Posts Tagged ‘nightcrawler’

Whilst coming to the end of writing my first extensive look at why a certain “horror” franchise failed to produce quality films, I was made aware of a mini-craze amongst film reviewers on social media in which they reveal their favourite film from each year that they’ve been alive.

At first I had no interest in taking part, but then I thought that it might be fun to see what came out each year I was alive. One thing that I quickly realised that there are some years in which there were few standout films for me, 1990 and 2005 being particularly sparse, whereas I really struggled just to pick one from 1994 as as well as what I chose, there were so many entries that were not only great, but would top many top tens around the world.

So I was born in 1984 and will therefore start there. In the interest of fairness I am only going to consider films that were released at the cinema.

1984 – Ghostbusters
1985 – The Goonies
1986 – The Fly
1987 – Spaceballs
1988 – Willow
1989 – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
1990 – Night of the Living Dead
1991 – Terminator 2 : Judgement Day
1992 – A League of Their Own

1993 – Jurassic Park
1994 – The Shawshank Redemption
1995 – Mortal Kombat
1996 – Star Trek : First Contact
1997 – The Fifth Element
1998 – The Truman Show
1999 – Fight Club


2000 – American Psycho
2001 – The Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring
2002 – 28 Days Later
2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl
2004 – Troy
2005 – Land of the Dead
2006 – Lucky Number Slevin


2007 – No Country for Old Men
2008 – The Dark Knight
2009 – Star Trek
2010 – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
2011 – Moneyball
2012 – Avengers : Assemble
2013 – Rush

Then we come onto those that I’ve seen since I started reviewing films for this site. Click on the below links for the full run downs of the top tens from these years.
2014 – Nightcrawler
2015 – No Escape
2016 – Captain Fantastic
2017 – TBD

February 2nd 2015 – Pointless sequels and needless remakes – Remakes and sequels are now a common sight at a cinema, but that is not a good thing.

February 14th 2015 – Can Star Wars regain it’s force in Episode 7? – With Star Wars due to be released at the end of the year, can it regain what made the original trilogy so popular. Please note before reading this that I am not a fan of Star Wars.

March 5th 2015 – A genre that could learn from another – A look into how films based on computer games could improve by following the example of comic book based films.

April 5th 2015 –  Top Twenty Films – Part 1 – A look into ten of my twenty favourite mainstream films. This half of the list contains a virus outbreak, a Spartan army, arguably Christian Bale’s greatest performance, a few classics from the 1980s and one film that contains arguably the best twist ever seen in a movie.

April 28th 2015 – My Top Twenty Films – Part 2 – Second half of my top twenty films of all time. This half of the list contains Brad Pitt aging backwards, a man turning into an insect, an entry from arguably the best franchise of more than five films in history, and a fantasy film from Ron Howard and George Lucas.

August 10th 2015 – The films of 2015 that I’m looking forward to

August 29th 2015 – Shawshank Redemption’s Andy is Guilty – A look into the character of Andy in “The Shawshank Redemption” and how everyone’s belief that he is innocent could infact be wrong.

September 6th 2015 – Why I won’t apologise for not liking your friend’s movie – I had negatively reviewed a film called “Teacher of the Year” before stepping away from my laptop for a few days. When I returned I had some very immature responses from the director’s friend and he didn’t like that I hadn’t praised the film. This was my response.

September 7th 2015 – Four underrated and underutilised actors – Mainstream movies are filled with actors who consistently put in poor performances, so I decided to take a brief look at four that I feel should be in the mainstream considerably more than that are.

January 19th 2016 – The acting gets nominated – Just before the Academy Awards in 2016, a race-row developed in Hollywood after no-one of a non-white origin was nominated for one of the big four individual awards. This was my take on the situation.

May 18th 2016 – The Bottom 5 so far – In May 2016 I realised that I was close on 200 reviews and articles on the site, so I decided to dedicate that post to listing the five worst films that I’ve reviewed so far.

August 2nd 2016 – Coming soon and looking good – A brief look at films that I am excited by.

