Fi films this year. 2014 also marked my second such film in a row. We also picked the same film at number 2, which is as close as we have gotten to an agreement on Film of the Year so far. Interstellar was possibly the best cinematic experience that I have seen in a long time. I just had more fun with Guardians of the Galaxy. I have now seen the film five times and still find it an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. Marvel’s latest is exactly the type of film that I want to see and while I am having trouble getting excited for their super hero films at the moment, this seemed fresher, giving us a new space outlaw to (G)root for.

The notable film missing from both of our lists was Boyhood, there is a lot of oscar buzz for that film, however, we watched it and were pretty underwhelmed. The process of making the film was more interesting than the finished product. While I applaud Richard Linklater’s ability to keep the narrative going, that narrative was a little too plain for me. Guardians was practically guaranteed to be my Film of the Year as soon as the lights came up in the cinema.
GOTG-poster
Previous winners:

Beth

2013 – The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
2012 – Trade of Innocents
2011 – King’s Speech
2010 – Toy Story 3
2009 – Beth was indecisive and picked 5 films
2008 – Juno

Jonathan

2013 – Gravity
2012 – Django Unchained
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
2010 – Inception
2009 – The Wrestler
2008 – The Dark Knight
2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Film of the year 2013

2013 was one of those years where the report card of films released would say “could do better”. Sure there were plenty of decent movies in cinemas but few will be defined as greats. That didn’t stop Beth and I from watching around 20 new releases each though. Once again… we don’t agree very much.

Beth’s list:

10. The Wolverine
9. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
8. The Great Gatsby
7. Rush
6. About Time
5. Despicable Me 2
4. Star Trek: Into Darkness
3. The Lone Ranger
2. 42
1. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

It’s more interesting to me to remember when and where  and with whom I saw each of these films than actually ranking them 1-10. Hobbit is my top choice because it’s the one I looked forward to the most throughout the year. Not expecting it to stick closely to the book, I wasn’t disappointed but rather enjoyed the parts where it veered into back stories and material from Tolkien’s other writings.  42 was a powerful and insightful film about prejudice and sportsmanship and doing justice. I also enjoyed it because we had such fun seeing it with friends on a snowy night last spring! After these op choices the rankings get a bit fuzzy: 3 could be 4 or 5, 5 could be 6 or 7 etc. I enjoyed The Lone Ranger for Johnny Depp’s performance and the way it brought an old TV show to a new generation. I enjoyed  Star Trek as much as the first one and look forward to more. I enjoyed Despicable Me for the minions, of course! I’d like to see About Time again and notice more details I missed the first time around. Rush was exhilarating and emotional. The Great Gatsby was glamorous and brought to life an old book I was forced to read at school. Hunger Games and Wolverine both made for fun evenings out with friends and family and made the top 10 list easily, beating out a few others I saw this year like The Harry Hill Movie, Man of Steel, Oz the Great and Powerful, Identity Thief, and A Good Day to Die Hard.

Image from the Hobbit film site

Jonathan’s list:
10. The Wolverine
9. Now You See Me
8. About Time
7. Iron Man 3
6. 42
5. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
4. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
3. Rush
2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
1. Gravity

Gravity is the first film that I have seen in 3d that wowed me. Even then, the act of watching it on the biggest screen I could find added more to the experience. The effects made this movie, the storyline itself was strong but this film lived through its effects, and those had to be seen on a large screen. A DVD is not going to give the same experience but I do not think that is a reason to hold anything against this masterpiece. Again Abrams did a good job with Star Trek, Benedict Cumberbatch made the film and for the longest time I expected it to take the top spot. Rush was easily one of the best racing films of all time and handled the subject matter expertly. I will be coming back to that film many times through the years. But Gravity offered something different and new, it, for me, deserves its top spot.

Image from the gravity film website courtesy of warner bros.

Previous winners:

Beth

2012 – Trade of Innocents
2011 – King’s Speech
2010 – Toy Story 3
2009 – Beth was indecisive and picked 5 films
2008 – Juno

Jonathan

2012 – Django Unchained
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
2010 – Inception
2009 – The Wrestler
2008 – The Dark Knight
2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Game of the year 2013

A Slight change to the format this year. Previously, this category only involved games that were released in the calendar year in question, instead I am changing it to games I was introduced to during the past year as some of the games played over the last year should get recognition.

It was also helped by my only playing seven games that came out in 2013, this was the year that I finally got a PS3 and so I have a whole juicy library to catch up on.

5. Far Cry 3 – PC – 2012
Far Cry 3 was the game that I sunk the most time into this year. I loved the exploration of the island and while the story didn’t really hold my attention, the gameplay was great and made for a fantastic experience. I had less fun on the PS3 version due to annoying controller glitches that reared their ugly heads during combat and often led to my demise.

