Archive for December, 2014

So after looking at 13 films that I would rate as awful to average in my last article, I now come onto films I actually have good things to talk about and my top ten of 2014. Unlike the previous article, I have actually ranked this from 10 to 1.

Please note that in this article I will be talking about the films and will go into the ending of one or two in detail, so if you want to see any of the below and haven’t yet, don’t be surprised if there is a spoiler in there.

So we’ll start with my 10th favourite film of the year and a film that genuinely took me by surprise…..

10 – As Above, So BelowAs Above, So Below 2014

Directed by John Erick Dowdle

Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge and François Civil

When I first saw the poster and trailer for “As Above, So Below” I was convinced that I already knew exactly what would be happening, that it would ultimately turn out to be a poorly made film that didn’t have many scares and would ultimately be a waste of money. I didn’t get. What I got instead was arguably one of the best low-budget horror films I’ve seen in recent years that has had a wide distribution.

AASB follows a group of people who go in search of the philosopher’s stone and in the catacombs underneath Paris, including some locals who claim to know the catacombs very well. Despite a promising start, the group finds themselves being forced to go further and further down as entrances disappear behind them. Eventually they find an inscription over an opening that reads “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” which is allegedly over the gates to of hell.

Once they crawl through they are all faced with personal demons and the group are killed off one by one before only three are left and they are forced to confront and get over their personal difficulties before they eventually find their way out, although the ending does leave it very open as to whether they have actually escaped hell, or whether they have just gone into a lower level of hell.

For me that questionable ending is excellent as it constantly makes you question as to whether they are actually out or not, and on the IMDB page there is a very large debate going on at the moment about the fate of the characters. That’s what I like in a film, something memorable and it certainly does that.

AASB was a big surprise for me as the horror isn’t done via jump scares but is instead through the psychological terror and panic of the characters as they realise what is happening to them and having to confront their personal demons, and for me the standout performer is Civil, who brilliantly shows his character’s initial self-assured nature transformed into someone who becomes extremely terrified at a very early stage before he is eventually killed off.

AASB is a very enjoyable horror film that isn’t actually that predictable and is one of the more genuinely scary horror films in recent years.

 

 

9 – Maleficent

legal_MALEFICENT_03_720

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Starring Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Rile, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple.

Again, I’m not going to lie, I was expecting “Maleficent” to be absolutely terrible, but I actually found myself engrossed with what was going on and even though it is a massive CGI-fest, filmed in Hollywood’s nicest green screens, I enjoyed it more than any of the other re-imaginings of Disney films in recent years.

In recent years a lot of fairytale style stories have been poorly re-imagined. One such example of this was “Snow White and the Huntsman” and it wasn’t helped by a poor story, but also that Snow White is supposedly the fairest of them all, and they chose the personality vacuum that is Kirsten Stewart to play her. Stewart isn’t a good actress and there are far more attractive young, female actresses around, so it was a bizarre choice, but “Maleficent” doesn’t fall into that trap.

What I liked most about the film was that it gave the character of Maleficent a very human feel to her. You genuinely get pissed off for her when he wings are stolen because of greed and you understand why she becomes so angry and does what she does. If you’ve seen the original “Sleeping Beauty” then you naturally have a hard time adapting to the Maleficent character not being pure evil, afterall, the word does mean evil, but giving her that protagonist element actually works.

Jolie does a delightful job as both protagonist and antagonist throughout the film, almost reveling in playing the character during the time where she is an outright antagonist. She hasn’t played many antagonists during her career and you can tell that she is making the most of it.

The casting of Elle Fanning as Aurora was also a good casting choice. Elle, who is a far, far, far better actress than her sister Dakota, is, for lack of better words, adoreable as the playful Aurora, and the casting director hit a home run with the casting of Sharlto Copley as King Stefan. Copley, who is still riding high from his breakthrough in District 9, has had some suspect film choices in recent years but he excels as the paranoid king, and Sam Riley is equally as convincing in his role as Diaval.

Maleficent may use a lot of special effects, but it has what you need to keep it watchable and that is a good storyline and decent acting. I’ve seen a lot of films down the years where they have relied on too much special effects and the film/acting has been terrible (Sucker Punch comes straight to mind), but this isn’t one of them and at just over 90 minutes long, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

 

 

8 – Black Sea

Directed by Kevin MacDonaldBS-003-Key-Art-One-Sheet_FINAL2

Starring Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Karl Davies and Ben Mendelsohn

I have actually already reviewed this film recently on this site and the fact it’s the only previously reviewed film in this list shows how much I liked this low budget film. This film hasn’t actually been released in America yet and won’t be until January, so I would urge anyone in America to watch this as it as very enjoyable.

The story focuses around Robinson (Law), a former submarine captain for a salvage company, has just been made redundant but because he never had a contract, his compensation package is significantly lower than he expected and because of this he is enraged. He soon hears of a sunken submarine from World War Two that is rumoured to hold around £180 million worth of gold bars that can’t be brought up by his former company, even though they know about it (due political unrest of the Black Sea between Georgia and Russia) and he decides to get it himself.

He enlists the help of 11 other men, 5 British and 6 Russian, however, they are accompanied by a representative of the expedition’s financial backer, Daniels (McNairy). Although all seems fine at first, some members of the crew feel that evenly distributing the bounty of unfair, mainly Fraser (Mendelsohn), who enrages the Russian half of the crew when he kills one of them.

In the ensuing fights, the sub sinks to the ocean bed and devoid of energy, and now they have to hope that the Nazi submarine is somewhere nearby. Despite getting the gold and making it back to their own submarine, a dangerous maneuver to escape through a deep sea cavern sees the submarine eventually sink to the bottom of the black sea and it eventually floods with only two of the characters managing to escape.

Again, as I’ve already reviewed this film recently I don’t want to repeat myself too much, so here is the link to that review – BLACK SEA -. I would seriously recommend watching Black Sea when you get the chance, you will love it.

 

 

7 – Horns

Directed by Alexandre AjaHorns_Official_Movie_Poster

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner and James Remar

It’s safe to say that out of the three main child stars from the Harry Potter franchise, Daniel Radcliffe has had the most successful and varied follow up career and it continues with yet another unique role in the rather unusual “Horns”.

Radcliffe plays Ig, a man who’s girlfriend (Temple) has been found dead and everyone is blaming him for her dead, that despite not evidence to support blaming him. Despite his pleas of innocence, no-one is listening to him and one more he wakes to find a pair of horns have grown on his head.

Ig soon finds himself surrounded by people who are wanting to confess their deepest secrets to him, and he also develops the ability to influence the behaviour of others as attempts to find out what happened to his girlfriend.

Eventually Ig discovers that it was his friend and lawyer (Minghella) that murdered his girlfriend and Ig soon transforms into a full demon to get his revenge, all before dying himself.

In one of the more unique films that I have ever seen, Radcliffe really shines as Ig and is about as far as he can possibly get from his role as Harry Potter. Even though the character is adamant that he didn’t murder his girlfriend, you’re never entirely sure if he is being truthful or not. He portrays the man who is claiming to be innocent but not entirely knowing himself exceptionally well.

His interactions with his family, especially the conversations with his father (Remar) bring you truly into his world and the honesty with which Ig finds out his true relationships with people is both intriguing and heartbreaking at the same time. Even Ig’s brother, played by the immensely under-rated Joe Anderson, isn’t entirely sure and that conflict with within his character is delicately shown. I’ve been a fan of Anderson for several years following his varied roles in Creep, The Crazies and The Grey and he is an expert on not letting his standards drop in any role.

All of the cast do a great job, regardless of how small the role actually is. Heather Graham is her ever delightful self and Minghella, despite having a very mixed history in film, plays the bastard very well,.

The soundtrack for “Horns” is delightful and the location helps make the film what it is. I would go as far as saying that this is arguably the best high-budget film with a low budget feel to it.

