In no particular order here are FIFTEEN moments, actors, scenes, characters, set-pieces, dialogue etc. which stuck in my noggin during the year of 2014.
SET-PIECE OF 2014 – QUIKSILVER SCENE IN FORT KNOX DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
VISION – JONATHAN GLAZER – UNDER THE SKIN (2013)
Glazer showed that with a low budget, vision and powerful concept you could genuinely move, surprise, creep and capture the imagination of an audience. Sparse and enigmatic this film was my best of the year while scene on the beach was one of the most harrowing I ever seen. I hope this filmmaker doesn’t leave such a gap following the under-rated Birth (2004) ten years prior.
VILLAIN – MARTON CSOKAS – THE EQUALIZER (2014)
This okay-Denzil Washington-violent-80s-remake was lifted above the parapet by a stunning turn by Marton Csokas as the main evil Russian stereotype. I had a lot of fun with his actoring as he scoffed not just the furniture but the upholstery as well.
KICKING ASS – EMILY BLUNT – EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)
Doug Liman’s very entertaining sci-fi movie turned the gender tables with Blunt playing the action hero. Of course, the universe could not sustain such a polarity and in the final act Cruise’s initial anti-heroism was blown away. But it was good while it lasted!
FUNNIEST USE OF AIR BAGS – BAD NEIGHBOURS (2014)
BEST FIGHT SCENE IN A LIFT – CAPTAIN AMERICA: TWS (2014)
WORST BEST MAN’S SPEECH EVER – TRUE DETECTIVE (2014)
Take it away Nic Pizzolatto and McConaughey in the best monologue of the year.
HAIR – AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)
A funny and suspenseful character-led con story found Bale, Lawrence, Cooper and Adams chewing up the scenery. However, their scenes were quite often stolen by their hairstyles and toupees.
STYLE – INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)
Not much happened in this story of a failed folk musician grieving for a lost friend. But the whole design, look, colour, cinematography, music, period setting and cast made it an utter joy from start to end.
AWE-INSPIRING VISUALS – INTERSTELLAR (2014)
I have only seen this film once but had very big problems with the script but there is no taking away the incredible visuals on show. It was the storytelling and what the humans were saying I took issue with.
DEPICTION OF ADDICTION – THORIN OAKENSHIELD THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE 5 ARMIES (2014)
Peter Jackson dug into his box of magic tricks to pull off ANOTHER Tolkien-inspired series of battles. But it was Thorin’s battle with his addiction to gold which I connected with most.
BEST WAR – DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
Arguably one of the most enduring images of the year was Koba riding into battle with fire burning behind him capturing the passion and anger of the character and intensity of battle raging at the time.
ONE TAKE – TRUE DETECTIVE (2014)
MOST COMPELLING CHARACTER LOU BLOOM/JAKE GYLLENTHAL – NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)
In 2014 I set myself a project which was to write a review for every film I saw at the cinema and post on my blog. I viewed TWENTY-EIGHT films at the cinema in 2014 and pretty much achieved my writing goal aside from one anomaly which is in hand.
Why EIGHT you may ask? Well, I wanted to put a bit of pressure on myself to really nail these choices and TOP TEN’S are a bit obvious too. Of course there are loads of films I DID NOT see plus many, many more films I did see on DVD, Netflix and Sky but you can only judge a films’ true qualities by watching it on the big screen.
So, these are my TOP EIGHT FAVOURITEST CINEMA FILMS OF 2014. They are maybe not necessarily the most-awards-friendly-critically- acclaimed films hence but they are the ones which completely blew me away when I saw them. They are ALL films I saw at the cinema BUT for one which is a TV movie. If you’ve seen it you’ll know why it’s on the list.
For the record the list will include: the film title; link to original review; quote from post; and a clip.