September 4th 2016 – The 80s was the greatest decade – I look at why the 1980s is the greatest decade for films.

October 1st 2016 – A preview to the end of 2016 – At the end of each year I rank all of the mainstream films that I saw during the year, this was a preview.

March 17th 2017 – A film for every year – There was a social media thing going on amongst film reviewers in which they named their favourite film from each year that they have been alive. These were my choices.

March 19th 2017 – 85 reasons why the Resident Evil franchise sucked – The Resident Evil film franchise finally ended in 2017 and I took a look at why other than the first one, it was generally a poor franchise.

I’ve started getting a few questions through to my emails from people asking me various questions (if you have a question, please email jacksonkate1984@gmail.com) and one question was someone wondering what my favourite ten mainstream films were, and this got me thinking quite hard about it. Five of the films were automatic choices, I didn’t even have to think about them, but then I had trouble with the other five spots.

I had several provisional top 10s but then I would remember another film that I loved that weren’t included but I wanted to get in there somehow, so I then decided to take a different stance with it. Instead of just doing a top ten, I would figure out how many films I do actually love and then round up to the nearest five from there, so when I wrote down 18 films, I decided to simply go with a Top 20 and filled with 2 other films that I like.

So here it is, my Top 20, so to speak, although please note that the only order that these are sorted into is alphabetical order. I could have easily gone with a 20 to 1 approach, but then I would have encountered a similar issue that I had avoided by doing a top 20, so here it goes.

28 Days Later28-Days-Later

Director : Danny Boyle

Cast : Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston

Coming out in November 2002, 28 Days Later became the first 18 Rated film (well, after I turned 18 anyway) that I saw at the cinemas and it scared the living crap out of me. In the years since it has obviously lost that scariness, but remains

28 Days Later follows Jim (Murphy) as he wakes up in a deserted London. He explores various areas of the city but there is not a soul to be seen before he enters a church. In there he sees hundreds of corpses. When he calls out to see if anyone is still alive, he is greeted by several people standing suddenly and glaring at him. Jim hears a distance door opening and someone running up a staircase, a priest bursts through the door and attacks Jim. Jim subdues the priest and runs away, only to then be relentlessly pursued by vicious attackers.

During one attack he is rescued by Selena (Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley). Selena reveals that there was a viral outbreak several weeks prior that caused anyone infected with it to become permanently enraged, and infection usually takes hold within seconds. Jim visits his parents to see if they are still alive, only to be greeted by their decomposing bodies. When nightfall comes he explores his old family homes, only for the infected to spot the candlelight and they break in. The trio eventually subdue the infected, but when Selena sees that Mark has a deep cut on his arm, she kills him with a machete, stating that although it wasn’t certain that he was infected, she could tell by his eyes that he knew.

Soon therefore they run into Frank (Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns), and together they decide to travel up to Manchester to the source of a signal promising safety from infection, the journey there is far from safe though and they almost die several times. When they arrive at the supposed location of safety they find nothing there. In anger Frank starts ranting and raving, only to become infected when a drop of blood from a dead body gets into his eye. Frank is suddenly shot by soldiers and the group are rescued, but is it necessarily safer with them than it is with the infected nearby?

Had this been a movie about zombies then I would probably go as far as saying that it’s the best zombie film ever made, but as the infected aren’t dead they’re technically not zombies, but that doesn’t detract from what is an incredible British movie. This started off several years of my fellow Brits pumping out quality horror films, including Severance, Creep and a film I have previously reviewed, The Cottage (click for the review). Danny Boyle doesn’t bring out many films but when he does, they are usually quality.

The film has many excellent qualities to it, including bringing the excellent Cillian Murphy to the public eye in what would be the first of three films to date that he has been on screen with Brendan Gleeson. It also uses horror well, with the scariest element being that the infection doesn’t fuck about. It doesn’t take hours or days like most transformations in similar films, once you’re infected, you’re attacking people within thirty seconds, and this leads to an emotionally brilliant scene where Frank is infected, realises that he’s about to turn and tries desperately to say a final goodbye to Hannah in the little time he has left.