Once you get past the accent that Radcliffe is using then you can sit back, enjoy and be amazed at what is an excellent indie style film that isn’t indie at all. Despite being a heavy plot element, the relationship between Ig and his girlfriend isn’t overly used, which sometimes feels like a major turn-off in films of a similar style or storyline.

 

 

 

6 – Non-Stop

Directed by Jaume Collet-SerraNST_31_5_Promo_4C_4F.indd

Starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Corey Stoll, Michelle Dockery and Nate Park

If there is one thing that there isn’t enough of in Hollywood, it’s a classic “who-did-it” style murder-mystery films. Back in the early days of cinema there were plenty of examples of this type of film, such as a character getting killed on a train and the other characters have to figure it out, and I love that style of film, so I was delighted when they made a modern version in “Non-Stop”.

Liam Neeson plays Bill, a US Federal Marshall who receives a text message in the middle of a flight to London that says that unless they are paid a random, someone will be killed every 20 minutes. Bill tries to discover who is responsible as it becomes obvious that whoever it is is actually on the flight with him, and so he begins investigating the issue. He takes even the smallest coincidence as a clue but meanwhile the news is reporting that Bill has actually hijacked the plane himself.

As tension mounts of the plane with regards to Bill’s history and alcoholism, he eventually discovers that the person sending the messages was a teacher by the name of Tom (McNairy), a man who’s family died in the 9/11 attacks. He say that he wants to show that despite what everyone claims, security in America is no better than before 9/11.  After a long scuffle, Bowen is eventually killed and Bill is hailed as a hero in the media.

Again, much like Horns, you’re never entirely sure who did it until it’s revealed. Each character is questionable for various reasons, such as Jen (Moore) asking everyone she sits next to if she can sit next to the window, and many other minor clues such as that as to who the killer was. Unlike a lot of other films where the main character doesn’t know who the killer is, you are not told before the eventual reveal and I love that.

There are too many instances of films where you see the antagonists plotting in a secret compartment somewhere and you know all the way through, and it spoils it because whilst the mystery is there for the character, it’s not there for the audience and it takes away from the tension. I don’t want to know who the killer is until the main character finds out.

With a good cast as supporting characters, this film was the ONLY film during the entire year where I felt truly tense throughout. You are kept on the edge of your seat and you never know what it going to happen. Scoot (I always feel like I’m misspelling that) McNairy plays the sympathetic antagonist beautifully and although you think “bastard” for what he is doing, the way that McNairy plays his conflicted nature is very gratifying.

Whilst Neeson’s list of action films is growing significantly as time goes on, this for me is the most enjoyable in terms of an actual overall film that I have seen him in for some time.

 

 

5 : X-Men : Days of Future Past

Directed by Bryan SingerX-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_poster

Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Nick Hoult, Peter Dinklage and Ellen Page.

For a time this was my number one film of the year but it has ended up at number five, that despite coming out after what I will be putting at number two, but don’t let that put you off DOFP is still a very well made film and would have made a good stand-alone film had it not been part of the X-Men franchise.

The film initially starts in the future when mutants have been hunted down and largely killed by sentinels, but the surviving mutants, which is conveniently consisting of all of the main cast members from previous films, has come up with a plan to send Wolverine (Jackman) back to the 1970s to prevent Mystique (Lawrence) from murdering Bolivar Trask (Dinklage).

Once he is there he recruits the young Charles Xavier (McAvoy) to help and through a variety of circumstances they, combined with several other mutants, try and stop Mystique by playing on what remains of her human side. Ultimately they succeed and rewrite the future, with all of the principle cast of the initial trilogy that had died now fully resurrected and a seemingly happy ending.

DOFP seemed like a more genuine threat to the future of the franchise due to the sentinels. Normally when a film advertises something or someone as being unstoppable, they usually aren’t, or anywhere close to being unstoppable, but the sentinels are. On at least two occasions we see them destroy (literally) surviving mutants despite the best efforts of those mutants to survive. They truly are an unstoppable force and that makes the threat very real.

The action throughout DOFP is very enjoyable and the opening battle is one of the better I have seen in recent years as you can get involved without knowing a lot about some of the new characters. Seriously, particularly nothing is revealed about the new characters, such as Bishop, Blink, Sunspot or Warhammer other than what their powers are, and yet you are routing for them. Even when Wolverine travels back into the past you remain emotionally invested in what’s happening in the timeline where the mutants are being hunted down by the sentinels.

Charles and Erik continue their difficult relationship from the end of the first film and whilst you have no doubt that they still have a respect for each other, they, as is said at the beginning of the film “couldn’t be further apart” and it builds nicely to the beginning of the first film in the original trilogy where they are sort of friends, but they’re not at the same time, if that makes sense.

The 1970s section of the film is very enjoyable and as I say, for a while this was my favourite film of the year but then I rewatched it and there were were two things that really bugged me to the point where it only barely survives in my Top 5.

Firstly, Halle Berry is advertised as one of the main stars in the film. No, just no. She is barely in the film and isn’t a good enough actress to demand star billing unless she is actually in the film for the majority. Her screen time totals less than five minutes and there is not a chance in hell I am going to consider someone isn’t that good at acting to be a main star when they’re barely in it.

The second point is that I’m kind of sick of the Wolverine character. This was the SEVENTH X-Men film (out of seven) where he has been in it and the SIXTH where he has been the main focus of the film. Ok, I get it, the initial trilogy he is the main character and I get that, then they started with the prequels, one of which was dedicated to him, and then the incredibly tepid “Wolverine” that came out in 2013. I’m not even going to get into how incredibly crap that film was. I’m sick of every X-Men film being about Wolverine, he isn’t even the most interesting character and that is one of the main reasons why, even at the last minute, I demoted this from fourth to fifth. I sincerely hope that if they are going to release another X-Men film, which I’m sure they are, that they don’t just focus on the Wolverine character.

X-Men DOFP is still a very enjoyable film and is worth the watch.

 

 

4 – Gone Girl

Directed by David FincherGone_Girl_Poster

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Scoot McNairy and Kim Dickens.

I’ve mentioned on this blog previously that one of my favourite films is “Fight Club”, directed by David Fincher. Fincher is an excellent director and rarely puts out a bad film and whilst I was initially completely disinterested in watching “Gone Girl” it was a combination of the directing of Fincher and some saying that even Affleck is decent that convinced me to give it a try.

I’m going to come straight out with it, I’m not a fan of Affleck, although I’ve seen films with him in that I liked, such as Dogma, I have never once watched a film and thought to myself that he was good. That’s not to say he’s not a good actor,afterall, he has been nominated for 72 awards during his career and has won 50 of them, so there’s obviously something there, but he just does nothing for me.

Anyway, I disgress, Affleck plays Nick, a man who returns home one day to find his wife, Amy (Pike) missing. Despite everything initially appearing to be rosey in their relationship, a secret diary is soon found that reveals that Amy was deeply unhappy with the relationship, fearing for her life. Nick becomes suspect number one and must prove his innocence.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Amy has set Nick up and she is actually living in a trailer park. Nick eventually meets up with several people who have also come under Amy’s wrath down the years, such as claiming that they raped for when nothing actually happened, tearing their life apart.

Eventually Amy has to return to Nick but it is clear that both hate each other, but they are now forced to put on an act for the media.

What I loved about Gone Girl is that neither character is truly likable, and even through he is a protagonist for most of the film, you are constantly juggling with whether you actually like Nick or not. You’re not sure whether to believe what Amy is saying about him and you’re never truly behind him as a good guy. As the film progresses, whilst you feel sorry for the situation he has now found himself in, you begin to learn that his character isn’t as squeaky clean as all may appear, but for me this film is all about Amy.

Amy, playing magnificently by Pike, is quite possibly the best antagonist I have ever seen in a film. She is just out and out evil and you can’t help but be transfixed on what she is doing because you never know when she is being genuine or whether she is plotted. You find out throughout the film that she is setting up Nick in the same way that she set up a former boyfriend to ruin his life, and you real get a sense for how truly evil this character is and it is a delight to watch. It’s just incredible. Even at the end you are just in awe of her as a character because not only is she still ruining Nick’s life, she also tries to ruin the life of Desi, played by Neil Patrick Harris.