“UNIQUE filmmaking comes along every so often into the Multiplexes. This is cinematic Art of the highest quality, a sheer visual treat and an unnerving and very memorable experience…
..like all great art it stayed with me and I could not get it out of my mind. And I still can’t. It’s not a super-hero film. It’s not a date movie. It’s not a 3-D CGI sick-fest. It’s pure, pulsing, hypnotic cinema of the highest quality…”
**Yes I know this wasn’t on the cinema but it should’ve been!**
“Writer Nic Pizzolatto delivers a corrupt vision of humanity,
Amidst the Cajun swamps we’re in David Fincher territory,
Standard cop stuff like the Chief screaming “you’re off the case!”,
Is deftly masked by Cary Fukunaga’s directorial style and pace,
McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is post-modern Sherlock, He will never cease until the mystery is unlocked, Allied with Harrelson’s Watson the two just won’t stop, Title may say True Detective but it should be Existential Cop!”
“Bloom was a ghost; a shell of a man with little in the way of backstory and yet through his actions we absorb the horror of his character. I was drawn in so much by Gyllenthaal’s magnetic performance as well as a fine supporting cast… Through Bloom the parasitic press and public are shown to both be vampires draining the life out of humanity. WE ARE ALL MONSTERS AT HEART!”
“Captain America: TWS delivers in a way The Avengers did. Although it’s a darker, grounded and more complex film as the screenplay transplants the story of conspiracy thriller Three Days of the Condor (1975) into the Marvel Universe… links well the past and present; soldiers attempting to come to terms with post-war issues; Roger’s regret over historical events and a touching Benjamin Buttonesque scene with a character from the first movie. Moreover, there’s also some neat socio-political commentary in their too with references to shadowy NSA operations and Government kill lists. Of course none of this gets in the way of the rip-roaring action.”
“Martin Scorcese is one of the greatest living filmmakers still working today and The Wolf of Wall Street feels like a greatest hits package combining all of the finer ingredients from his other films. You’ve got the classic swooning camera moves; the direct address to camera; cat-and-dog couples fighting as seen in Casino and Goodfellas; the boat-in-peril sequence as seen in Cape Fear; the multi-character voiceovers; the dumb criminals putting themselves in the shit; characters turning on each other and ratting each other out as seen most recently in The Departed; plus many more.”
“I loved this film for so many reasons. It’s a nostalgic rush and push of music, action, fantastical creatures, space operatics, zinging one-liners, knowing humour, spectacular effects and in Chris Pratt — a new cinema star (lord) for the millennium is born. Let’s be honest there isn’t an original bone in its body but the fleshy pastiche and meaty cultural references Guardians of the Galaxy wears proudly on its sleeves take the audience on one hell of a journey”
“… the original book and 1968 film and gave us some serious action and brain-food encompassing themes and historical events such as: Darwinism; dystopic future visions; civil and social unrest; slavery; man’s inhumanity to animals; medical experimentation; the Vietnam and Cold war; civilisation versus savagery; anthropology; Frankenstein myth; space and time travel; and many other socio-political and science fictional motifs. Overall, the Apes series is a conceptual and cultural phenomenon and Dawn of the Planet is a wonderful addition to the series.”
“There is so much heartache in the character of Turing. The flashbacks to Turing’s school years when he was bullied and suffered personal loss garners further pathos. Moreover, the “peas and carrots” scene alludes to the possibility of Turing having Asperger’s or similar high-functioning autism. And in Benedict Cumberbatch we have an actor who imbues Turing with a grandiose pain which I found genuinely moving. Here’s is an actor — who while cornering the market on misfit geniuses — once again shows terrific range and surely he will be nominated come Awards ceremony time.”
Seasons greetings! Double busy leading up to Christmas with lots of cultural stuff going on so I’ve consolidated all my viewings, derring-dos and reviews of last week into one manageable post. Enjoy!
**Contains mild spoilers**
BILL BURR – I’M SORRY YOU FEEL THAT WAY (2014) – (NETFLIX)
The Massachusett’s born fortysomething everyman comedian is an absolute straight-talking joy. He sails close to controversy on many occasions giving political correctness no mind at all. But it’s not shock for shock’s sake but rather well thought out and cutting rants covering domestic violence, plastic surgery, guns and the cult of celebrity. I particularly love his cracking-take-no-prisoners-delivery and he is very adept at imaginary on-stage conversations which are relentlessly hilarious, hitting his targets full in the face.