Using the methods that Boyle used to film 28 Days Later, don’t expect a clean, 4K quality video, it was literally recorded on a video camera and it shows, but it works. Visually, without having the context of the film, 28 Days Later looks terrible. It’s grainy, saturated and has lighting issues, but it works because you realise that’s what it would actually be like if it were to happen in real life. In too many films these days you will see a supposedly pitch black environment that is fully lit up from a lighter, so filming it on a video camera and using the absolute minimum they could in terms in digital effects.

It’s impossible not to respect the success that they achieved with so little. To manage to do what they did, such as agreeing to clear part of the motorway for several hours and getting the police to stop various people wandering into parts of London so they could film it and make it look deserted, is incredible.

If you’re going to make a zombie film, you need to watch this first because whilst it isn’t a zombie film (they’re not zombies), it does everything a zombie film should do.

 

300poster212x312

Director : Zack Synder

Cast : Gerard Butler, Rodrigo Santoro, Vincent Regan, David Wenham and Michael Fassbender

I know some of you will be looking at this and be surprised that I have included 300, but 300 is just one of those films where if there’s nothing else on, you can put this on and not really have to think about it, you can just put it on and go. In that sense it’s like the FIFA series on Playstation and X-Box, if you’re bored, pop it on and you’re enjoying yourself within minutes.

300 tells the story of Leonidas (Butler), the King of Sparta, as he rejects an offer for his country to be spared from a Persian invasion if they agree to find fight for it’s commander, Xerxes (Santoro), a man who believes himself to be a God. Knowing that the Persians will now attack, he seeks to use the army to fight them off, but the law states that Sparta can only go to war if the Oracle allows it, but that the request it denied.

In desperation, Leonidas figures out a loophole in the law and travels with 300 soldiers, who he claims are just there to be his personal bodyguard, as he “goes for a walk”. They soon find their way to Thermopylae and despite being outnumbered many thousands to one, the Spartans easily dispatch what is thrown at them. However, a deformed Spartan that was denied the chance to help defend his country by Leonidas, could cause all of his work to come undone.

300 is one of my favourite films because it is just fun. It’s exactly what a movie is supposed to me. You’re experiencing a battle through the eyes, or eye, of a character who survived the battle and is gearing up the rest of the army. He has been given the job of telling his army the story and making them pumped up and ready for battle, and it works well as an audience member.

Yes, it’s full of cheesiness and more abs than you can shake a stick at, but it’s one of the few films where I can watch it and notice something new every time. I love that even in the battles, even when focusing on just one character, it involves a lot of characters in the background as well. They aren’t just a random blur, you see their fights as clear as you’re seeing the character that’s centrally on screen. You don’t get that often in films and it’s that attention to detail that helps it so much.

I have previously reviewed the first film to be based on the Battle of Thermopylae (click here for that review) but this is one of the few remakes that is better than the original film. Infact, this list has several films that are remakes that are better than their originals and it isn’t something I use lightly. 300 is far better than the original and that’s not even to say that the original was a bad film. The original was more realistic and definitely more grounded with it’s visuals, but what it lacks compared to the original is the adrenaline rush.

Gerard Butler’s brilliant portrayal of Leonidas is one of the best breakthrough performances of the 21st century so far. Butler was already in several major motion pictures before this but this gave him the platform to become a leading man and it’s amazing what he achieved with a script that was full of cheesy one liners and well, more cheesy one liners.

It also has the brilliant Vincent Regan in it. Vincent Regan will feature again in this list and for good reason, he is a remarkable actor and is a joy to watch in any film. Midway through the film his son is killed and Regan goes from crying his eyes out to the angriest you’ve probably ever seen someone on film before, it’s a laudable bit of acting from Regan and anytime I see him on screen, I know I’m about to see an acting masterclass. If anything he is more fun to watch than Butler in this film.