She is truly one of the truly great antagonists in cinema history because of how she manipulates, plans and executes everything to near perfection, it is unbelievable just how purely evil she is as a character and yet you somehow find yourself wanting more of the same. There is no question that she is the film’s antagonist, no question about it, she is an evil mastermind, it is just incredible viewing.

The only negative about this film was the casting of Neil Patrick Harris. Now, NPH is a great actor, he has great charisma and is one of the funnest people to watch in Hollywood, but he was so incredibly miscast in this film that you begin to wonder what the casting director was thinking of. NPH does his best but I don’t think he makes a convincing dark character.Whilst Desi is a good character, he’s too dark for NPH to really pull off.

I was really debating whether to put this down as four or five. My top three has been sealed for a long time, but this ultimately secured it over X-Men because of it’s superior story.

Other than the miscasting of NPH, this film is brilliant. In any other year this would possibly have been my number one film, that’s how good it was.

 

 

 

3 – Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by James GunnGOTG-poster

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker and Lee Pace

In 2014 there was no doubt as to the funnest movie of the year, the first that you could just go in, sit back and enjoy, and that was arguably the surprise hit the year, “Guardians of the Galaxy”. I knew nothing of GOTG before this film came out and I was definitely surprised and for a long time this was my favourite film of the year.

The film follows Peter Quill (Pratt), aka Star Lord, as he retrieves an orb from a planet. He is soon captured along with Gamora (Saldana), Drax (Bautista), Groot (Diesel) and Rocket (Cooper). Despite their initial antagonism towards each other, they work together to break out of prison and eventually onto a collector to buy the orb. The only problem is that they are being tracked by Ronan (Pace), Gamora’s former leader.

Ronan eventually tracks them down and make light work of the initial encounter, but with the help of the people of the planet Xander, as well as the relevation that contained within the orb is an infinity stone (an object of immense power), the group are eventually able to defeat Ronan and are free to travel the universe together.

GOTG is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had at the cinema in recent years. It was just two hours or sitting back and having fun. Unlike the other Marvel films, you feel that you can relate to all of the characters rather than just a select few. None of them are as egotistical as Tony Stark, none are as heroic/bratty as Thor, none are as never-say-die as Steve Evans and the less said about the Hulk, the better. They’re just a group of relateable and well developed characters.

I found myself laughing on a regular basis and enthralled by all of the battles. Serious arguments between characters interrupted by cries of “I am Groot” just had me in stitches all throughout and even Rocket wasn’t annoying, whereas in a lot of films featuring a CGI character, they offer little and yet annoy so much (Jar Jar Binks and Dobby come to mind).

However, GOTG has the same problem that has plagued a lot of other Marvel films in recent times, the bad guy just isn’t believable and is underdeveloped. Don’t get me wrong, Lee Pace does an excellent job as Ronan and is enjoyable in the role, but did I once genuinely feel like Ronan was going to win? No, not really. It’s a problem that encompasses all of the Marvel films, with the exception of Days of Future Past. The only bad guy in the recent new Marvel franchises (i/e Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, etc) that was believable and you thought posed a genuine threat was Loki, and for me Ronan doesn’t come close to that same level of threat.

If it hadn’t been for that then this would have retained it’s place in my top two. Infact, it was in my top two up until a few hours ago when I realised that the film I actually have at number two only came out in the UK in 2014, meaning I only saw it this year.

 

 

2 – The Wolf of Wall Street

Directed by Martin Scorsesewolf-of-wall-street-poster2-610x903

Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler and Rob Reiner

As I alluded to in the Guardians of the Galaxy bit above, I had completely forgotten that “The Wolf of Wall Street” came out in the UK in 2014. I didn’t even realise until I was browsing through my Facebook from earlier in the year that it only came out in mid-January, and therefore qualifies for this review. Up until that point Guardians and the Galaxy was still my number two pick.

TWOWS follows the true story of Jordan Belfort (Dicaprio) as he rises from the bottom of the ladder to the top of the pile in the financial world, all by using underhanded and heavily illegal tactics.

Selling penny-stocks under false pretences to his clients, Belfort, Donnie Azoff (Hill) and several others become overnight millionaires, gorging themselves on drugs, prostitutes and decadence to previously unseen levels. Jordan even leaves his wife after falling in love with Naomi (Robbie) at a high profile party that he throws.

The illegal activities soon catch up to Jordan though as he is watched by the FBI and is eventually convicted for his activities.

TWOWS is an incredible film, absolutely amazing. At a near three hour run time (which I didn’t know going in) you’d think it would drag but it surprisingly doesn’t. At not one point do you get bored at what is on screen and even long, drawn out business discussions, are intriguing to the point where you feel like you’re actually there.

Dicaprio provides an Oscar worth performance as Belfort. A few years ago I had no opinion either way on his acting ability, but he is now one of my favourite actors. He was unbelievably good in films such as Shutter Island, Inception, Gangs of New York and many others are he marches towards the top of Hollywood’s A-list. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him put in a poor performance and this arguably tops off that long list.

The cast all put in an epic performance and Jonah Hill puts in a stunning portrayal of Donnie Azoff, based on the real life Danny Porush, and he makes considerable strides away from his typecast as a fat guy in a comedy film by playing the funny, fat guy in a serious film. As an actor in a drama films he is surprisingly great to watch, although I did prefer him in Moneyball.

What makes this film for me is that it’s actually a true story. The vast majority of this stuff actually happened and that brings it a sense of realism that you don’t get with a lot of films. These characters aren’t unbelievable, regardless of what they do (such as Donnie eating a live goldfish) because they are real, and that’s what makes the film more engrossing.

So why didn’t this make number one? To be honest there isn’t a single reason why this is just number two other than how good the film at number one is. I’ve watched WOWS numerous times and still love it now as much as I did the first time I was watching it, and I’ve read the book. It’s a fascinating read and much like “Gone Girl”, had this been released in any other year then this would have romped it’s way to the top of my favourite films of the year.

So, I saw 23 films at the cinema this year, some were excellent, some were downright awful, others I was neither here nor there about. There were a few times where I got exactly what I was expecting and then there were others where I was completely surprised by it and my favourite film of 2014 was just that.

After seeing the trailer, I had no intention whatsoever of seeing this film. I am not a particularly great fan of the actor, the storyline didn’t look interesting and to be honest, the only reason I went to see this film was because I had time to kill before the showing of a film I wanted to see was on. I had no intention of seeing this film but I’m glad that I did.

Ladies and gentleman, and those in between, I give to you my favourite film of 2014, “Nightcrawler”.

 

 

1 – Nightcrawler

Directed by Dan GilroyNightcrawlerfilm

Starring Jake Gyllenhall, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton.

I don’t use this phrase often when I talk about films, I don’t like using it because not many films meet the standard of what I am about to say, but for the first time in a long while, I saw say that I have seen a film that is a perfect 10 out of 10.

For a film that I have no intention of seeing whatsoever, I was found myself loving “Nightcrawler”, it was the greatest mistake I ever made turning up to the cinema to watch another film several hours early. It is just an incredible piece of cinema, I can’t even begin putting into words just how good Nightcrawler is and it would have taken something absolutely incredible to beat this film to my number one spot.

Gyllenhaal plays Lou, a sociopath who steals things, such as fence wiring, to sell and earn money but no-one will hire him. One night he suddenly comes across a car wreckage and a film crew suddenly surrounds it. Lou observes what happens, asking the question about what they do with the footage and discovers that they sell it for money. Lou instantly sells his bike for a camera and a radio scanner. He himself then films the aftermath of an accident and sells it to news director, Nina (Russo), who is impressed by what she has seen.

Lou soon hires Rick (Ahmed) to help him but he is less than impressed when the only crime scenes are graphic enough, so he starts altering them to get better footage, including moving corpses and evidence. Lou soon finds himself as the go-to guy for footage and he uses this to his advantage, including trying to force Nina into having sex before he will sell her more footage.

