Saddle up.  The 2010 movie year is underway!  I hope everyone had a great break and were able to catch up on a few movies.  There wasn’t much for me to see at the cinemas (I’d seen most of them in previews) but I had fun catching up on some old classics on Foxtel.


Before I continue, I do need to reminisce.  In 1996, I started grading every film I saw (on an A+ to C- scale) and kept all the results in a spreadsheet.  In 1999, I started up a simple website and sent out a weekly e-newsletter to a few friends to let them know what was worth seeing.  In 2000, I started writing up full length reviews at the rate at roughly two per week.  In 2005, I started reviewing on-air for 612ABC helping further spread my learned / warped opinions.


Time does fly.  It is now 2010.  According to my database, I’ve seen and graded 2,751 films in the past 14 years.  I’ve also written 1,080 full length reviews.  If you’d have said I’d still be doing this back on 1 January 1996 when I graded my first two films (Operation Dumbo Drop and Copycat), I’d have had a quiet chuckle.  It’s funny how the world works.  The unanswerable question is – what would have done with the all the spare time from the past decade if DIDN’T have such a love for movies???


2009 – A Fantastic Year


We’ll all have our own perspectives on “the year that was” but I have to say that 2009 was a pretty damn good one for me.  The highlights included:


   -Hosting an hour long Q&A with Anthony LaPaglia and others involved with Balibo (view the photos here).
   -Interviewing Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson on the red carpet at the Gold Coast premiere of Charlie & Boots (view the photos here).
   -Managing the Queensland Colts golf team (ages 18 to 23) for the annual inter-state series competition in Melbourne (and I made a video which you can see clips of here).
   -Starting a new DVD review show on ABC Southern Queensland every Friday morning with David Illife (where I get to speak about both current and classic movies).
   -Creating a brand new website (which took some self-teaching) and converting over 1,000 old reviews (this took months).
   -Attending what is likely to be the last Brisbane International Film Festival at the Regent and getting to meet Oscar favourite Carey Mulligan in person.
   -Finally making an effort to attend more theatrical productions (I saw four in 2009 and am looking to increase that this year).
   -Meeting a bunch of cool people through the creation of my Film Pie Facebook group and Twitter account (which now has me hooked).
   -Winning money by gambling on the Oscars and the Golden Globes for the eighth year in a row.


See, told you it was a good year (I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m bragging… not meant to… just exciting).  The downside is that it’s going to be hard to top in 2010 but we’ll see.


Over the holidays, I was able to tweak the website a little.  There’s now a live Twitter feed on my front page (where you can see me rambling on about a whole bunch of movie and non-movie things) and I’ve also improved the search engine functionality.


2010 – Looking Forward


I honestly surprise myself by how much I am able to squeeze out of my life.  I am a busy, busy man and I can easy stress / freak out.  So I need to try to not bite off more than I can chew in 2010 – but I’m sure I will anyway. J  But one resolution I do have is to attend a major international film festival (Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Venice) in the next 2-3 years.  I think it’d be a fun experience so I need to set it as a goal now so I don’t let it slip off the radar.


I’ve already penned a few reviews for 2010 films which should easy my load over the next month.  There’s some great movies coming out – as tends to be the case during Oscar season.  I look forward to telling you all about them.


Films due to be released in the next few months which I’m very keen to see are A Single Man, The  Hurt Locker, Precious and Percy Jackson & The Lightening Thief (call that one a guilty pleasure – the trailer looks cool).




Late last year, I gave a huge thumbs up to Avatar and declared it my second best movie of 2009.  It looks like a lot of people have agreed.


Avatar has been a stunning hit at the box-office.  I have spoken to so many people who have been annoyed to be going along and then finding the session they’re after sold out.  Demand has been huge and cinema owners must be loving it.


I must confess that it’s going to be a shame to see Titanic’s long standing records defeated.  I know there are a lot of Titanic bashers but I stand by my original review – it’s one of the great films ever made.  Titanic spent an incredible 15 consecutive weeks atop the U.S. box-office chart.  My memory is a little hazy but I don’t think another film has spent more than 4 weeks on top since that date.  That’s impressive!