4. Bioshock Infinite – PC – 2013
The most beautiful game I have ever played and I really enjoyed the storyline, the combat just felt tagged on and ruined the experience for me.

3. Xcom Enemy Unknown – PS3 – 2012
This is second only to Far Cry in the number of hours I have sunk into it and I suspect it will eventually eclipse the Ubisoft game over time. The ability to create my friends as an alien killing super team and then have them wiped out just after the point in the storyline I got to in the previous playthrough always  gets me reloading and beginning again. The turn based controls work wonderfully with a controller and the experience is superbly put together.

2. Splinter Cell Blacklist – Xbox 360 – 2013
Purists can keep bleating about how this and the preceding Conviction are not real Splinter Cell games. While that may be true, I don’t care, this is much more fun. I love being able to sneak through levels unseen but at the same time, I love that the game allows you options if you do get spotted. Or if you are in a bad mood, you have the chance just to go in guns blazing without dying immediately.

1. Grand Theft Auto V – PS3 – 2013
Considering the size of the game space it is impressive how good GTA5 looks. The gameplay is tight and the driving controls are sooo much better than GTA4. The story may be poor and often trying too hard to be controversial, but I have such a good time just driving around exploring the island that I can ignore it. Rockstar have taken great elements from their other games of the past few years and created a masterpiece. They have created my game of the year for the second year in a row.

 

Past winners:

2012 – Max Payne
2011 – Portal 2
2010 – Mass Effect 2
2009 – Colin McRae: Dirt 2
2008 – Mass Effect
2007 – Super Mario Galaxy

Game of the Year 2012

While it was a great year for movies in 2012 it seemed to be a fairly lackluster year for games. I am also finding myself with gradually less time to play the big releases when they came out. It seemed to be a year when small games could shine though. In a year when I played just 12 new games the bottom of my top 10 may not exude quality but the top games were all ones I have greatly enjoyed.

10. Worms Revolution – PC

9. Catherine – XBOX360

8. Fez – XBOX360

7. Mark of the Ninja – PC

6. Mass Effect 3 – XBOX360
The first two Mass Effect games were my Games of the Year and the first game was my game of the last decade. Mass Effect 3 was therefore a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t just the terrible ending, it just felt dull compared the supreme second entry. The series went further away from its RPG roots as the series progressed and ended up mainly as a Shooter. This diluted what made the series interesting in the first place.

5. Thomas Was Alone – PC
A nice little Indie game that makes you care about little blocks with its charming narrative and fun puzzle gameplay

4. Trials Evolution – XBOX360
I loved Trials 2, the only problem was that it was single player, Trials Evolution added an exciting multiplayer that had my friends and I chuckling away. The user made multiplayer tracks just added to a great experience.

3. Spec Ops the Line – PC
A great narrative makes some for some occasionally iffy shooter mechanics, you want to keep playing to find out what happens next.

2. F1 2012 – PC
The third time is a charm for Codemasters’ F1 series, the first game was good because it was the first entry for years. The second didn’t really hold my interest as it largely fixed the bugs from the first game while confusing with an odd menu system. The third game does away with the menus altogether and seeks to just get you racing quicker. The controls take a little getting used to but once you do they feel pretty tight. I am enjoying this game.

1. Max Payne – PC
After LA Noire lost me with its narrative and repetitive gameplay Max Payne did a great job of building my trust in Rockstar again. The controls are tight and exciting, the narrative is interesting and keeps you playing and the bullet time effects are great fun. All that plus it is a great game to look at and has a lot to offer. It is my game of 2012.

image from Rockstargames.com

Guest Post: Sports in 2012

Once again I asked my father to give his view of the best and worst sporting accomplishments of the year. Here is his (unedited) list for 2012:

 

Sports in 2012 – Or how to not mention the Olympics

Team of the Year – Chelsea. For knocking Barcelona out without leaving their own half and then winning the Champions League using the same tactics.

Sportsman of the Year (on two legs) – Andy Murray. For crying at Wimbledon and then winning the US Open. We all love him now.

Sportsman of the Year (on two wheels) – Bradley Wiggins. For winning the Tour de France. Special mention to Sky Sports for an excellent series about Team Sky, never realised you could lean on the support car if you were feeling a bit tired.

Sportswoman of the Year – None. Sport and Women should not mix, it messes up their hair and makes them perspire.

Overseas Sportsperson of the Year – Peyton Manning. For a great return in 2012. Probably won't win it in 2013!