 

Aliens54955776

Director : James Cameron

Cast : Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton and Lance Henrikson

For me this is comfortably the best film in the Alien franchise. I didn’t particularly like the first one, Alien3 is meh, Resurrection is just there, the first Alien vs Predator film was ok, the less said about the second the better, and don’t even get me started on Prometheus.

Aliens focuses on the sole survivor from the first film, Eleanor Ripley (Weaver) as she is awoken from hypersleep in her pod several decades after escape the ship. She struggles to cope with the more advanced world, especially after finding out that her daughter, who was just a young child at the time of the events of the first film, had died of old age whilst Ripley was asleep.

As Ripley is caught up in legal cases for destroying the ship with no evidence of an alien, a remote outpost sends a distress signal and she joins the marines on their trip.

Despite an initial slow start, the marines eventually find a survivor and just in time to see an alien burst out of her chest. The marines quickly kill it but that angers the nearby hidden aliens and they wipe out most of the marines. With only a small handful of them left, they must escape the station soon due to a pending explosion, but there is something more dangerous laying in wait.

James Cameron did such an amazing job with this film and the damaged, but still strong character of Ripley. Ripley is struggling in this film due to the death of her daughter but you see her try and establish that same mother-daughter style relationship with a child who has somehow survived on the station amongst the attacks.

It’s the little touches that make Cameron such a huge box office draw, and despite it being a sci-fi/horror movie, Aliens is also a great character driven movie and even those that don’t have a lot of screen time are given indications of what they’re like as a person. It’s not just the main characters that are developed, but the minor touches added, such as writing “Fly the friendly skies” on a pilot’s helmet is a subtle, yet very important aspect of building an otherwise unremarkable character.

Cameron also gets the pacing exceptionally well, and the first alien doesn’t even appear on screen until more than an hour into the movie. Up until that point it’s just a slow build, then action, time to breath, action again and so on. It’s not 100mph like a lot of horror films, there is a great chance to “take a breather” because the well executed action sequences.

Once scene that sticks in my mind as fantastic is when the marines have turrets set up in a narrow tunnel and they fire based on movement. You don’t see the guns firing, all you see is the screen showing the rapidly decreasing amount of bullets in the gun and the increasing panic of the characters as the chance of the aliens getting through increases. It’s an exceptionally well acted scene between several actors who moved onto much bigger things after this film.

 

American Psycho1d575f341c9891f7f417ad2463f2331b

Director : Mary Harron

Cast : Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Willem Da Foe, Reese Witherspoon and Chloe Sevingy

In my opinion one of Christian Bale’s best performances comes from one of the his earliest films from his adulthood, American Psycho. I have been a fan of Bale since first seeing him in 1991’s Treasure Island, but it wasn’t until he reached adulthood that he became a great actor and he features three times in my top 20 list, with only one other actor having more than that.

American Psycho is set in the 1980s at the height of the yuppie era, and one such yuppie is Patrick Bateman (Bale). On the outside Bateman is just your average 20something that has done well in life due to his father practically owning the company that he works for. He enjoys the finer things in life and is engaged to the neurotic Evelyn (Witherspoon), although he is sleeping with the girlfriend of a colleague.

In his spare time however, Patrick is far from normal and kills people on a regular basis, including prostitutes, random people that he meets in nightclubs and models. Patrick soon becomes jealous of his colleague, Paul Allen (Leto), a man who keeps one-upping him in terms of getting seats at a restaurant that Patrick can’t get a reservation for, a better apartment and even a better business card (leading to one of the best scenes in the movie). Patrick tricks Paul into coming to his apartment and kills him with an axe. Patrick must then cover up his tracks as the police investigation begins.

American Psycho is a near perfect satire of life in 1980s America and none more so than Bateman himself, who is consistently loathing those around him, especially anyone who achieves more than he does, such as Paul, and he is played superbly by Bale. Bale’s ability to play someone who is all smiles on the outside but is planing to kill someone on the inside is a joy to watch and it’s refreshing to see an actor embrace a role of a character that you’re not really supposed to like but you can’t help but do so.