Titanic made $600 million in the United States (second best is The Dark Knight with $533m) and $1.835 billion worldwide (second best is The Return Of The King with $1.129 billion).  When you consider inflation over the past 12 years (which I estimate as being around 40% - that’s the accountant nerd in me coming out), it’s even more impressive that Titanic’s record still stands – and by such a wide margin!


But as the saying goes, records are meant to be broken.  The irony is that after 12 years of waiting, it’ll be James Cameron’s next film which will unseat Titanic.


In just 17 days, Avatar has made $352.1m in the United States and $1.022 billion worldwide.  Word is still spreading and I think the international total could end up topping $2 billion.  I admit these numbers can be a little distorting because the ticket prices for Avatar have been higher than your average movie (as its in 3D) but you can balance that up against the global financial crisis which you’d think would have had a small downward impact on sales.  Still, I must say wow!  James Cameron has done it again.  Despite all the doubters before the films release (who focused on the huge cost), he’s proven himself as one of the great filmmakers of all time.  Whether you like his movies or not, majority opinion rules.


Awards News


Not long after I published my final blog of 2009, the Golden Globe nominations were announced.  To quickly recap, the best picture nominees were:


Best Picture (Drama) – Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up In The Air

Best Picture (Musical / Comedy) – 500 Days Of Summer (yay), The Hangover, It’s Complicated, Julie & Julia, Nine


Both races are going to be very close and I’d hate to have to pick a winner at this point.  The winners are announced on January 18 (Brisbane time).


The other big lead-up awards are the guilds.  The Screen Actors Guild have already given their nominees for the best performances.  The Producers Guild announces their nominees on January 5 and the Directors Guild on January 7.  These two are particularly important since they almost mirror the Oscar nominees.


At this point in time, the race for the best picture Oscar is down to 4 films – Avatar, Up In The Air, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds.  I’m confidently picking Avatar at this point.  The box-office is phenomenal and everyone is talking about it.  I know the Academy does not tend to embrace science-fiction but I think the film is too big to ignore and the competition is too weak.  The Hurt Locker made a meagre $12m at the box-office in the United States and Up In The Air is struggling to get a lot of momentum.


Some have been critical about the weak plot or even weaker dialogue in Avatar.  I disagree with those criticisms (to each their own though) but when it comes to awarding a best picture prize, witty dialogue doesn’t usually count for much.  How else can you explain the wins of films such as Braveheart (over Sense & Sensibility, Apollo 13), Titanic (over L.A. Confidential) and Gladiator (over Traffic).


Anyway, I’ll have more in coming weeks on the race to the Oscars (which are held this year on March 7).  My annual pick the winners competition (now in its 10th year) will also keep you guessing.


That’ll do me for the first week.  I’ll now start thinking about stuff to ramble on about for the next 51 weeks.


One of my favourite parts of any day is the moment when I lie in bed and first put my head on the pillow.  The day is complete.  I’ve given it all that I can and now I can rest and relax.  Any troubles fade away as I slip into the world of unconsciousness.


I kind of have that same feeling when putting together my list of the year’s best movies.  I’ve reached the end of a long journey and this is the last thing I must do before saying good-bye to the movie-going year.  I can then close the book, take a quick break and then charge myself up for a fresh year, filled with new adventures. 


I love putting together my top 10 list each year for two reasons.  Firstly, it’s a way of honouring and recognising these wonderful movies.  They have provided me great satisfaction and if anyone subsequently watches them based on my recommendation, I felt that I’ve done a service to the filmmaker.


Secondly, it provides a record of what the year was like in terms of movies.  Given that I’ve been reviewing seriously for more than a decade, I’ve now got plenty of lists to look back upon. The films from some years have definitely aged better than others.  It’s hard to believe that my first top 10 list, including such “classics” as Romeo & Juliet and The Ice Storm, was something I prepared 14 years ago.


