Top 10 superhero films of the last decade

We’re living in a time of caped crusaders, masked vigilantes, mutants with god complexes… anyway, you get the idea. Plucking a time period of the last ten years out the air to give this thing some parameters, here are my favourites, along with my reasons why.

10. Thor (2011)
Deciding that you’re going to stick a Norse God on screen and do it in a serious manner must have been a tough meeting. However, this is one that Marvel – and director Ken Branagh – pulled off with skill and dexterity, with Chris Hemsworth bringing the golden-haired chap to life with conviction. This film also introduced us to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki – a character that stole every scene he was in and threatened to steal the entire movie.

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9. Chronicle (2012)
Newcomer director Josh Trank twisted everyone’s melon with this found footage take on the genre. After three lads explore a hole in the ground they end up with a number of special powers. However one of them (the excellent Dane DeHaan) goes a bit mad with inner torment that causes things to quickly go awry. This film is about as far removed from the rest on the list as you can get, which makes it a refreshing change and worth a watch.

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8. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And in the case of director Bryan Singer that was exactly the case, after he returned to the franchise he’d started all those years ago. To give himself a challenge he opted to go for the most mind bending plot yet, involving time travel and fighting in the past and the future. He also drew out some fine performances from Michael Fassbender as Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique.

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7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Guillermo del Toro really doesn’t get enough credit for the level of detail that went into some of the sets and scenes for this movie. The troll market, in particular, was astonishly detailed and quite masterful. Then there’s his characters, from Ron Perlman’s Hellboy to Doug Jones’ Abe Sapien, each were so well rounded, interesting and, despite their supernatural looks, human and fallible to the core.

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6. Iron Man (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. aka an insurance nightmare, aka a massive punt by the studio, aka an actor at possibly the last chance saloon. Well, whadda ya know, he pulled it off, with a performance that wowed critics and audience and started a billion dollar franchise. And now, with his rapid fire delivery of lines and nonchalent attitude, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role.

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5. Watchmen (2009)
Another director that has his critics, yet Zack Snyder managed to bring what was widely considered an unfilmable graphic novel to the screen in a manner which emphatically delivered. Visually, it looked stunning, the story was well handled and the performances (particularly Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl and Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach) were outstanding.

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4. Kick Ass (2010)
With everyone’s attention firmly fixed on the big studios for the next superhero film, this one – independently financed – snuck its way onto our screens and made a massive impact. Director Matthew Vaughn managed to rouse Nic Cage from his slumber to deliver a barnstorming performance. He also introduced us to the acting talents of Chloe Grace Moretz.

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3. Batman Begins (2005)
It’s easy to forget that Christopher Nolan’s trilogy had to start somewhere for it to be as wildly successful as it was. And it began with Christian Bale and lots of character building. Indeed it was about 45 minutes of screen time before we actually saw Bale as the Bat. Yet it was worth the wait as Nolan had crafted a believable hero for the modern age and firmly shut the door on past versions of the character.

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2. The Avengers (2012)
Bringing together a bunch of superheroes in an ensemble piece is a big undertaking. If this hadn’t of worked, Marvel would have had to go back to the drawing board for a serious rethink. Luckily they weren’t to worry for they were in safe hands, those of director Joss Whedon. His sparky dialogue and style perfectly suited to a bunch of heroes that spend almost as much time fighting each other as they do their enemies.

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1. The Dark Knight (2008)
What can you say about Heath Ledger’s Joker that hasn’t already been said? Whilst his performance got him a posthumous Oscar, it was not just his film alone (although he stole every scene he was in). Bale – ever the trooper – had to face off against him, and also probably delivered his best performance of the trilogy in what was effectively a triple role as Bruce Wayne the man, the playboy and the vigilante.

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Masks in movies: the weird, wacky and horrific

‘No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.’
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Masks are fascinating. We all wear masks – of a sort – every day. It’s rare to meet a completely open person. And in film, a mask is intriguing. It can serve a number of purposes. For example, they can be used to heighten or accentuate your personality, or give you a different one altogether. They can be used to hide or reveal, to confuse or mislead, and as armour in defence or offense (to coin an American phrase).

They come in many different shapes and sizes, some functional, some more flamboyant (as we’ll see from my list below). Here are some of my favourite masks, characters, and the actors who wore them.