His feelings on the inside not matching his outside appearance is one of many continuing themes throughout the film and the contradiction between the situation and the way the film approaches it is joyful to watch. For example, in the seen where Paul is getting killed, Patrick has started playing “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News, a complete contradiction of moods and it is portrayed so perfectly.

It is one of many interesting themes that are explored in the film, with others being the constant mistaken identity and mishearing what other people are saying, which comes to a head in one of the best endings on my top 20 list. It is an ending that leaves you asking questions and that is a great way to leave things sometimes. For example, if you think of the ending to Inception, people are still debating to this day whether Cobb is dreaming or not as you never see the top fall, that has lead to some great discussions online, including one theorising that the top isn’t his totem to begin with.

The ending in American Psycho is similar in the sense that even now, 15 years after it’s initial release (it’s the 15th anniversary on April 14th), people are still debating the ending and what it means. I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t seen it, so if you haven’t then I would seriously recommend it.

There has been talk of a remake recently to follow the book a bit more closely (the book has far more depraved acts), but I hope they don’t as this is more of a one off masterpiece rather than something that should be explored on a regular basis.

 

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventurebillandtedfront

Director : Stephen Herek

Cast : Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves and George Carlin

Just one of two comedies that will appear on this list of my Top 20 films is the 1989 hit “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Despite being 26 years old, this film has dated relatively well as it is still relateable to any generation. Although it is a definite 80s film in terms of it’s style and presentation, the story can be translated to work for any generation and any time and that is something that you can’t say for many other films.

For example, if you taken American Psycho out of the 80s it wouldn’t work because it focuses primarily on the yuppie lifestyle of the 1980s, Aliens must be set in the future due to the technology, but Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure could be set at any point in time from when schools became commonplace because the struggling students getting an unusual chance to do something part of the storyline.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure follows slackers Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) as they are destined to change the world into a better place, bringing peace to the universe through rock and roll, but they don’t know this and are set to fail their high school history class. Failing the class would mean that Ted’s father would send him off to military school in Alaska and thus the band wouldn’t exist in the future. Rufus (Carlin) is sent back in time to help them pass by giving them a phone booth to learn about history first hand.

The phone booth can be used to travel through time and the pair figure that instead of simply learning from the historical figures, they can achieve more by actually bringing several historical figures back to the modern day to help them. Amongst those historical figures are Billy the Kid, Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Socrates and several others. The journey is far from trouble free though as the phone booth gets damaged and their travel becomes sporadic. They do eventually find their way back to the the present day, but in a world completely unfamiliar to them, the historical figures don’t stay put.

Excellent Adventure is one of my favourite films from that era of the late 80s and early 90s. It is one of the few genuinely fun movies out there that you can just sit back, relax and enjoy what you’re about to watch. It is like most films from that era and celebrates it, rather than mocking it in some sense. The 1980s was full of great movies and this was one of the last ones to come out during the decade, but again it stands the test of time.

It’s rare to find a mainstream comedy film from the 1980s that wasn’t fun, it’s a generation that knew how to do comedies well, and there were quite a few that came very close to being included in this list, including Weird Science, The Goonies and many more.

It is also a very rare film where Keanu Reeves doesn’t actually look like he’s not enjoying himself. Whereas Winter hasn’t really had a big on screen career at all, Reeves has been in the main stream attention on various occasions since Excellent Adventure came out, with big roles in 1991’s Point Break, 1994’s Speed, 1999’s The Matrix and several others, but he has never truly been a mega-star and therefore his returning to a franchise from early in his career wouldn’t be out of the question. There has been talk of a third film in the franchise, set around the two when they are in their 40s, but whether we want to see another Bill and Ted film is another question.

 

Fight ClubFight_Club_Edward_by_cromley009

Director : David Fincher

Cast : Brad Pitt, Ed Norton, Jared Leto, Meatloaf and Helena Botham Carter

If I was to rank these top 20 films in order of my preferences then there is a very, very good chance that Fight Club would rank as Number One. Yes, that’s right, my top film, there is only one film that would rival that spot but that won’t come until part 2 of the list, but for now I want to laud this film as much as I can.

