DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: 2013

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Best of 2013

As always I tend to worry most about what films I leave off this list. I remarked yesterday about the vast number of quality films to see right now in the theatres at the end of this year. In particular American Hustle which somehow just doesn't make this list. Same with Peter Berg's Lone Survivor which is terrific but hasn't been released yet theatrically. Sadly this stayed off the list. The Sundance films this year were terrific, with Upstream Color finding its way onto this list. I wish there were room for the absorbing Before Midnight, or Fruitvale Station or The Spectacular Now. Two films I questioned most were Stoker and The Place Beyond the Pines both released earlier in the Spring. Stoker may not hold up to future viewings as say, Before Midnight but it remains on this list for it's surprisingly gleeful impact it had me when I saw it in the cinema for the first time. And the best moments of The Place Beyond the Pines far outweighs its narrative failings.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

What a pleasure to see at age 70 Martin Scorsese, into the latter stage of his career, deliver one more sprawling crime picture, in this case a film which acts like a capper to a trilogy including Goodfellas and Casino, three pictures connected by the director's blistering cinematic pace, it's fascinating viewpoint into three segments of high stakes crime and corruption and it's sympathetic portrait of three contemptible characters. Once again Scorsese succeeds.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Inside Llewyn Davis

Like the unflashy 'Fargo' the greatness of 'Inside Llewyn Davis', the Coen Bros’ story of a struggling folk singer in the 60’s, sneaks up on you, only to realize long after the picture is over you've just watched a masterpiece which you need to watch again and again.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


While the idea of a lonely man developing a genuine relationship with a Siri-like talking Operating System, is the stuff of high concept science fiction, Spike Jonze’s trumps the intimate character study of a heartbroken lonely man looking for love in the most unlikely of places. Once again Jonze and turned in a film so unique, original and bold, and yet remarkably accessible and identifiable to almost anyone.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Fast and Furious 6

It’s impossible to watch Fast and Furious 6, now on Blu/DVD/Digital, without the tragedy of Paul Walker’s passing in mind. The experience of cinema is often enriched by the convergence of reality and drama. Such was the case of 'The Dark Knight' when seen through the lens of Heath Ledger’s performance. Here the spirit of Paul Walker shines through onto this cock-swaggering franchise, in particular this episode, highlighting the strange theme of family which unites all players at the end of this film.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Frances Ha

The choice of shooting black and white for this picture is key to its warm feelings of cinematic nostalgia and the seemingly effortless naturalism. There’s an instant timeless quality to Frances Ha, recalling the works of Woody Allen (Manhattan), Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise), Francios Truffaut and other New Wavers. Perfectly in sync with Boambach’s freeform style is the grand presence of Greta Gerwig whose lively personality is the raison d’etre for this picture. And recalling Diane Keaton’s performance in Annie Hall, we should expect Greta Gerwig to have similar award accolades during award season.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Hunt for Red October

In the era of the great Hollywood thrillers (the 90’s) this first Tom Clancy novel out of the gate is a superlative franchise vehicle. Clancy’s sprawling narrative is executed with precision with John McTiernan’s superb directorial flare, and remains one of the best Cold War era spy thrillers.

Pain and Gain

An obscene crime comedy of Michael Bay-sized proportions. This is as rude and crude as any film Bay has ever made, and while it didn't see the box office success of his other films, years from now when his career is said and done this could probably wind up being the definitive film of his douche aesthetic.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Will Ferrell/Adam McKay's touchstone satire of 1970’s broadcast journalism culture still bristles with some of the most absurd mainstream comedy in recent years. Remarkably most of these gags still land successfully and thus will likely continue to do so in years to come, aligning itself with those timeless classics of the Mel Brooks, ZAZ, Blake Edwards, and Monte Python films of the past.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


We admire the casting of Bruce Dern, the black and white throwback look and the embodiment of the spirit of 70’s mavericks such as Bob Rafelson and Hal Ashby, but the story of a confused old man bonding with his son over a road trip from Montana to Nebraska has Payne pushing well-honed salt-of-the-earth schmaltz a little too much.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Citizen Kane

Even heady proclamations like the ‘Greatest Film Ever Made’ cannot overstate how powerful this picture is. The story of a mercurial newspaper magnate who began his career as an idealistic entrepreneur raised with a silver spoon in his mouth who, over the course of his life, breaks down to an egomaniacal tyrant is like an insatiable addiction. Welles’ tale of American big business and the cult of personality which arises from unabated success has become as fundamental to cinema as The Odyssey is to classical literature.