Breaking law after law to get better footage, Lou soon finds himself having to be more cunning with his methods of filming and he eventually manages to track down  members of a local gang and reports it to the police as just a casual misdemeanor. When the cops show up Lou films the ensuing gun fight and the subsequent chase. This ends with the vehicle of the gang members upside down and Lou goes to check, he asks Rick to film the dead gang member but much to Rick’s surprise, he is shot. Lou films Rick dying before revealing that he can’t work with people that he doesn’t trust, revealing that he knew all along that the gang member was still alive and that he would kill Rick.

The film ends with Lou successfully negotiating a police interrogation after Nina broadcasts the footage.

Let me start off by saying that Gyllenhaal, an actor who I’ve never really had an opinion about, completely won me over as Lou. He was just immense as the sociopath and it was the best performance I have seen from an individual actor this year. It was just an incredible tour-de-force of a performance and I was left stunned at the end of what I had just seen.

Lou is just an incredible character because he is willing to kill other characters to get what he wants and it just makes him incredibly dangerous, and yet you find yourself wanting him to succeed because you are transfixed by his character. Must like Amy in “Gone Girl”, the character is nearly pure evil and yet you find yourself wanting him to succeed. I can’t praise the acting or the character enough.

Everything in this film, right from the characters to the music, the setting, the plot, the atmosphere is so incredibly well laid of that it’s almost impossible not to get engulfed and entranced in the story line, and the tension throughout, especially towards the end when Lou is trying to get the footage and you can hear the police sirens in the background just has your heart racing as fast as it will go because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

I can’t think of a single negative of this film. Nightcrawler, for me, is comfortably the best film of the last 12 months and is the only film from the last two or three years that I can give a perfect 10 to, that’s how good it is.

2014 hasn’t been the best year for films, the fact that the most financially successful film of the year was the poorly received “Transformers : Age of Extinction” (which I didn’t see just for the record) says it all. So now, as we approach the final few days of 2014, I have decided to go through all of the films I saw at the cinema over the last 12 months, discussing which worked, which didn’t and why. I would normally include the films I have reviewed on this website but in the interest of fairness I can’t compare those films to the films which have enjoyed a much, much wider released.

So, let’s with the worst.

Awful

For me the worst film that I saw at the cinema this year was “Pompeii”, the Kit Pompeii-posterHarrington historical disaster movie. Based on the historical event that consumed that part of the Roman empire, the film fails to really get you involved in any of the story at all. It turns the tradegy of Pompeii into a half-arsed love story and it is just not engaging in the slightest.

“Pompeii” had many problems, but one of the biggest was the acting ability, or lack there of, of Kit Harrington. I watched a bit of Game of Thrones before getting bored with it and during that brief stint the stand out performer was Harrington, not because he was good at acting but more because he was unbelievably boring, and he was the same in “Silent Hill : Revelation”. He isn’t suited to be a movie actor and I really struggled to get behind him as the film’s protagonist.

The film doesn’t get any better after the volcano erupts and like many disaster films these days, it seems to rely too much on the disaster, but if you don’t care about the characters then how can you care about the disaster?

All being said though, this is the only film that I saw at the cinema that I would class as being truly awful during the whole of 2014. I am more than willing to give most films a second chance, so out of the 23 films that I saw on the big screen this year, only one falls into my awful category, which is good going I think.

Had they focused more on the plot or character, rather than just building for the disaster which is coming, then this film would probably have been more enjoyable.

Poor

I’m going to start the poor section with what was probably the most hyped film of the year. It was a film that was promoted as one of the most visually stunning films that you will ever see and you will walk out of the cinema on the back of one of the most amazing experiences ever. I got exceptionally excited, especially as it was created by one of my favourite directors, but ultimately “Interstellar” was one of the most disappointingly self-important films I had ever watched.

Interstellar_ALT_ArtowrkThe film itself just wasn’t that interesting at all. I was just sat there for nearly three hours and I was so underwhelmed that it was unbelievable. The problem with “Interstellar” is that it seems to think that it would be well received just because it’s visually awesome (which it is) and it’s made by Christopher Nolan, however, it requires more than that. The storyline isn’t that great, it stumbles over itself far too often and ultimately fails to make you really care.

If I had to compare it with anything then I would compare it to Avatar. For me Avatar is probably the most visually stunning film ever made, it is truly incredible, but the problem is that the visuals distract you from what is an otherwise poor story. It’s the same with Interstellar.

I will mention this a few times during this run down but I found myself not really caring about the fact of any of the characters and none of the actors really seem to be enjoying what they are doing, and if they’re not enjoying the film, how I am supposed to be enjoying it.

Interstellar just lumbers on for far too long and doesn’t really go anywhere, ending with one of the most ridiculous climaxes to a film that I have ever seen. The only reason I’ve not put this into the awful category is that I love science fiction and would give this film a second chance in the future, but for now I want to stay clear of this because of it’s self-important attitude.

A rather less than surprising addition to this category is “A Million Ways to Die in the West”. I love Seth McFarlane because of the work he has done with Family Guy, however, I have failed to find either of his films particularly funny as the comedy feels forced, it isn’t particularly natural and whether it’s just because I’m now 30, I found a lot of the jokes in AMWTDITW very immature and I didn’t laugh once. To be honest I am surprised that I found myself in the cinema watching it.

That was the only comedy I saw this year that fits into this category but there are a few movies based on comic books and the first of which that I’m going to talk about is “Captain America : The Winter Soldier”. I’ve said this to a few people and they have all looked at me like I have just shot someone, but I found CATWS to be boring.

I enjoyed the first film in the series but this one didn’t feel as fun as the first entry and I don’t particularly find Steve to be a particularly interesting character. I’m not a fan of Scarlett Johansson and she looked extremely uncomfortable in a role where her character finds herself becoming attracted to a guy and the reason it’s uncomfortable is because her and Evans just have no chemistry whatsoever.

With numerous plot twists, including being unable to decide if Nick Fury was dead, I found myself failing to enjoy CATWS and I was just sat there waiting for it to end. The only thing that saves it from being in the awful category is that it did have one or two moments that made me chuckle, but other than that is was one of the least enjoyable times I had at the cinema this year.

Fury-Poster-3CATWS certainly wasn’t the only boring film that I saw on the silver-screen this year, with the Brad Pitt war film “Fury” also fitting neatly into the same frame. Again, the trailer made this film look awesome but when it did finally arrive it was nothing like what the trailer had promised. It was boring, predictable, and the ending made no sense whatsoever.

I have no problem with any of the cast, I always find myself enjoying Brad Pitt films, I have nothing against Logan Lerman and despite all of the media fuss about him, I don’t mind Shia Labeouf. For me it was just the actual story that I found uninteresting. “Fury” just plodded along without ever getting that exciting, tense or thrilling. It was incredibly predictable and the funniest moment for me was when I was walking out of the screen, the guy in front of me turns around and says “that was brilliant, wasn’t it?” and my first thought was “obviously we were watching different films”.

The final film in this section that is based on a comic book/graphic novel was “The Amazing Spiderman 2”. I don’t even know why I went to see this because I don’t actually like Spiderman at all. I found the Tobey Maguire films to be generally terrible, and although Andrew Garfield was a big improvement, I don’t really give enough of a crap about the character to actually like the franchise, so I’m not sure why I went.

TAS2 had quite a few flaws and whilst Garfield is excellent, he is the only part of the film that is actually enjoyable. Am I supposed to care that (spoiler alert) Gwen dies at the end when she has been underdeveloped? Am I supposed to feel the plight Spiderman faces against bad guys such as Rhino when they only appear on screen for just a few minutes? No. Overall I just didn’t care and it’s a problem with a lot of superhero movies, you know that no matter what, the superhero is going to survive and it takes a lot of tension out of the film.