DR WHO – THE MIND ROBBERS (1968)/SEEDS OF DEATH (1968)
From the 6th season of the classic science-fiction serial, with Patrick Troughton as the eponymous time-traveller, these two episodic stories find PT on great form with Zoe and Jamie as his companions. The villains of each piece are The Master (not that one) of the Land of Fiction and The Ice Warriors in Seeds of Death. The latter foes are particularly nasty pieces of work although they do find themselves undone if you turn the heating up a bit. Troughton is a fantastic Doctor playing the fool while hiding a devious mind as he allows the enemy to think they have the upper hand before prevailing victorious.
DR WHO – SEASON 7 (inc. DAY OF THE DOCTOR)
I’ve really enjoyed Matt Smith’s final season as the Doctor and some of the episodes have provided some cracking televisual entertainment. Some of the concepts and plot twists, I must admit, I found initially baffling but that was because the writing was so fast-paced and spirited. But overall Steven Moffat and his whole production team deserve credit for a fun, funky and very dark (where Amy and Rory were concerned) season which also introduced a sparkling new companion in Clara (Jenna Coleman).
Personal highlights for me included: Asylum of the Daleks, The Angels Take Manhattan, Cold War, Hide and the 50th Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor which had THREE Doctors and a history-bending game changer. Brilliant to see John Hurt appear as The War Doctor and Tennant return also. I am very pleased too that I have watched the Time of the Doctor too and I am finally onto Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord; which is how this latest obsession began.
This obsidian painted comedy about family grief features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Hesher: a crazed-heavy-metal-anti-heroic-outsider-mentalist. Hesher crashes into the lives and the house of the Forney family as they attempt to get over a recent death. And while he seems to be a negative reality void sucking the life out of them he kind of becomes an anti-angel providing some kind of weird and wonderful family therapy.
It’s a difficult film to get into initially as it’s quite bizarre but ultimately it’s got a great little black heart of gold showing that togetherness will overcome. Despite an A-list cast including Natalie Portman it’s very much a low budget-under-the-radar gem with a loud heavy rock soundtrack.
PAUL FOOT – SECRET CHRISTMAS COMEDY SHOW 2014
Myself and Brett Sharpe have formed the Dr Who-Paul-Foot-Spurs-Supporters Fan Club. It’s very niche but inclusive club which anyone can join if they like those particular cultural phenomena. Our inaugural Christmas outing was to a secret location in London and involved seeing the master of merry mirth — Paul Foot — putting on his own little show for his fans or connoisseurs as he calls them. It was an incredible show made all the more marvellous because it was in an intimate venue above a pub. I cracked up throughout as Foot treated us to some of his greatest comedy hits including: RADA story; EUROSTAR story and how to get REVENGE on BED & BREAKFAST LADY.
RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) – BFI SCREENING
Here’s a surprise: I love Star Wars! Not the prequels but the original films. I saw them all at the cinema and they are three of the most perfect piece of entertainment one could hope for. They captured the imagination of a wide-eyed seven, ten and thirteen year boy (that’s me!) when each of the trilogy was released. With their: spaceships, creatures, heroes, mercenaries, droids, monsters, light-filled swords, noble Knights protecting the Empire and rebels battling gigantic Death Stars – WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE! I watched the final film in the trilogy at the BFI Southbank’s majestic cinema NFT1 and Return of the Jedi looked wonderful. I laughed, gasped and cheered in all the right places as Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, Han Solo etc. fight and defeat the Dark Side in a galaxy far, far away.
SPURS Vs NEWCASTLE – CAPITAL ONE CUP QUARTER FINAL
I went to White Hart Lane to watch Spurs against Newcastle in the Capital One cup and what a terrific performance they put on. It was tight for a while against an under strength Toon – who had been in good form in the League – but a mistake from their young keeper allowed Bentaleb to score the first. Chadli made it 2-0 with a fine run and shot before Kane and Soldado finished the Northerners off! The great news is we got Sheffield United in the semi-final so MUST have a positive chance of getting to the final at Wembley. Since this game we also beat Burnley 2-1 at home so allied to our last-gasp win against Swansea the Pocchettino’s Spurs are on a grand roll for now.