Fight Club is just an incredible piece of cinema, you can’t put it into a single genre and there is largely something for everyone, and even Helena Botham Carter doesn’t ruin it, which is probably the most lauding thing I can give to it. It makes the emotional void and talentless vacuum tolerable, something which I never thought possible.

An unnamed narrator (Norton) is a man who can’t sleep and after a trip to the doctor to find out what’s wrong with him, it’s recommended that to understand true suffering that he should attend support groups. Whilst there he meets a woman called Marla (Botham Carter) and after several arguments, they agree to go their separate ways.

The narrator soon meets Tyler Durden (Pitt) on a flight and after discovering that his condo has been blown up, he stays in Tyler’s run-down house in the middle of nowhere. Tyler convinces the narrator that the only way to live life is in a carefree manner and to achieve this you need to take your aggression out on others, so they start an underground boxing club called Fight Club.

There are only a few rules of Fight Club and it turns out to be a big hit, however, Tyler soon starts taking Fight Club to the next level, turning it into Project Mayhem. Project Mayhem sets out to commit acts of terrorism against anything corporate, such as destroying corporate art, coffee chain franchises, computer stores and expensive cars. The narrator soon becomes exceptionally frustrated that Tyler doesn’t share information with him, but when Tyler does choose to share a certain bit of information, it is the most shocking bit of news of the narrator’s life.

I really want to say what the twist is for those that don’t know, but I can’t because I want anyone who experiences this film for the first time and doesn’t know the twist to be as shocked as most people were when they saw it for the first time. I unfortunately can never say that as someone told me the twist before I saw the film, but even then it still wowed me when I eventually saw it.

Fight Club has tremendous rewatchability for numerous reasons. Once you know what the twist is you look for the signs of it throughout the film and every time I do watch it, I see something new. One of the fun little games is looking for a Starbucks cup because there is supposedly a Starbucks cup in every single shot.

For a glowing look at the film, all you have to do is realise that the author of the book, Chuck Pahalniuk, has even said himself that the film is better than the book. I read the novel soon after watching the film and the book is excellent, but when the author says that even the film is better, you know you’re onto a winner. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Pahalniuk pens the sequel.

 

Moneyballmoneyball-poster

Director : Bennett Miller

Cast : Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt

Remember earlier when I mentioned that only one actor appeared in more films in this list than Christian Bale? Well that actor is Brad Pitt, appearing in this list for the second time, and by the time this list ends he will have been featured four times.

This follows on from a few weeks ago when I was looking through my Blu-Ray collection and there were a lot that featured Brad Pitt, it was at that point I realised that he was probably my favourite actor that’s still working on a regular bass. He rarely has a bad film and this was the same.

I’m not going to lie, I know precisely nothing about baseball other than the basic rules and some of the better known teams, i/e the Yankees, so I found myself surprised that I was watching this and when I saw it in the cinema, I was the only person in the screen. Baseball is not even slightly big in the UK and although I’ve watched a few games here and there, I’ve never seen any of my fellow Brits on Facebook or Twitter mentioning the sport.

Because this is actually a historical based story, rather than fiction, I’m going to talk about the entire film, now just a summary. Therefore, incase you haven’t figured that out, it will contain spoilers.

Moneyball tells the true story of the Oakland Athletics baseball team in their 2002 season. The season starts with the Athletics losing their three star players and it is the duty of Billy Beane (Pitt), the General Manager, to replace them. The only issue is that Oakland have one of the lowest budgets in the league and they can’t replace them with established stars. When visiting the Cleveland Indians, Beane is intrigued by the input of an unknown office worker in a meeting by the name of Peter Brand (Hill).