Overseas Team of the Year – Spain. For winning Euro 2012, bet no one saw that happening.

Other notable events in 2012
Good
AFC Wimbledon stayed up
Bad
AFC Wimbledon only just stayed up

Good
Managed to stay awake for the Superbowl
Bad
New York Giants won it

And Finally (I know I said I wouldn't mention it but it has been impossible to avoid)

Good
Team GB won lots of medals and apparently some were won by GIRLS!
Bad
As predicted lots of empty spaces – not that I'm bitter about not getting any tickets

Film of the Year 2012

 

2012 was a fantastic year for cinema. In 52 weeks I managed to see 27 films and I generally enjoyed all of them. That makes a top 10 difficult to accomplish. Beth may have struggled to think of more than six great films but I had an initial shortlist of 15 that needed to be trimmed.

Without further ado here is Beth’s list:

10. Woman in Black
9. Avengers
8. Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists
7. The Lorax
6. Skyfall
5. Lincoln
4. Hobbit
3. Brave
2. Les Miserables

1. Trade of Innocents
This was not an easy film to watch – it should not be. I picked this film as my number one because I believe it is the story that most needed and deserved to be told. Though fictional, it could be the true experience of thousands of girls around the world. Trade of Innocents explores sex-trafficking in Cambodia, through the story of a couple working to rescue and rehabilitate girls, and their dealings with local corrupt authorities, impoverished families, and rich tourists exploiting the sex trade.  It calls to our attention the slavery that still exists around the world, and even in our own neighborhoods. Hopefully this film will break your heart.

And now my list:

10. Skyfall
9. Lincoln
8. Wreck-it-Ralph
7. Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists
6. Avengers
5. Les Miserables
4. Dark Knight Rises
3. Hobbit
2. End of Watch

1. Django Unchained
I got to go to an advance screening of Django in early December and it was everything a Tarantino movie should be. Copious violence, fantastic screenwriting and some superb acting. There was not a weakness in the cast and I found the movie very entertaining. In a year with the Hobbit, Les Miserables and Batman – films I loved every bit as much as I expected to – it is great that End of Watch and Django were even better.

Remember 2012

My 2012 had a rather defining moment. It was the point when we decided to come to America for eight months. Our options were to stay in Canterbury, move to Sussex or come to America. We chose the latter and it should be no surprise that this decision sits at the top of this list but here is my full top 5 of things I enjoyed in 2012.
 
5. British American Football
 
There were problems with the finals weekend in 2011, but no such issues this year, as we took over Don Valley stadium and streamed live online. The crowds in the stands may have been small compared to the size of the stadium but it was a great (but wet) event with over 6000 people watching from home via GridironTV. 

It rounded off what was a pretty special season. The London Blitz retained the title but had stiff competition all year from their cross town rivals London Warriors who topped them twice in the regular season. I am proud to be involved with the league and hope that the future remains bright and we can continue to build on our following.
 
4. Brugges
 
In early July Beth and I took the Eurostar to Brugges for a fantastic long weekend. It is a wonderful medieval city and even though it may be constantly overrun by tourists is more than a little magical. We stayed in a fantastic hotel right on the canal and would happily go back again.
 
3. Leaving BBQ weekend
 
 
Before coming over to America we invited all of our friends to Canterbury for karting and a BBQ. The karting was a great start to the day with a close race between Craig, Ceri and I. Craig led for a good portion of the race before I eventually managed to sneak past. The two of us pulled away and I was able to take victory. In the evening more friends arrived and we ate good food until late. It was a nice send off.
 
2. Denver Broncos
 
My love of the Broncos strengthened this season as I was given the chance to go to their eight regular season home games in 2012. I saw them lose just once on home soil and had a great time at each game. It helped that in the off season they signed one of the best quarterbacks to have ever played the game in Peyton Manning and that they lost just three times on their way to number one seed in the AFC for the upcoming playoffs.
 
1. Coming to America
I have been given a great opportunity. While Beth studies I have been able to find out what life in America is like. This is something that was not possible on previous two week visits. I am still enjoying my stay and while there are things that I miss about the UK there are almost equal numbers of things I like about Colorado. I have also been able to expand the number of states that I have visited with a trip to Wisconsin to see Beth’s Aunt, Uncle and Grandma. This trip also took us into Chicago for a trip up the Willis Tower, the Chicago Aquarium and of course pizza (which was amazing). We are sure to have a lot of fun in our remaining four months and look forward to all that time may bring.
 
It has been a great year and here is to an even better 2013 as we continue to enjoy America and then return to England looking for new jobs and a place to call our home.
 

As usual my other lists will be coming soon with film later this week and games next week… sport will turn up at some point too.