ST VINCENT (2014) – FILM REVIEW
I love Bill Murray. The guy is a comedy legend and general all-round media eccentric. He’s been in some terrible films and some classic movies. The one over-riding consistency in all his movies are he is ALWAYS brilliant. In St Vincent he plays a curmudgeonly scoundrel who sleeps with hookers and drinks himself unconscious. When Melissa McCarthy’s single mother Maggie and her son Oliver move in next door Vincent becomes an unlikely babysitter to the boy. It’s an okay film which promises much dark and bittersweet humour in the vein of Bad Santa (2003).
However, while Vincent starts off as a bit of a scumbag he is redeemed far too easily for my liking and while the script is very witty it runs out of steam just past halfway and even Murray cannot save an overly saccharine and sickening ending. Also, Naomi Watts is wasted as an offensive stereotypical Eastern European prostitute while McCarthy is criminally underplayed given very little to do. A disappointment overall as all the plot strands are resolved easily and without any real comic or dramatic thunder.
Me and my son Rhys have a Christmas tradition (well of the last 3 years) which involves going to the cinema to watch an action-packed if overlong adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s classic novel The Hobbit. After all watching Elves, Men, Women, Wizard, Eagles, Dwarves etc., slaying Orcs are what Christmas is all about! And while I munch on my popcorn and slurp my diabetes inducing soda my son falls asleep. It’s a comforting bonding experience between father and son and I just don’t know what I’m going to do NEXT year! Oh wait, the new new new Star Wars: A Force Awakens (2015) comes out. Problem solved!
Peter Jackson is one of my directorial heroes because made his own way up the cinematic ladder. On zero budgets he made cult classics such as: Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles (1989) and one of the best films ever made Braindead (1992). He then made the exquisite Heavenly Creatures (1994) which also introduced us to the ample talents of one Kate Winslet. Following the under-rated ghoulish horror-action-comedy The Frighteners (1996) he immersed himself in the world of Tolkien and delivered a brilliant vision of the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy reaching a peak as a director of epic proportions. Of course he has now returned to the king of fantasy in the last few years with The Hobbit trilogy and I’ll be honest there was absolutely no need, in terms of story, to make THREE films out of the book. But hey, he’s done it and the final film is arguably the best of the lot.
If Lord of The Ring’s was Tolkien’s allegory for World War II then The Hobbit is clearly his response to the first ‘Great’ war; and not a chocolate bar or game of football in sight. Because the rise of Sauron echoes the rise of Fascism and the battle at Lonely Mountain — following Smaug the Dragon’s desolation of Laketown — mirrors the ruling classes battle over land rights (amongst other complex issues) which led to the disgusting loss of life during World War I. Thus, with Thorin Oakenshield holding the mountain Dwarves, Elves, Men and Monsters congregate for one hell of a battle.
While it took a while to get there with two half-decent films afore Peter Jackson’s Battle of the Five Armies is a tremendous, staunch and bruising finale to Tolkien’s amazing vision. There is not much plot but rather incredible action and great visual storytelling. The images created showing Thorin’s descent into gold madness as he battles his addiction and greed were most memorable for me; especially at this time of ultra-consumerism. Moreover, the final battle sequences involving Thorin, Legolas, Kili and Tauriel were incredibly exciting and I had my heart in my mouth at moments. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) once again plays his part attempting to make peace and stop the folly of war plus the romance between Kili the Dwarf and beautiful Elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) added some unexpected pathos.
Overall this is a film to watch on the biggest screen you can find. Take your brain out, sit back and watch as Peter Jackson commandeers his units and soldiers from one lusty death blow to another. There was absolutely NO need to make three films out of Tolkien’s adventure but in a way I’m glad he did because there’s nothing I like more that to watch a great piece of orchestrated action at the cinema. At the end I turned to my son and found him snoring in the seat next to me and thought yes: Christmas is here!
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” – Old Chinese Proverb**
Thus, having seen Stanley Kubrik’s poetic space opera at the cinema last week I thought it unnecessary to write what can be said better with images. It is a work of absolute art which gets better on every viewing.
An influence on pretty much EVERY science-fiction film since its inception this film MUST be seen at the cinema. It’s on at the BFI at the moment so go before their brilliant sci-fi season closes.