On that note, here’s the quick honour role of my top films by year – Romeo & Juliet (1996), Titanic (1997), The Sweet Hereafter (1998), Being John Malkovich (1999), Billy Elliot (2000), Requiem For A Dream (2001), Mulholland Dr. (2002), Chicago (2003), Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), Million Dollar Baby (2005), Capote (2006), The Lives Of Others (2007) and Juno (2008).


I need to point out that there’s no right or wrong answers when it comes to compiling a top 10 list.  We’ve all got different tastes and no two lists will ever be the same.  There’ll be some out there who will agree with most of my selections and there’ll be some who think the exact opposite.  That’s part of the reason why I love going to the movies.


I had some fun talk back calls on 612ABC just over a week ago when I went through my top 10 list.  You can listen by clicking here and you can also find it on the front page of my website.


Before I get to my top 10 for 2009, I have to name a few honourable mentions.  They were great movies but I couldn’t squeeze them into my list.  They are The Reader, Whip It, Changeling, Doubt, The Class, The International, Duplicity, State Of Play, Mary & Max, Let The Right One In, A Serious Man, Coraline, Up, Eden Is West, I Love You Man, Paranormal Activity, Drag Me To Hell, Balibo, Public Enemies, The Hangover and Where The Wild Things Are.  Wow, that’s a lot.


In all, I’ve seen 235 movies this year.  That’s my second best effort behind 2006 (when I saw 238 movies).  Without further adieu, I present the graduating class of 2009…


10.  Elegy


This is a deeply affecting film about life, love and loss. Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz give brilliant performances. I actually had the chance to see it twice at the cinemas and I loved it just as much the second time.  It just squeezes into my top 10.  


9.  An Education


An Education is a beautiful coming of age story. It's about a conservative girl in her final year of school who is swept off her feet by a much older guy. He opens her eyes to an exciting world outside her comfort zone. I went through every emotion watching this one and I think it’ll pop up at next year’s Oscars.  Star Carey Mulligan, who was in Brisbane to promote the film, is the front runner for best actress.


8.  Milk


Milk won 2 Oscars earlier in the year and brings to the screen the real life story of Harvey Milk, who in 1977 became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. He was assassinated one year later.  Sean Penn gives an incredible performance and I really enjoyed the movie for what it has to say.  Director Gus Van Sant placed me in a time-machine, took me back 30 years, and opened my eyes.


7.  The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls


I only saw this film a few weeks ago and it’s a doco which looks at the lives of Jools and Lynda Topp - a yodeling, folk singing comedy duo to come out New Zealand. This is pure, joyous entertainment. I had a smile on my face the whole time. Their songs are terrific but we also see some of the great work they've done in their roles as political activists. This is the year's best documentary.


6.  500 Days Of Summer


Romantic comedies are usually my least favoured films but 500 Days Of Summer flips the genre on its head. The boy (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is the emotional character who believes in love at first sight. The girl (Zooey Deschanel) is the care-free character with a fear of commitment. Told creatively through flashbacks, this is a terrific film with an awesome soundtrack.


5.  Departures


Departures was an uplifting tear-jerker about an unemployed cellist who finds work in a funeral home. He helps prepare the dead for whatever lies beyond. This Japanese film won the Oscar for best foreign language film earlier in the year and now I know why. Softly directed and deeply moving. Just incredible.


4.  Summer Hours


Summer Hours was a beautiful French film about three siblings who have some tough decisions to make following the death of their elderly mother. It makes you think about how much we really know our own families and the way in which we feel a connection with material possessions.  Reflective, comforting and thought provoking.  Director Olivier Assayas has done well.


3.  Revolutionary Road


Revolutionary Road stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as a young couple in the 1950s having some serious marital problems.  I loved the intricacies of the characters but boy, this was heavy going.  It’s dark and depressing.  Watching these two characters argue so heatedly on screen made me very sad.  But this is a compliment and it shows just how powerful a movie can be.


2.  Avatar


Avatar has raised the bar in terms of action movies. This is the most spectacularly visual film ever seen on a big screen. It made me feel like a kid again. The "critic" side of my brain was switched off - I just sat back and immersed myself in this epic adventure. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has loved it and I think this is going to be high atop of the box-office charts for a few weeks.  Can it win the Oscar?  I’ve now seen it twice and think it’s a big chance.