Beane hires Brand when he learns of a unique system for bringing in players to establish their value. Instead of home runs or any other similar stats, Brand’s formula works on aspects such as how many times a player gets on base. The approach to signing players is met with ridicule by everyone and the early season results reflect this. Manager Art Howe (Seymour Hoffman) says that the approach, along with the lack of security with a rolling one year contract, means he can’t do his job properly and regularly threatens to leave.

Howe purposefully starts ignoring the instructions from Beane, including not playing his players. Beane responds by trading out the players that Howe keeps playing. Despite the high tensions, the A’s start winning a few games and they soon equal a record breaking winning run and they head into a game against Kansas to make it an unprecedented 20 in a row.

Thee game starts perfectly for the A’s as they quickly establish an 11-0 lead, but Kansa gradually pulls it back. Going into the final inning, one of the players brought in under the new system, Mark Hatteberg (Pratt) hits a walk-off home run and wins the game for the A’s. Despite this, the A’s lose in the Playoffs to the Minnesota Twins. The film ends with Beane rejecting a contract to take over at the Boston Red Sox.

All sports movies should do things the way that Moneyball did it. I’ll use the Mighty Ducks franchise as an example of how not to do it. According to the Mighty Ducks, the only things you really need to suddenly become unbeatable is a new jersey, to be taught how to receive a puck properly and shoot at a goalkeeper who is tied up. I don’t care how crap you are as a team, you’re not going to become unbeatable after months and months of being awful, and that’s what most sports films do.

Now, I know that this film is slightly different to most sports teams because it is actually based on real events, which helps with the realism factor, but again, it doesn’t pretend that all of a sudden the team are unbeatable. It shows that they are still very much very close to going back to where they started, whereas in most sports films once the team starts winning, there’s nothing that can stop them.

Against, I don’t really know anything about baseball, but the system that Brand comes up with seems the most realistic way to get success. It’s all well and good filling your team with star players if they don’t produce. I would rather have a bunch of unknowns that are statistically proven to succeed, rather than big name stars that don’t produce when it’s needed.

Hill is fantastic as Brand and does feel very believable as a guy who would come up with a statistical formula. Hill has grown as an actor in recent years and well beyond his comedic beginnings. I wasn’t a fan of him as a comedy actor, but as a serious actor he is exceptionally. With this and his performance in The Wolf on Wall Street, have turned me completely on side with him. For me he is the highlight of this movie and puts in a more memorable performance than Pitt, which is saying something given that Pitt is the main star in this film.

Arguably the main reason that I like Moneyball is that it’s all very real, it’s not given the usual sports movie treatment of ridiculous montages, overpowering music or anything or a similar nature. Moneyball treats everything like you’re there and a participant in every seen. Conversations are long, drawn out and feel natural, they’re not to the point every single time and feel more realistic because of this. In many ways it feels more like a fly on the wall documentary and you’re observing real life.

And finally, before I move onto the next film, I want to talk about the soundtrack and more specifically, the song “The Mighty Rio Grande” by a group called “This Will Destroy You”. This song is enough to send shivers down your spine due to the atmospheric nature of it and it is used excellently throughout the film. Find the song, press play, close your eyes and think of an amazing time in your life. I guarantee you that after you’ve done that, that already amazing time will feel even more epic.

 

NightcrawlerNightcrawlerfilm

Director : Dan Gilroy

Cast : Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton

Those of you who have been reading my site for a while will remember me talking about this film during my look at my Top 10 films of 2014 and how I ranked it as Number One, and by quite a long way. In particular I said that it was the only film I was able to give a perfect 10 for last year.

It is the only film from 2014 that will feature in this list and yet the remarkable thing is that I almost didn’t even see it. I went to the cinema to watch something else, Purge : Anarchy if memory serves me correctly, but I got there slightly too late for the showing I was intending to watch so I decided to go and watch a later showing instead, but in between was Nightcrawler. I had not been impressed with the trailer for Nightcrawler but I decided to give it a shot anyway and I’m so glad that I did.

What makes it even more awesome is that my brother bought this on Blu-Ray when I was out of work and then decided he didn’t want it, so gave me it for nothing. I got a Blu-Ray of my favourite film of 2014, and arguably of this decade so far, for free. How awesome is that?