What does it all mean? Something about life, death, future, past, present, humanity, aliens, peace, violence, Artificial Intelligence, technology, religion, heaven, hell and pretty much everything else. It’s up to the viewer to decide.
**Although there is some doubt on the Internet as to whether it was Russian author Turgenev who invented this phrase or whether it was an early 20th copywriter Fred Barnard trying to sell cars who coined this phrase. But who cares – just look at some pictures and be in awe to the genius of Stanley Kubrik and his filmmaking team.
Films based on “true” stories are interesting to review as they will inevitably distort situations in the name of drama. I personally do not mind if a film compresses times, characters and incidents as I am interested firstly in my emotional response to the story and characters more than historical authenticity. If I want accuracy I’ll rely on Wikipedia.
Yet, as films based on ‘real’ events go The Imitation Game (2014) is a creditable distillation of the WWII code-breaking heroics as well as being a high class theatrical tragedy in cinematic form. Having said that while the film acts as an excellent tribute to the genius of Alan Turing (phenomenal Benedict Cumberbatch), the work of others in the field such as the Polish code-breakers, Tommy Flowers and many others must also be recognised. But perhaps that is for another film altogether.
I didn’t know much about main protagonist Alan Turing prior to seeing this movie but having done some basic research one soon realises what a great British hero he was in terms of cracking the Nazi Enigma codes. Moreover, his incredible mind also contributed in some way to the invention of what you are reading this very review on right now. No, not http://www.wordpress.com but the actual computer itself.
The fact that one of humanity’s greatest minds was treated so badly because of his homosexuality is a genuine war crime. It’s also a massive indictment AGAINST the Government and the Official Secrets Act that Turing is only just being truly recognised for his outstanding work in the last few years. Indeed, one of the films main strengths — not forgetting Andrew Hodges’ book on which it is based — in bringing Turing’s story to the screen is it acts as a thrilling monument to a man so cruelly destroyed by an intolerant 1950s society.
The narrative switches between Turing’s life pre-war, post-war and in-between. Graham Moore’s screenplay is deftly written and well-paced; both personable and witty. In terms of genre we are in biography and war film territories with a sprinkling of espionage and suspense thrown in. The code-cracking team at Bletchley Park are a kind of super-intelligent version of Marvel’s Avengers and include a handsome cast supporting Cumberbatch including: Matthew Goode (the next James Bond I reckon), always reliable Mark Strong and a commendable turn from Keira Knightley.
Firstly the team clashes with the prickly and arrogant Turing. Then, of course, over time they come to respect him. Meanwhile, idiosyncratic Turing finds his main ally in Joan Clarke (Knightley) as their “romance” becomes the heartbeat of the piece amidst the manipulation of machines. Both hearts and minds are drawn to each other and the two get engaged. But Turing’s sexuality proves an obstacle to the marriage and there’s a wonderful scene which reflects this; beautifully played by Cumberbatch and Knightley and echoes — albeit more seriously — the classic “No one’s perfect” end-scene from Some Like It Hot (1959).
There is so much heartache in the character of Turing. The flashbacks to Turing’s school years when he was bullied and suffered personal loss garners further pathos. Moreover, the “peas and carrots” scene alludes to the possibility of Turing having Asperger’s or similar high-functioning autism. And in Benedict Cumberbatch we have an actor who imbues Turing with a grandiose pain which I found genuinely moving. Here’s is an actor — who while cornering the market on misfit geniuses — once again shows terrific range and surely he will be nominated come Awards ceremony time.
This is a tremendous drama directed by Morten Tyldum which is arguably more televisual than filmic. Indeed, it reminded of those amazing BBC Play For Today productions I grew up watching when a young boy. It works mainly as a fine biopic of an incredible man so cruelly persecuted for just being born slightly different. Yet it is also has touching romance and high drama as shown when having cracked the Enigma the team face the agony of having to hide the fact as a strategy to win the war. Ultimately, I left the cinema uplifted by the work these amazing code-breakers did and but also with anger in my heart; anger at the damned British Government for not rewarding Alan Turing for his miraculous contribution to the war effort. He deserved so much more.