Michael-Fassbender-as-Frank-p002Frank (2014) – Michael Fassbender
More a giant head but still a mask of sorts. Fassbender plays the enigmatic leading man of a band struggling to find their sound in this quirky yet tragic tale.

V for Vendetta (2005) – Hugo Weaving
Never once removing his mask, Weaving plays this anarchist crime fighter to the letter in this adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel.

The Mask (1994) – Jim Carrey
Transforming from sad sack Stanley Ipkiss into the God of Mischief each time he donned the mask, Carrey firmly put himself on Hollywood’s A-list with this exuberant performance.

The Skin I Live In (2011) – Elena Anaya
The-Skin-I-Live-In-Review-The-Film-Pilgrim-Anaya-BanderasWhilst the actress named above wears the mask, this film is undoubtedly Antonio Banderas’s in terms of performance, teaming up with Pedro Almodovar in this creepy tale.

Vanilla Sky (2001) – Tom Cruise
Disfigured after a car accident Cruise’s character spends a large part of the film hiding behind a weirdly androgynous mask designed to heal his scars. Or does he?

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – Tom Cruise
Hands up, who’s in a troubled marriage and wants to attend a high society sex party? Tom Cruise’s character does that’s who. Sneaking his way in with a black robe and handy mask.

Batman Begins (2005) – Cillian Murphy
Intelligent and intense yet wildly unhinged, Murphy’s portrayal of the Scarecrow in Nolan’s first Batman outing was mightily impressive and firmly ticked the creepy box.point-break-mask

Point Break (1991) – Patrick Swayze
Charismatic surfer cum bank robber Bodhi’s modus operandi when on a heist involved him and his team donning masks of ex-Presidents.

Watchmen (2009) – Jackie Earle Haley
Rorschach’s mask was unlike most others, in that it reflected his personality, the inky lines shifting and swirling with his mood.

Warm out today, warm yesterday – blisters on me fingers

milkHmm, seems summer has come to an end. Well, it’s no longer over 30 degrees anyway. Twas a good heatwave, the length of which this country hasn’t seen in quite some time.

To pay tribute to the crazy climate, I’ve compiled my favourite cinematic moments linked to heat. Mix yourself a mohito, sit back, read and enjoy.

  • Death of Captain Kaneda
    The impressive and arguably underrated Danny Boyle/Alex Garland collaboration, Sunshine (2007). Astronauts on a mission to save the sun. The Captain sacrificing his life to fix the ship’s shields was a powerful, emotional scene.
  • Dr Manhattan is born
    Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen was expertly brought to life by Zack Synder in 2009. In this scene character Jon Osterman – played by Billy Crudup – gets incinerated in a nuclear accident, then reforms as the godlike Dr Manhattan.
  • I hate you! Anakin burns
    Whilst I’m not a massive fan of the prequels, this climactic scene in Revenge of the Sith (2005) is actually brilliant and tonally closest to the originals. McGregor finally loosens up and Christensen as Anakin shows a glimmer of emotion.
  • Evey is reborn
    In another Alan Moore adaptation V for Vendetta (2005), Evey – played by Natalie Portman – is reborn after V tortures her. Her rebirth is intercut with clips of V’s rebirth from the fire, thus binding them closer as characters. Great scene.
  • May I have a glass of water?
    Beatrix Kiddo: dusty, hot, tired, just clawed her way out of a coffin where she was buried alive; walks into a diner and politely asks for some water. Western music powerfully scoring the scene in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol II (2005).
  • Milk was a bad choice!
    Thinking his beloved dog Baxter dead, Ron Burgundy in Anchorman (2004) – unshaven and dishevelled – mourns him; wandering the streets on a hot day drinking milk from the carton.  Pure comedy gold.
  • Are you going to tell my daddy?
    So it’s not all burning to death and drama, I thought I’d sex things up with a scene from Swimming Pool (2003), a fairly low-key French-British film starring Charles Dance, Charlotte Rampling and the delectable Ludivine Sagnier.

To finish, here’s a (quite badly filmed) clip of Family Guy. Stewie and the Cowtones playing ‘My fat baby loves to eat’. When the sun comes out, there’s nothing quite like the dulcet tones of a banjo to while the day away.