Due to being agnostic I didn’t particularly enjoy “Noah”. It was overly preachy and whilst there were some aspects that were good, such as seeing the people who have climbed to the top of mountains to try and escape the water screaming, but ultimately I just found it to be too preachy, leaving too many questions and arguably the most guilty element, just adding characters that don’t exist in the Bible to make the story more “thrilling”. I may be agnostic but I still know the story.FINAL_-Maze_SRGB-mtv_1394933176426

Finally in this section comes “The Maze Runner” and whilst again it did have a good level of intrigue to it, it is full of one dimensional characters. I did find myself not getting annoyed by Will Poulter for the first time in my life, probably because he is playing an antagonist, but other than him there wasn’t really an enjoyable part to the film.

It’s a problem with a lot of books that are converted into films (there are plenty of others coming in this list), they just don’t translate what made the book enjoyable and that just ruins it. I haven’t read the book but from speaking to friends who have read it, they are  almost in a state of rage with how much the film messed with the story of the book.

Average

I’m going to start this section with the last big film to come out in 2014 and that is the third installment in the Hobbit franchise, “The Battle of the Five Armies”. I loved the original Lord of the Rings trilogies, they were some of the most groundbreaking and visually stunning films that I have ever seen, but the Hobbit series has fallen somewhat short of that.

The first film in the franchise was decent enough, but it really started struggling to keep it interesting in “The Desolation of Smaug” and things didn’t really get any better in TBOTFA. Don’t get me wrong, as a stand alone film it isn’t that bad, but it’s no more than a 6/10, at best, and a lot of the tension is taken away because you know who survives.

Early on there is a scene where Galadriel, Elrond, Saruman and Gandalf are confronted by the Nazgul, yet you already know that all four of them survive because they’re in the main trilogy, so there was very little genuine threat there, and it was the same with Gandalf and Bilbo throughout the film.

The problem with most of the Hobbit series of films was that they just weren’t as interesting as the original trilogy and that really isn’t helped by a poor cast of secondary characters. There are 13 dwarves in the quest to reclaim the mountain but only two or three of them are really given any decent screen time. Am I really supposed to give a crap about Bombur, Oin, Bifur, Dori, Dwalin, etc, when they are barely on the screen? I couldn’t care less what happens to these characters, I really couldn’t.

It isn’t just the secondary dwarves that I couldn’t care less about, it’s some of the human and elf characters as well. Do I really care about Bard and his sudden rise to power? Not really. He is played in an incredibly bland fashion by the ever monotonous Luke Evans. Do I care if Legolas is able to return to his home after seemingly betraying his father? Not really, and speaking of which, if this is set 60 or so years before the original trilogy, why does Legolas look considerably older in this film? Obviously I know Orlando Bloom is now 13 years older than he was when “Fellowship of the Ring” came out, but still, they could have at least made the effort.

Whilst TBOTFA has it’s moments, it is ultimately a bit bland, and the fact that one of the armies doesn’t even technology get involved in the battle (they turn up just as it’s ending and are taken out by the Eagles, meaning they never officially enter the battle), it does somewhat ruin it for me. For what it’s worth it isn’t an awful film, not by any stretch, and would be a nice little film to watch on a Sunday afternoon, but ultimately it is nothing more than average.

300-_Rise_of_an_Empire_20ghyesscharTBOTFA wasn’t the only sequel to be very average this year and another example was “300 : Rise of an Empire”. I loved “300”, it is definitely in my top 10 films of all time because of how fun it is, but ROAE definitely loses that fun factor and again, much like the Hobbit franchise, the characters just aren’t interesting enough to keep me going.

Sullivan Stapleton is exceptionally bland as Themistocles, whereas Jack O’Connell, Hans Matheson and Callan Mulvey are actually better actors and portray their characters with a far more charismatic feel to them. Eva Green just trudges through the film without ever really developing a secondary character trait and ultimately it loses a lot of what made the first film enjoyable.

Despite that, ROAE does again have it’s moments, such as when Themistocles tricks the Persians into going into a very narrow tunnel and easily taking them out, and in the sense of an actual action film it actually works relatively well, but it requires more than just good action to make this as good as the first film.

The other sequel that came out that was average was “The Purge : Anarchy” and despite me saying it was average, I did actually enjoy it more than the original. Whilst I’m not going to go fully into it, there is a genuinely sense of danger with the characters being trapped on the street and unlike the first one, you actually care about the characters.

There is one scene I like towards the end when it turns out that the rich and powerful have decided to gather people on the street before forcing them into an arena to face armed people, however, there in also lays the main problem. The armed characters are all taken out by one day and I don’t watch the Purge films for one guy to be a seemingly unbeatable killer. I don’t like films where one guy is made out to be pretty much invincible and that ruined it for me, taking it down from a 7 or 8 out of 10, so more of a 5, maybe a 6.

Finally we get to a film where I was desperate for it to good. I had seen the trailer for this film and even though it’s not the type of film that I normally go for, I was really up for “If I Stay” starring Chloe Grace Moretz. I got into it so much that I even bought the book and read that before the film came out. Now, I know what you’re all thinking, surely I’m not going to go and compare the book to the film and you’re right, I’m not. I did however love the book and was really pumped for watching a film that I normally wouldn’t have been excited about.If_I_Stay_poster

I’m not sure if it was just because I pumped myself up for this film too much but I found myself not really enjoying this in the cinema. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t awful by any stretch and had I not been as pumped for it then I probably would have enjoy it more, but “If I Stay” was just missing something.

Visually it’s excellent and Moretz does a brilliant job as Mia, infact all of the cast play their characters very well, and the whole plot is quite an intriguing one, and I really wish I could put my finger on why I just didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would. It wasn’t a bad film, not by any stretch, but I can’t score it higher than a 6/10 and be honest with myself.

I would recommend it as a date-film but maybe nothing more than that, and again I wish I could put my finger on it.

 

 

 

So there you have it, Part 1 of my breakdown of all the films I saw at the cinema in 2014. I have 10 more films to write about and they will be featuring in Part 2, which will appear within the next few days.

Lots of people have died on the toilet!

Year Released : 2012the-abcs-of-death-dvd-cover-94
Director : Various – 26 Different Directors
Cast : Numerous – Each segment contains at least two actors/actresses

Every once in a while a film comes along that you are just left stunned as to what you have just seen. Sometimes this can work in the positive stance, such as Avatar, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and several others, but there are times when you are just sat there stunned because you can’t believe how poor what you’ve just watched it, or the context of the film just left you shocked beyond anything that you could possibly imagine. This very much falls into the latter.

I first heard of this film when getting into a discussion about horror films with someone who worked at the local cinema and he highly recommended this film, although he told me to keep my mind very much open throughout. As soon as I saw it randomly online I thought I would go for it and to be honest, I really wish I hadn’t.

It’s hard to put into words just how depraved this film is. I can’t even put it into the same category as films such as “A Serbian Film” or “Human Centipede” because at least those made a tiny bit of sense and had a plot, whereas “The ABCs of Death” is just puerile nonsense from near enough start to finish.

If, like me, you somehow stick with it from start to finish then I commend you, but because I was just sat there for 120+ minutes really, really wanting it to end.

Plot

The film is divided into 26 small films, each lasting between 3-10 minutes each. Each segment was directed by a different person around the world and they were each given a letter of the alphabet and asked to produce a small film based on some method of dying.

A – Apocalypse – A woman makes several clumsy attempts to kill her husband.

B – Bigfoot – A scarred man terrorises a family

C – Cycle – A man finds a hole in his garden wall and finds himself in a timeloop

D – Dogfight – A man gets into a fist-fight with a dog. Yes, you’ve just read that correctly.

E – Exterminate – A man tries to kill a large spider that he spots off of the corner of his eye.

F – Fart – A girl has fallen in love with her teacher and upon realising they are going to die, she requests that the teacher farts in her face. Yes, again, you’ve just read that correctly.

G – Gravity – A man goes surfing but soon finds himself drowning.

H – Hydro-Electric Diffusion – A male dog is seduced by a female fox before the latter reveals herself to be part of the Nazi party.