Friday, 22 November 2013

True Romance

What a collaboration! The muscular cinematic brauniness of Tony Scott, matched up with the idiosyncratic voice of Quentin Tarantino. Tony Scott masterfully pumps up Tarantino’s Godard-influenced lovers-turned-criminals road movie into a (pun not intended) breathless action picture full of wit, pathos and that bold Tony Scott panache.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A Hijacking

While the subject of Somali pirating is the same, this already-celebrated Danish film produced before 'Captain Phillips' has considerably less flare but admirably inhabits the same space as Paul Greengrass’s Hollywood version. ‘A Hijacking’ lasers in the attrition of the lengthy negotiation process between the stingy corporation and the wily Somali pirates, with a result no less harrowing and intense.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Jurassic Park: The Lost World

Spielberg’s sequel to the thoroughly enjoyable and successful Jurassic Park at times feels like a shamelessly perfunctory and lazy exercise in tent-pole filmmaking using the bare minimum of creative energy to get more dinosaurs onto the screen. But Mr. Spielberg's superb flare for cliff-hanger and action filmmaking overachieves what was on the written page.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Born on the Fourth of July

With the exception of JFK’s stunning cinematic bravura, arguably Born on the Fourth of July is Oliver Stone’s most accomplished film. The remarkably told story of Ron Kovic, all American boy turned war activist, exemplifies Stone’s ability to create American period nostaglia with impeccable tonal accuracy and also eviserate it with bold uncompromising cinematic force. With expert help from other giants of cinema Robert Richardson, John Williams and editors Joe Hutshing/David Brenner Born on the Fourth of July resounds, argubaly, as the foremost film on the subject of Vietnam.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Uninvited

This moody ghost story resounds as a rich and textured gothic haunted house film containing some of the best ghostly special effects of its time. If made in Germany, Japan or France this film could have been turned into a chilling horror masterpiece, unfortunately it’s bungled by a Hollywood aesthetic of artificial romance and comedy which dulls the effects of its progressive horror concept and as such never really rises to its better contemporaries, Rebecca or the Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


Bergman's strange psychological headscratcher fits in well with the 60's European trend of loopy existential pictures of Roman Polanski, Antonioni and later David Lynch and even late career of Stanley Kubrick (who famously wrote a fan letter to Bergman in 1960 calling him the greatest filmmaker of the day).

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Escape From Tomorrow

This is the conceptual picture of the year, a monumental logistic achievement to film an independent narrative feature film within the confines of Walt Disney World, undercover of the notoriously watchful eyes of its brand police, and actually have it distributed. While spotty in execution and performance the films hits a bull’s-eye as a parable to the soul sucking sensation of parenting.

Friday, 1 November 2013


The second last of the great 'Golden Age of Animation' Disney films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Bambi and Dumbo sparkle with a kind of cinema magic unlike any other films in history. The incredibly touching story of a ridiculed baby elephant with big ears born into a circus troupe who realizes his ears can make him fly and achieve unrivalled greatness and success resonates so strongly because of its universal message of marginalization and triumph over adversity.

Thursday, 31 October 2013


The first of Brian De Palma’s ‘Hitchcock-influenced films, Sisters boldly begat a career long obsession with the Master of Suspese, recycling and deconstructing his stories, themes, techniques in a dozen films or so over forty years. Without the slickness of later and bigger budgeted works, Sisters feels like a marriage of the director’s handcrafted underground/avant garde works of the late 60’s and the delirious visual showman of the 70’s/80’s.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Though only an effort as producer, the much-maligned, persona-non-grata entry in the Halloween series has all the fingerprints of horrormaster John Carpenter. Featuring one of the most disturbing kill-concepts in the genre Season of the Witch fits in well with the trend of 70’s paranoia filmmaking as well as Carpenter’s career-long obsession with omniscent mental control and thus resounds as one of the most chilling underappreciated horror films of the decade.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Apocalypse Now

Gut, determination and a whole lot of ego from Francis Coppola was the engine which not just got Apocalypse Now made but made it great. Coming off the Godfather films, Francis Coppola was at the height of his creativity, the height of his influence and undoubtedly his confidence. When filmmakers find themselves in this type of position it's wonderful to see filmmakers push themselves creatively.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s already celebrated picture consciously manages to find a medium ground between the intimate and avant-garde roots of his earlier pics and the broad historical canvas of American slavery. As devastating it is to see slavery depicted on screen he never seems to match the level of visceral impact as his debut Hunger. Thus, however powerful and moving there’s a feeling he’s tamed himself for the sake of American and Hollywood acceptability.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass’ docu-realism modus operandi is in full effect in this picture, like Bloody Sunday and United 93, capturing the true-to-facts story of Somali piracy victim Richard Phillips as genre entertainment told with docu-style realism. Despite the wattage of Hanks, Captain Phillips is the lesser of these three pictures, faulted by a murky socio-political theme.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Eyes Without a Face