1.  The Wrestler


The Wrestler was released way back in January but all year I’ve had an inkling that it’d be my number 1 film of the year.  As the credits started to roll, I wanted to stand up in my seat and cheer.  Mickey Rourke plays a semi-retired wrestler who tries to resurrect his career and repair his relationship with his teenage daughter.  It highlights the harsh realities of professional sport but it’s ultimately a movie about a broken man trying to find a purpose for his life.  I won’t easy forget it.



The Film Pie banner on my website has been updated to show an image from these 10 films – a tradition I’ve adopted for the last five years.


As this is my final blog of 2009, I’d like to wish everyone “a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Krazy Kwanzaa, a Tip-Top Tet, and a solemn and meaningful Ramadan.


I look forward to a great year of cinema in 2010.  See you at the movies!


It’s the penultimate blog of 2009.  Next week, I’ll unveil the final version of my top 10 list of 2009.  If you’re looking for a sneak peak, you can listen my 612ABC show from last Thursday where I went through the list with Spencer.  We also took some talkback on people’s favourites.  You can listen right here -


612ABC Best Of Year Show


One film which will be making the list (which wasn’t included in the show) is Avatar, which I saw last Friday night.  It is simply stunning and you must see it.  The reviews from most critics have been glowing and this is going to win a lot of Oscars (certainly in the technical categories).  Whether it can win the big one remains to be seen but this movie has serious momentum and will make a lot of money.


AFI Awards


The 2009 AFI Awards were held over the weekend and here were the major winners –


Best Film – Samson & Delilah

Best Director – Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah)

Best Original Screenplay – Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah)

Best Adapted Screenplay – David Williamson & Robert Connolly (Balibo)

Best Actor – Anthony LaPaglia (Balibo)

Best Actress – Frances O’Connor (Blessed)

Best Supporting Actor – Oscar Issac (Balibo)

Best Supporting Actress – Rachel Griffiths (Beautiful Kate)


Not to sound like a broken record but 2009 has been a great year for Australian cinema in terms of quality.  I’ve seen plenty of amazing films and I can’t begrudge Samson & Delilah winning the top prize.  I have a soft spot for Balibo after meeting Anthony LaPaglia and hosting a Q&A earlier in the year.  It was nice to see that film recognised also – and LaPaglia deservedly winning the best actor prize.  I also supported the win of Frances O’Connor for best actress after 4 previous nominations without a win.


I don’t know what’s in the works for 2010 but let’s hope some more terrific Aussie films will be seen.


3D Reaches Dendy Portside


The Dendy Portside cinemas are the latest to acquire a 3D projector.  They’ve gotten in just in time and I think the Dendy would be a superb venue to watch the 3D version of Avatar.  Tickets are $18.50 for adults and $15.00 for Club Dendy members.  I know it sounds a little pricey but as I’ve spoken about previously, these projectors are expensive and the cinemas have to find some way of recouping the large cost.


Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Drama


For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been slowly revealing my best films of the decade.


We’re done to the grand finale this week – my two favourite drama films.  And I have to admit that when I think about, these two films would be my OVERALL favourites of the decade.  I’ve seen them a lot of times and I’ve never grown tired of them.


Both were released back in 2000 and they are…


    Billy Elliot (released in 2000) – full review is here.


    Magnolia (released in 2000) - full review is here


I ended up seeing Billy Elliot five times at the cinema.  That sounds a little crazy I know but I took different groups of friends each time.  It’s an incredible story which is told so beautifully by director Stephen Daldry (who earned an Oscar nomination).  There are so many great scenes and if I started talking about it now, I wouldn’t stop.


In 2005, I went to London to attend the British Open golf but also high on my list to do was see Billy Elliot: The Musical.  I queued up for 3 hours to get tickets (front row, centre) and simply adored it.  To see it with the original cast made the experience all the more special given it has become a worldwide sensation and is still being performed in both London and New York.