I – Ingrown – A man injected a woman with a mysterious liquid and she soon develops an itch that she can’t get rid of.

J – Jidai-Geki – A man in a blue suit is asked to kill a man in a white suit.

K – Klutz – A woman goes to toilet but is soon followed around the bathroom by her faeces. Yet again, you’ve just read that correctly.

L – Libido – A man awakes to find himself involved in a battle against another man, with the objective being to ejaculate before the other, otherwise you’re killed.

M – Miscarriage – A woman attempts to flush a fetus down the toilet.

N – Nuptials – A man proposes to his girlfriend but she soon suspects he is having an affair based on what his parrot is saying.

O – Orgasm – A woman is shown as bondage and other such sexual fetishes are played out.

P – Pressure – A woman prostitutes herself before being asked to do a photoshoot where she kills a kitten.

Q – Quack – The directors of the film try to kill a duck.

R – Removed – A man has skin removed from his back that is used to create film footage.

S – Speed – A woman leads another woman through a seemingly abandoned building.

T – Toilet – A young boy is afraid to go to toilet because it turns into a monster.

U – Unearthed – A vampire is chased by an angry mob.

V – Vagitus – Women are made infertile by the government but can earn the right to gain their fertility back.

W – WTF! – Various mini-scenes

X – XXL – An overweight woman uses a knife to make herself thin.

Y – Youngbuck – A child interrupts an elderly man trying to lick up the sweat from where he has just sat.

Z – Zetsumetsu – Various events shown from a Japanese re-visioning of the west.

The-ABCs-of-Death-A-is-for-Apocalypse-e1362652827977

Erm………ok

I’m not going to beat around the bush, this is quite possibly the most depraved film that I have ever seen. There are one or two segments that are actually well made and are insightful, but there are others where you are sat there desperate for them to end. It’s full of moments where you are just left wondering why the hell you are actually watching and more to the point, why you are watching it.

I didn’t think this until Dogfight, where a man gets into a fist-fight with a dog, but then came Fart, which is one of the most unnecessarily puerile five minutes in cinema history. It starts with a girl saying that she doesn’t believe in God because how can a God allow a world where women can’t fart without it being looked down on. I really wish that there was a nicer way to put that but there really isn’t. The girl then asks her teacher to fart in her face and the room suddenly fills with a yellow mist as she does so, and the girl ends up being sucked up into the teacher’s nether-regions.

If that had been the only bizarre or depraved segment then I probably wouldn’t have been that concerned, but this sort of thing continues through numerous other segments. Klutz sees a woman who is killed when her faeces forces it’s way back into her body, and Libido, well how can I even put it? It features two men who are forced to masturbate over a woman and the one that ejaculates first goes through to the next round, the other is killed. This one person progresses through the rounds and he is forced to masturbate over things such as an amputee with an infected wound use her prosthetic leg to pleasure herself, a man having sex with a young boy and other things that I can’t even begin to list. It doesn’t hold back and you even see the ejaculate explode into the man’s hand on a few occasions.

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There were many occasions where I just wanted to stop watching, either because it was depraved or because it was just stupid and unfunny. Jidai-Geki is a key example of this as two men wearing obvious wigs (it doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that they’re wearing wigs) are on screen and one tries to distract the other from killing him by pulled faces.

In many ways this film reminds me a lot of the “V/H/S” franchise. Each segment is made by a different director but the difference is that it works with the aforementioned because they take what they’re doing seriously, or at least don’t try and make it a horror film for children, and in many ways that is what puzzles me the most. They claimed that this was a horror film but there’s not a single scary moment throughout the entirety of the film.

Several segments don’t even make the slightest bit of sense. “Gravity” is a fine example of this as the guy is just on his surfboard, all of a sudden he’s in the water and he’s dead. It’s shot from the first person perspective so you can’t see anything that he hit him and you’re left just guessing what has actually killed him and why he has just found himself underwater. It’s just baffling and pointless. Are you seriously telling me that the director couldn’t think of anything better for “G”, or even the word gravity? I’ll come up with a better idea now, a guy is walking a narrow path across a cliff face, something appears from out of a hole and pushes him and he falls to his death. There, sorted.

It’s hard to come up with a single positive word to say about this film, it really is.

abcs-highres8__large

Summary

This lasts for two hours. Two hours. That is two lots of sixty minutes, one twelfth of your day. Whilst one or two segments are actually not too bad, the majority seem like they were directed by children. I really can’t put into words just how stupid and pointless the segment “Fart” is.

“The ABCs of Death” tried to achieve a similar level of success that “V/H/S” did but it fails miserably and I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to watch the sequel.

If you choose not to avoid this then consider yourself warned.

Year Released : 2015Rec4_TeaserPoster2
Director : Jaume Balagueró
Cast : Manuela Velasco, Javier Botet, Paco Manzanedo, María Alfonsa Rosso, Ismael Fritschi and Críspulo Cabezas

A few weeks ago I reviewed the [REC] trilogy in advance of the fourth film being released, however, I had the pleasant surprise of having the opportunity to watch the fourth installment before it’s actually released anywhere in the world, so I gladly took the opportunity with both hands and I enjoyed what is scheduled to be the final piece of the [REC] franchise.

I loved the first two films but was considerable less impressed with the third installment, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the fourth movie in the franchise, especially as it kept the same camera style as the third entry rather than the vastly superior style of the first two films, but thankfully that is the only aspect it did keep, making the third film actually completely irrelevant to the rest of the story.

Whilst it is a vast improvement on the third and a decent end to the franchise, it is not as good as the opening two films

Plot

Angela (Velasco) wakes up imprisoned on a boat following what happened in the apartment building in Barcelona. She has no memory of her being infected with the parasite and doesn’t understand why she is being kept prisoner. She is not alone though as anyone else who survived going into the apartment building, including a SWAT Team (not the same SWAT team from the second film).

It soon emerges that they have been quarantined whilst doctors ensure that whatever caused the events in Barcelona have finally been wiped out. After studying the video tapes from all of the cameras that were present in the building, the crew are horrified by the footage of Angela being infected with the sizeable parasite and set out to cut it out of her.

Meanwhile, someone has released an infected monkey and soon the infection starts spreading throughout the ship and with no-where to hide, it becomes a matter of time for everyone concerned, with the only hope being to destroy the parasite.

rec4_2237

So why is it better than the third film but not as good as the first two?

Well let me start out with a question that I asked myself at the end of this film, what the hell did the third film have to do with the rest of the franchise? It’s not even remotely similar to the other three in terms of style, atmosphere or even characters. Other than a brief reference at the beginning of this film, there is no connection between the events of Genesis and the rest of the franchise. It seems almost completely pointless. Had Apocalipsis been the third installment in a trilogy then it would have been one of the best horror trilogies of all time. Granted, it wouldn’t have ended with a bang, but it would have been a far better franchise without the addition of the third film.

So anyway, what’s good about this film? Well at the beginning of the film the characters are still in Barcelona and you see some of the infected characters from the first film return to very small cameos before they are eventually seen off by the SWAT team. It was nice to have that familiarity present in the opening scene, even if it didn’t continue. The return of Angela is also extremely welcome, and she has made the full transition from someone who has a generally happy and ambitious demeanour, to a far, far darker character. You are left guessing until near the very end whether she still has the parasite inside of her as her behaviour suggests that she doesn’t, but then again it was the same in the majority of the same film, and that level of intrigue is very interesting.

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When characters start becoming infected they are seen struggling to fight against it, and the desperate pleas of some recently infected as they beg the rest of the crew not to kill them before being shot in the middle of the forehead. With a confined environment it is very likely that any infection would spread fast and therefore the merciless nature in which some of the characters are killed is very realistic.

One aspect I did also like is that the virus acts differently than in previous films. The Alien franchise uses an interesting aspect which is that when a living thing is covered by a face-hugger, the resulting alien that bursts through the chest is not only the DNA of the alien, but also the DNA of it’s host. For example, in Alien3 the alien comes out of a dog and is considerably more canine in appearance and behaviour, the hybrid at the end of Alien vs Predator inherits the latter’s separating jaw and the one at the end of Prometheus is considerably sleeker than normal thanks to coming through what is effectively an octopus.