Before the era of the slasher film, horror films didn’t get any sicker or more twisted than this early 60’s French gem which tracks the devilish attempts of a plastic surgeon to kidnap, drug and steal the faces of innocent women to graft onto his facially-deformed daughter.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Rocky IV

By 1985 with Sylvestor Stallone arguably at the peak of his Hollywood influence he generated this fourth and most audacious entry in the series. While immensely successful it was astonishingly scant of any storytelling bones. But such is the underrated filmmaking skills of Mr. Stallone to make an entertaining film essentially made up of two story beats, two dialogue scenes, two fights and glued together by montage scenes.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Alfonso Cuaron’s desire to tell a largely single person survivalist film in space adhering to the laws of real-world physics is inspirational, but his ability to execute the impossibly complex conceptual challenge with perfection and panache makes for a rip-roaring adventure picture for the ages.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Jackie Brown

With immense expectations to meet or top his game-changer Pulp Fiction, back in 1997 QT delivered what now appears to be his most modest film to date, a rich experience in character and minus the cinematic razzle dazzle he’s injected into every film since then. Jackie Brown ages as well as any of his films including the lauded Pulp Fiction.

Friday, 4 October 2013


There have been lots of racing pictures over the years and no one has been able to crack the genre. Ron Howard’s aggressively told history of the 1970’s Nikki Lauda/James Hunt rivalry is arguably the most accessible. Though it’s a robust sports genre film told with maximum 70’s razzle-dazzle, it fails to find the humanness in its two characters beyond the surface of their ying/yang personalities to elevate it to the top of Howard's esteemed filmography.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A Letter to Three Wives

This minor Mankiewicz post War classic sets up a bit of a contrived situation, three wives/friends who receive a letter from a mutual friend stating that she has run away with one of their husbands, but without telling them who. And while the narrative plays out the scenario of each of the women rethinking the state of their marriages with predictable conventiality, a surprisingly smart examination of marriage, fidelity and career expectations of women in the burgeoning feminist age emerges.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Autumn Sonata

Anchored by the best performance ever by the Hollywood legend Ingrid Bergman, and matched by an equally mesmerizing Liv Ullman, Ingmar Bergman presents to us a visceral unforgettable two–hander of a mother and daughter hashing out latent conflicts with devastating emotional power.

Monday, 30 September 2013

The Fly

It’s easy to see why David Cronenberg was interested in remaking this semi-classic picture. Under the guise of a b-movie James Clavell’s screenplay from George Langelaan’s story of a scientist who turns himself into a half-man/half-fly is remarkably poignant and emotionally-affecting atomic age cautionary tale of science-gone-wrong.

Friday, 27 September 2013

World War Z

The few dollops of remarkably sustained zombie-chaos intensity and globe-trotting cine carnage are strong enough to gloss over the narrative and conceptual deficiencies in this massive behemoth of a film.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Denis Villeneuve executes Prisoners with same kind of bold cinematic panache as the best of the genre, namely 'Seven' and 'Zodiac', but with a moral complexity which separates this picture from Fincher’s cold clinical approach.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

With the kinks worked out from the previous exposition and time travel-heavy Kirk/Spock origin story, and by staying close to the spirit of Wrath of Khan, the most action-oriented entry of the Star Trek episodes, the result is a more focused and thus clearer action sci-fi picture aimed at moderate Trek enthusiasts and summer blockbuster audiences.

Thursday, 5 September 2013


The story of a doting but frustrated wife of 1870’s Indian upper class society is both a luscious technical dynamo, a sharp socio-political statement of female empowerment and a good old fashioned reserved melodrama.

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Devil's Backbone

After the uninspired sophomore effort of Mimic, Guillermo Del Toro’s modest but emotional and affecting wartime ghost story represented an early career creative reboot of sorts. The Devil’s Backbone resounds best not so much for its genre scares or creature effects, but the effective point of view of children displaced by war and Del Toro’s distinctly gothic and disturbing take on the subject matter.

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Big City

A remarkably poignant and mainstream accessible slice of Indian social realism from the master Indian director. The story of a conservative Indian mother and wife who finds herself embarking on a professional career outside of the cultural traditions of women at the time resounds powerfully for anyone who identifies with the struggles of personal empowerment and the conflicts of societal expectations.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Only God Forgives

Nicholas Winding Refn’s talking-piece, blasted at Cannes and now viewable by the regular public in theatres and VOD, from these eyes is less the ‘pretentious exercise’ or ‘remarkable disaster’ as described by many critics than a bold audacious Tarantinoesque throwback exploitation picture told with Kubrick-influenced compositional perfection and a strong touch of Asian bombastic grandiloquence.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

A tad clunky in the ambitious sprawling narrative of this picture, Derek Cianfrance’s unbridled ambition to push his storytelling abilities above and beyond Blue Valentine is a wholly admirable risk. Despite a rickety third act, which pulls together the 20 year journey of two characters on either side of the law, Pines is a thrilling auteur cinematic exercise reminscient of the ambitious blue collar dramas of the late 70’s specifically Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter.