Magnolia is a completely different film – a 3 hour ensemble piece that you will either love or hate.  Paul Thomas Anderson is a talented director and this is his masterpiece.  He tells a compelling story but does so poetically – with the use of his camera lens and Jon Brion’s film score.  My favourite scene is a continuous take where the camera follows around a group of characters with no editing whatsoever.  He used the same technique in Boogie Nights and Punch Drunk Love.  The opening is brilliant and the ending is poignant.  This could be my most watched film on DVD.


Drama is a huge category and honourable mentions go to – American Beauty, Traffic, Monster’s Ball, The Quiet American, Million Dollar Baby, Capote, The Departed, United 93, The Wrestler, The Cider House Rules, The Insider, Topsy-Turvy, Wonder Boys, Almost Famous, Cast Away, The Contender, Thirteen Days, Bloody Sunday, Black Hawk Down, Last Orders, City Of God, The Emperor’s Club, The Pianist, 21 Grams, Elephant, House Of Sand & Fog, Touching The Void, The Constant Gardener, Good Night And Good Luck, Look Both Ways, Mysterious Skin, Sideways, Match Point, Atonement, Blood Diamond, Michael Clayton, The Namesake, No Country For Old Men, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, There Will Be Blood, Milk, The Reader and Revolutionary Road.  Just to name a few…


If you missed past blogs, you can currently check out all my other favourite films of the decade on the front page of my website.


Award Season Has Begun!


The award season has begun with the National Board of Review announcing their picks for the best of the year.  They are traditionally not a very good judge but they’ve gone with one of the favourites in giving Up In The Air the prize for best picture.  The leading critic organisations will announce their awards in the next few weeks and it’s those which I’m more interested in.  I’ll keep you posted.


A Cool Movie Poster


They say that a picture paints 1,000 words.  That being the case, a movie poster should be able to do more than I feebly attempt in my reviews.


I really like the poster for The French Kissers which is out on Boxing Day.  You can view it by clicking here.  I can’t help but be drawn in by the awkward look on the boy’s face.  The yellow background and quotes give it a really cool, hip look.


It was put together by Carnival Studio in Sydney and they get my kudos for the week.


Horror Spoof Trailers


You can find just about anything on Youtube and one craze I’ve stumbled upon are people taking classic movies and cutting them together to look like a horror trailer.


One of the best is for Mary Poppins which you can view by clicking here.


There are some other great ones out there which I’ll leave you to find.  Very creative some people are.


Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Mind F***


We’re down to the last two weeks of my “best of the decade” series.  I had to come up with a new genre so as to be able to include these two particular films.


I saw both of these movies at the Dendy George Street Cinemas and they blew me away.  They are visually amazing and you could watch them 10 times without fully appreciating everything.  Darren Aronofsky and David Lynch are two amazing directors.


These two films are…


    Mulholland Drive (released in 2002) – full review is here.


    Requiem For A Dream (released in 2001) - full review is here.


Next week is the last genre – drama.  And the two films I’ve selected would be my favourite two films (of any kind) over the past 10 years.  I look forward to revealing them.


Worst Of The Year - 2009


I’ve been reviewing movies since 1996 and I always love putting together my best and worst of the year lists.  This time around, I’m splitting it up into two parts.  This week, I’m going to cover my worst 10 films of 2009.  Now I know there’s still a small number of films which I’m yet to see but since I’ve chalked up 225 reviews already in 2009, I think I’m in a fair position to be able to make the call.


Before I kick things off, my worst film by year since I’ve been doing this have been – The Crow: City Of Angels (1996), The Stupids (1997), Tarzan & The Lost City (1998), Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999), Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000), Glitter (2001), Blurred (2002), Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever (2003), Van Helsing (2004), Fun With Dick & Jane (2005), A Sound Of Thunder (2006), Daddy Day Camp (2007) and The Love Guru (2008).


As always, it was tough putting this list together.  There were plenty of great movies but it seemed like there just as many bad ones.  Here then is my 2009 graduating class in order of worseness.