You may be wondering why I am mentioning that, it’s because the virus sources from different creatures in the franchise and the reaction/mutation is completely different. In the first two the infection comes from a dog and the symptoms are very similar to rabies, whereas in this the characters develop welts, become considerable more simian in appearance (such as the teeth in the below picture) and the virus mutates when it travels through different species, which again I like.

Rec4-2

 

Much like the first two films, the characters are believable and you can become invested in them because of this (but they’re not perfect and I’ll go into why), something which I definitely can’t say about the third film. There is a scene towards the end where the closest thing that the film has to an antagonist traps another member of the crew in a room with infected, and you see that character go through the anger and then fear of what is about to happen and knowing that there is nothing that they can do to stopping.

Despite that, there are a few flaws with the film and one of them is much like the third film they add in a fat character with a beard with an attempt at some comic relief. It doesn’t really work as the character just isn’t that interesting.

There is also something that I realised as I was watching the fourth installment and that is what is referred to as “The Indiana Jones Effect” in The Big Bang Theory. In “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Indiana Jones doesn’t actually impact the story at all, every event would have still happened, regardless of whether he was there or not, and it’s the same in pretty much the whole [REC] franchise with Angela. Angela doesn’t really affect the story in any major way throughout the franchise. You could take her out and the events of all of the films remain largely the same.

In the first film the people in the building, including the fireman and policeman would still get infected, regardless of whether Angela was there or not. The SWAT team and the kids from the second film would have still gone into the building, Father Owen wouldn’t have found a viable source of blood from the original source and in the fourth installment, those infected would have still been quarantined on the boat and people would have still gotten infected from the monkey. Angela, other than maybe the final two minutes of the second film, has precisely zero major impact on the plot of any of the three films that she appears in. Upon realising that I suddenly found myself becoming detached from her as a character.

rec-4-trailer1

Infact, despite the very real feel of the characters, and that you feel invested in them, they aren’t actually developed well at all. The characters are somewhat predictable, one dimensional and typecast really. They’re not awful characters, don’t get me wrong, but only one of them (the main antagonist) ever really shows more than one dimension.

My biggest criticism of the fourth installment though is that they keep the third person perspective from the third one. One of the (main) reasons that the Genesis doesn’t work is because third person isn’t scary. Not that keeping it first person would have helped Genesis climb from the “poor” category but it would have made it scarier, and that could have helped here.

I don’t feel the same tension with third person that I do with first person because you don’t experience it as the character would. If you don’t see it from the character’s perspective then it becomes considerably more predictable and I was able to call what was happening throughout and for me there is nothing more tedious than watching a predictable horror film.

rec4-apocalypse-toronto-film-festival-5

Summary

It’s a nice way to round of the franchise. It’s a decent enough film without ever getting close to the emotional impact as the first in the franchise, although it would have been hard to have that same level without using 1st person again.

It’s not a bad horror film at all, I’ve seen far, far worse (Genesis for example), but ultimately it rounds off a franchise where the best two films were the first two. It could have stopped there and it would have been a much better franchise.

When it eventually gets realised I would recommend it, but don’t judge the rest of the franchise on this installment.

Who are we kidding? I’m blind. I can’t see see. I don’t belong here. I’m not meant to see.

Year Released : 1999At_First_Sight
Director :Irwin Winkler
Cast : Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Steven Weber and Nathan Lane

I’ve mentioned in a few previous reviews that my favourite film is the 1988 adventure film “Willow”, for me it is everything a film should be. It’s got everything you could want, action, adventure, comedy, romance, a bit of science fiction and an ounce of horror, but one of the main highlights is the performance of Val Kilmer, who stood out in the film and oozed charisma, and since first seeing “Willow” at the cinema when I was four years old, I have been a big fan of his. Although his choice of films since the turn of the century has been questionable, not helped by that he seems to take any job going, back in the late 1980s and the 1990s he was involved in some excellent films, including “At First Sight”.

The film focuses on the relationship between a New York architect and a blind man that she meets whilst on vacation and touches on some very interesting points that you would never even consider if you were in the same situation and whilst it has it’s flaws, “At First Sight” is arguably one of the most intelligent romantic films I’ve seen in a while. Yes, I said romantic, which is a new category for me on here.

Plot

Amy (Sorvino) is a busy architect who, after some convincing, decides to take a break from work and go on a much needed vacation. Whilst there she meets Virgil (Kilmer), a masseuse and following a rather interesting conversation whilst he was giving her the massage, Amy decides she wants to get to know Virgil more but is then shocked to realise that he is blind.

The two become romantically involved and Virgin eventually agrees to move to New York to be with her, much to the general distaste to Jennie (McGillis), Virgil’s sister, who thinks that he will never adapt to life outside of his quiet town. She is even less pleased when she finds out that Amy has convinced Virgil to have an operation to restore his sight.

Virgil undergoes the operation but struggles to adapt to his surroundings, putting a heavy strain on the relationship with Amy.

Virgil-Adamson-At-First-Sight

So….what makes it intelligent?

The thing that always struck me about this film as being intelligent was that in a lot of films where a blind person suddenly has their sight restored, there is no learning curve, they’re just able to adapt almost seamlessly, but that doesn’t happen here. Virgil, who has been blind since early childhood, often doesn’t know what he’s looking at. One such example comes just after his operation, he goes to look for a job but ultimately is left frustrated because he is unable to complete the application forms as he can’t read non-braille forms.

It’s things like that, the things that most films don’t take into account, that adds a level of intelligence and realism to the film. A person who has spent virtually their entire life blind won’t know how to read and on that basis would really struggle to adapt. You genuinely empathise with him because realistically he has no chance. He’s effectively reverted back to being a small child and having to rely on others more than ever, whereas when he was blind he was not only happy, but was able to lead a life without many complications.

In many ways Jennie turned out to be right and ultimately on reflection, Amy’s motives, whilst selfless on the surface, are actually done to make everything to her liking. Even after Virgil says that he doesn’t want to go through the surgery, she still persists and he ends up doing something that he ultimately regrets.

You can actually feel Virgil’s conflicts both before and after having the surgery done and that is in no small part down to Kilmer, who does an excellent job in portraying a blind man with a generally happy demeanor, and it’s almost ironic in a way that his performance is made more believable by his eye-acting. A lot of blind people that I know/have seen tend to still move their eyes when talking, and Kilmer has borrowed that element excellently. Whilst it may not have the tour-de-force feel from his performance in “Willow” or his bravado of “Top Gun”, I would go as far as saying that in terms of pure acting, this is arguably one of Kilmer’s better performances on screen.

McGillis also does a great job as Jennie as, much like Virgil, she is internally conflicted as she wants Virgil to be happy, but is uncomfortable with him taking the risk of having surgery to see again, especially as there was no guarantee it was going to work anyway.

The relationship between Jennie and Virgil is very well played out and I think you genuinely believe the bond is real because of the choice of the writers to make all the characters either in middle-age, or rapidly approaching it. There are no characters, other than one or two via minor ones, under the age of 35 (or at least around that age) in the film, so you don’t have any of the usual issues that plague romantic films where there is just too much angst from a younger cast in similar films.

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“At First Sight” is one of the few romantic films I like because it doesn’t follow the usual format of romantic films. Think of a few romantic comedies you’ve seen recently and you’ll realise that the below formula happens…..

Step 1) The two people meet

Step 2) They fall in love

Step 3) At least one of them has already done something, or does something bad.

Step 4) The other person finds out about it and the two have a massive fight and split up.

Step 5) They eventually get past what split them up and end up together anyway.

Those five steps are the formula to pretty much every romantic comedy ever. I challenge any of you to come up with at least five well known films that don’t follow that formula. It’s one of the reasons I have a serious dislike to the genre, but this is different, perhaps it’s because it’s not a romantic comedy, or maybe because it’s more realistic.