Monday, 29 July 2013


The idea of Danny Boyle doing a Christopher Nolan-style heist/con thriller is enticing but Boyle’s imposing style however, bold and unique, just doesn't fit the material. What starts out as a clever puzzle film about hypnotism and art thievery detours into a sanctimonious tragic love story washing away everything we desire from a cutthroat noirish genre film.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Night Train to Munich

Carol Reed’s WWII espionage pot boiler confidently stands as tall as any of the celebrated Hitchcock war thrillers of the era. While this picture predates his more acclaimed post war pictures, The Third Man and Odd Man Out, it sizzles with the same kind of high stakes urgency.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Elephant Man

The Elephant Man endears as one of my favourite films of all time because it exemplifies what makes a great film – taking traditional stories, themes and genres told in unconventional ways. Here David Lynch’s marriage of his avant garde peculiarness with the weepy triumph of the human spirit story of John Merrick, the physically deformed circus performer who went from circus freak to Victorian celebrity, is as an inspired cinematic concoction as there ever has been.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Myth of the American Sleepover

Another ensemble coming-of-age film involving a handful of high schoolers on their last day of summer experiencing the pains of love? But wait, with little fanfare outside of festival play and the Independent Spirit Awards, and almost no penetration into the mainstream consciousness, this picture is arguably the best high school movie produced in years. Just when you thought it was impossible to find a fresh way to tell a high school saga, writer/director David Robert Mitchell manages to find realism and truth in almost every frame of this picture.

Thursday, 11 July 2013


The masterful comprehensive examination of the Holocaust never fails to mesmerize on all levels of cinema, history and humanity. Though never having seen Claude Lanzmann’s lauded and landmark 9-hr film on the Holocaust until now, the effect of watching it today is probably more powerful than it was first released, and likely will become more revelant and revelatory with each passing year.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Rumble Fish

There’s no doubt Mr. Coppola like many other 70’s mavericks suffered to achieve the success and admiration in the 80’s. That said, there’s much to admire in the Coppola ouevre of this decade. In particular Rumble Fish, a difficult film for sure, cold, austere and considerably weirder than the literary treatment of The Outsiders, but astonishing and eye-poppingly brilliant nonethless.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Frances Ha

The choice of shooting black and white for this picture is key to its warm feelings of cinematic nostalgia and the seemingly effortless naturalism. There’s an instant timeless quality to Frances Ha, recalling the works of Woody Allen (Manhattan), Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise), Francios Truffaut and other New Wavers. Perfectly in sync with Boambach’s freeform style is the grand presence of Greta Gerwig whose lively personality is the raison d’etre for this picture. And recalling Diane Keaton’s performance in Annie Hall, we should expect Greta Gerwig to have similar award accolades during award season.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Things to Come

From H.G. Wells's screenplay adaption from his own book 'The Shape of Things to Come' came one of the most ambitious science fiction films ever made. A one hundred year narrative of a fictional city in England from 1940 to 2040 showing the technological and political progress balances its graceless thematic bluntness with truly astonishing visual design and conceptual ambition.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Naked Prey

One of the unique experiments of the 1960’s, Cornel Wilde’s ambitious parable of culture and conflict is remarkably simple in concept - a British game hunter captured by African natives for torture escapes and has to fight the harshness of the African environment while in flight from his pursuers. The result, a 90min chase film which comments on the fragile state of our civilization with the same irony as “The Most Dangerous Game”. "Lord of the Flies”, and “Planet of the Apes” would also become the main influence for Mel Gibson to make his own version of the story, "Apocalypto".

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Olivier Assayas' memorable addition of Euro-art house credibility to what was essentially a procedural action film told with maximum realism, cinematic swagger and panache resounds memorably in the light of other New Millenium hot button thrillers such as Zero Dark Thirty and Homeland.

Friday, 21 June 2013


Alan Clarke’s powerful indictment of the British juvenile penal system is a virtuouso cinematic achievement, ugly and beautiful at the same time, influential to the modern works of Steve McQueen, Gus Van Sant and others. Scum, like Clarke’s mostly television work in the 70’s and 80’s represents some of the best films ever shot for television.