10. Dragonball Evolution


When I saw this film, I said to the cinema ticket selling guy – “I would regrettably like two tickets to Dragonball: Evolution”.  He laughed.  So yes, I admit to going into the film with low expectations but this is one of those cases where the book can be judged by its cover.  Based on the television series, it set a level for mediocrity that made most of the other films this year look very, very good.


9. Twelve Rounds


A guy has had his girlfriend kidnapped by some nasty people and he has to complete 12 challenges if he wants to save her.  This action flick for adrenalin junkies was directed by Renny Harlin – the man responsible for Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger.  His best days may be behind him because this delivered one of my all time pet hates – stupid, unrealistic action sequences.  I prefer story over mindless action.


8. My Bloody Valentine


My Bloody Valentine was a slasher film released over the Valentine’s Day weekend in Australia to give people an alternative (I guess) from your traditional, fluffy romantic comedies.  I wish they hadn’t.  This is as bad as a horror film can get.  Poorly acted.  No suspense.  Silly ending.


7. I Really Hate My Job


The title might sound interesting but once you start watching this, you’ll realise how wrong you were.  It's about 5 women and their one night trying to run a small restaurant.  Was there worse acting in a film this year?  It only received a tiny two week release in Brisbane cinemas but they needn’t of bothered.  It should have gone straight to DVD… or even worse.


6. Bride Wars


I saw this film with a friend and the look of disbelief on our faces when the end credits started to roll said it all.  Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson played two bitchy, selfish women who end up in an “all out” war over the date of their respective weddings.  I didn’t end up writing a full length review because I didn’t think I had enough adjectives in my repertoire to fully express just how bad it was.


5. Seven Pounds


Ok, we’re getting close to the bottom of the barrel now.  I’m not a Will Smith fan but I can usually tolerate his movies.  Until now at least.  Seven Pounds is manipulative garbage.  A man thinks he can deem himself for his wrongdoings by going on some ridiculous journey which he knows will end in his own death.  I could see the twists coming from the cinema car park.  I know a lot of people liked this but NOT ME.


4. Prey


There’s usually one Aussie film which makes my worst list and this year’s contender is Prey.  Interest in the film was high.  I saw it Saturday night at 9pm at the Palace Barracks during its opening week. I was the only poor soul in the cinema. That’s a good thing for everyone except me.  It was a horror flick starring Natalie Bassingthwaighte with some truly dreadful acting.  It has 51 votes on the IMDB with an average score of 2.2.  That says it all.


3. All About Steve


One day, Sandra Bullock is going to make an awesome movie which I will love.  I’ll then regret all the negative comments I’ve said about her.  Until that time comes, all I can do is chastise Bullock for her idiotic film choices.  I hated The Proposal (which sits just outside my worst 10 list) but All About Steve, a romantic comedy where she is paired alongside Bradley Cooper, could be her worst yet.


2. 2012


It was a split between this one and my next film to decide which was the worst of the year.  I decided I just couldn’t give that honour to a John Cusack movie.  2012 is just a farce.  One unrealistic scenario after the other with no character development.  I wasn’t even that impressed with the special effects.  If the world really did end tomorrow, I would die happily knowing that I never have to watching rubbish like this ever again.


1. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of The Cobra


I almost fell asleep while I was watching this.  I had no idea what was going on.  All I saw on screen was a blur of incoherent nonsense.  Some people will say it’s just a fun action film.  I will say it’s the worst film of 2009.  We’ve all entitled to our own opinions and yes, that’s mine.  May they never make a sequel.



I feel so vindictive after all those evil words.  I hope none of the filmmakers ever read this.  But hey, maybe they’ll bounce back and make some really awesome movies in the future.  Maybe.  Perhaps they’ll end up living in a ditch.  Damn, there I go again.  Must stop it.


I’ll be revealing my best 10 films of the year on my 612ABC spot with Spencer Howson this week but I’m not yet sure if it’ll be on Thursday or Friday morning.  Am waiting for confirmation.  You can hear it first on 612ABC or see me write all about it in a future blog.