When couples have a fight about something big, the chances are that they won’t get back together. That’s why movies are so ridiculous when that follow the format because if you found out that your partner only got with you because of a bet (She’s All That), they were paid to (My Best Friend’s Girl), you were writing a magazine article (10 Things I Hate About You)…..I could go on.

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Anyway, my point is that it’s very rare that you will find yourself watching a romantic theme (either drama or comedy, or on one occasion I saw, a romantic horror….that was strange) and don’t see that formula, and whilst “At First Sight” does still borrow some elements of those five steps, it’s not all of them.

There are however a few negatives from the film. At over two hours long it does have a lot of filler in there. There is a lot of enjoyable elements to the film, but there are also a lot of parts where you think to yourself that they could have done without that.

I also found it very difficult to get behind Amy because I don’t think she was portrayed particularly well by Sorvino. I’ve seen her in three films (this, “Mimic” and “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” (I can’t believe I’ve just admitted I’ve seen that)) and to be honest I haven’t really liked her in any of them. She is a very good romantic lead in the sense that she definitely has that “girl next door” vibe her, but she doesn’t bring enough charisma to the screen for me to become emotionally invested in her as an actress.

Having said that it’s not unusual for the female lead in a romantic film to be portrayed by actresses that can’t act. Kirsten Stewart, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johannson, Katherine fucking Heigl….again I could go on. If I must for some reason watch a romantic film then I least want both of the leads to be played by people who can actually act, have charisma, or to a lesser extent, be reasonably attractive…..all on that mini-list lack at least one of those, one lacks all three.

Anyway, I’m going to leave it there otherwise I will end up properly ranting about it. If I were you, I wouldn’t expect too many romantic theme reviews on this site.

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Summary

It’s save to say that I am not a fan of romantic films at all. It’s a very tired genre with very few films standing out from the rest, but approvedunlike most films in the genre, “At First Sight” is a very enjoyable, if somewhat over-stretched film that actually has a lot of intelligent points to make about the difficulties that blind people face.

Val Kilmer does a good job portraying Virgil in one of the final roles he had before his career started going a bit downhill (believe me, I’ve seen some of the films he’s done over the past ten years and they are shocking. I’m not saying that he was, but the film was) and it brought to end an excellent 90s for the former Batman star.

I would definitely recommend this film for a Friday night in with your other half.

Last year I went out to the Black Sea. We found something!

Year Released : 2014BS-003-Key-Art-One-Sheet_FINAL2
Director :Kevin McDonald
Cast : Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Karl Davies and Ben Mendelsohn

The last review I posted was of a film that was released in America more than 50 years ago and now I’m going to the other end of the scale and writing about a film that has only just been released in my native England, and doesn’t even come out in America until January, the submarine based thriller, “Black Sea”.

Now, I know some of you will be wondering why I am reviewing a film that I have no idea whether it will be well known or not and the only reason I am relatively confident is because it hasn’t been advertised at all in the UK….and it’s an English film, so it stands little chance of breaking America if the advertising is done in the same way. There’s also the fact that sometimes I watch a film and I just want to review it, regardless of whether I think it will be well known or not.

I must admit that I actually went into the film not knowing a lot about it. I had seen a 10 second advert for it on TV and got the basic premise, but I decided to go in otherwise completely blind to the plot, the characters and anything else in general. It will also be the last film I will see at the cinema in 2014 and I liked this film so much that it actually becomes a contender for my favourite film of the year that I’ve seen on the big screen (I would love to add “The Theory of Everything” because that would win hands down, but it’s not actually getting released yet. I would recommend that when it comes out).

But anyway, I digress.

Plot

Robinson (Law), a former submarine captain for a salvage company, has just been made redundant but because he never had a contract, his compensation package is significantly lower than he expected and because of this he is enraged. He soon hears of a sunken submarine from World War Two that is rumoured to hold around £180 million worth of gold bars that can’t be brought up by his former company, even though they know about it (due political unrest of the Black Sea between Georgia and Russia) and he decides to get it himself.

He enlists the help of 11 other men, 5 British and 6 Russian, however, they are accompanied by a representative of the expedition’s financial backer, Daniels (McNairy). Although all seems fine at first, some members of the crew feel that evenly distributing the bounty of unfair, mainly Fraser (Mendelsohn), who enrages the Russian half of the crew when he kills one of them.

In the ensuing fights, the sub sinks to the ocean bed and devoid of energy, and now they have to hope that the Nazi submarine is somewhere nearby, not only for the gold but to also take it’s motor, otherwise they will never survive.

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So why’s it so good and are there any negatives?

I’m going to start this section with the only major negative I have from the film and that is the camera work. There are scenes that have been properly filmed with a proper set up, but there are others that have adopted the shaky-cam method, and boy does that cameraman shake. It’s really hard to follow the film sometimes with characters, who are sitting down, bouncing all around the screen because the guy couldn’t keep a camera still.

Now don’t get me wrong, I feel that in some scenes it works well and you understand why it’s been made like this. A submarine is a very claustrophobic environment and both the actors and the cameramen were squeezed into the small set and because of this it actually feels very realistic and you can see that some of the actors, mainly McNairy, don’t have to act like they feel confined, and that is where the film works exceptionally well, you feel trapped, a lot like the men on the submarine, afterall, when you’re underwater, especially several hundred metres, there is literally nowhere to run to to escape the unnatural feeling.

It is one of those unnatural feelings that is shown midway through the film that I found to be shown in a very realistic manner as Tobin, an 18 year old, is very inexperienced when it comes to being underwater and panics when he is submerged in water after agreeing to go out and see if the other submarine is around. His panic is very realistic, as is his struggling to breath, and the reason I know it’s realistic is that I went diving on holiday this year and it took a long time to get used to the sensation of breathing under water. It was something that I never got used to and I love that the character also doesn’t truly adapt as it feels real.

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The realism continues in many scenes and without going into it too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. One character gets trapped in an area that is quickly filling with water and you can see his panic as he realises that he is going to die and his desperate attempt to stay above the water, even more so when he is eventually submerged himself.

Infact, the realism throughout is excellent, as is the character development and it’s been a while since I’ve seen a main-stream film with development this good. There are characters, such as Fraser, who you absolutely hate one minute but then find yourself routing for the next, and there are very few characters that don’t fall into that category. You never truly know what to expect or who is actually worth investing in as a character because they are all developed very well, even the characters that don’t speak English.

The language barrier adds a level of tension that the film always keeps to an enjoyable level and doesn’t overly play on it, which is excellent. It’s been a while since I felt tension like this when watching a film and there are many scenes where you are just glued to it because you don’t know what’s going to happen in a very hostile or dangerous situation, right from where two characters are going to fight, one is trying to convince another character to kill someone, or when the submarine is trying to navigate between two huge plates of rock when all they can go off of is echos from the sonar. It’s suspenseful to the point where when it eventually ended, I wanted more, and that’s what you want in a film. I don’t want to watch a film and be glad it’s ended. What’s the point?

I really don’t want to into the film fully into it because as I say, the film hasn’t even been released to the majority of the world yet and I want you all to enjoy it as much as I did. Unlike most films I review, I feel that I can’t really spoil this one too much, and there are a lot of things to spoil about it, so I think it’s better if I leave this here, although the one thing I would say if you’re looking at the cast list on Wikipedia or IMDB, it mentions that Tobias Menzies and Jodie Whittaker are in the film, so if you’re looking forward to seeing either of them I wouldn’t get excited as their combined screen time is less than 30 seconds, and the latter of them is only seen in flashbacks.

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Summary

British cinema comes out with yet another exceedingly enjoyable film and shows other film making nations around the world how to approveddo suspense without having to treat the viewer like an idiot and give it a cheap get out. In every situation you genuinely feel that the characters can die and some die far, far, far earlier than you would expect characters to start dying in this film.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I will be writing an article about the best films I have seen at the cinema this year and I already had my number one sorted before I saw this, but now I might have to reconsider.

Just go and watch it, sit back and enjoy.