Lou (Gyllenhaal) is a man down on his luck and trying to make money any way he can. He steals chain link fences to sell as scrap metal and whilst he is making money from it, he is after more. After being rejected for a job because of being a thief he encounters a car crash and a man called Joe (Paxton) recording it. He realises that he can make money by recording footage and selling it to the local news stations.

Whilst at Los Angeles beach, Lou steals a sports bike and sells it in exchange for a camera and police scanner, and he starts going out and night and recording everything he can find. He sells the video to the only station that will buy it and he meets Nina (Russo). Upon realising that the better footage he gets, the more money he will get, he hires Rick (Ahmed). Rick is keen to impress but is equally as concerned about money and is constantly asking Lou for a review and raise, much to the annoyance of Lou.

As time moves on, Lou is able to get better footage and better equipment, but soon he starts breaking the law in order to get better footage, such as not reporting a home invasion to the police, allowing him to get inside and footage of the victims before the police are even aware. With this comes risks and Lou blackmails Nina into having sex with him.

However, Lou isn’t the only person out to get footage and when he realises that Joe’s operation has grown and he now operates two vans. Lou purposes sabotage’s Joe’s car, causing him to crash and get numerous life threatening industries. Just how far will Lou go before it’s too far?

Before I saw this, I was never really that impressed with Gyllenhaal but he has completely won me over with his performance as Lou. It’s hard to really describe in words what his performance other than stupendous and tour-de-force. Gyllenhaal transformed himself into the character and you genuinely feel that Lou was a threat because of how well Gyllenhaal plays the character. His nonchalance towards causing physical harm and even death to various characters is just incredible to watch, and yet you want him to succeed.

Gyllenhaal’s delivery of threatening lines is a sign of great acting, afterall, who could say the following with glee and make it sound almost gleeful – “What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you’d have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that’s what I’m telling you, as clearly as I can.”

Much like Moneyball, the soundtrack for Nightcrawler helps superbly with the creation of a great atmosphere. The subtle guitar work, mixed with a sort of ambient theme, mixed with the neo-noir atmosphere of Los Angeles and night brings the environment to life. I’ve never been to Los Angeles and never had any intention of going before I saw this film. This made me want to visit what is supposedly one of America’s greatest cities and that is a great advert for the film.

Nightcrawler, as I said earlier, is a rare perfect 10 for me. If I did a scoring system on this website then this would get the full marks and if I had ranked every film within this list in terms of preference, this would have a great chance of being in the Top 5, it would certainly be Top 10.

 

Rushrush-salvatore-ferragamo-001

Director : Ron Howard

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Pierfrancesco Favino

From my favourite film of 2014 to the one from the previous year and the magnificent Rush. Rush is based on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the early to mid 1970s, a rivalry that started out professionally but very quickly turns personal.

Unlike baseball, I am actually a fan of Formula One, or rather, at least I used to be. I know a fair old bit about the sport and although it’s nowhere near as interesting as it used to be, it’s safe to say that this captures the excitement of what it used to be like. Before recently it used to be about who was the better driver as cars used to be very similar, whereas no there is usually one car that is miles above the rest and it doesn’t necessarily have to have the best driver in it to succeed.

Much like Moneyball, because this is based on historical events I am going to write exactly what happens right through to the ending, so again, spoiler alert

James Hunt (Hemsworth) is preparing for the 1970 Formula Three race at Crystal Palace when he lays eyes on Niki Lauda (Brühl) for the first time and they soon get into an argument after Hunt races in a dangerous manner, almost causing Lauda to crash. Lauda soon buys himself into Formula One and quickly establishes himself as a great driver. Hunt’s group decides to enter Formula One as well.

Hunt and Lauda renew their rivalry but Hesketh is no match for Lauda’s Ferrari. Hunt joins McLaren, a car that can make him competitive and the two, whilst respecting each other’s abilities, start a bitter rivalry for the title. Meanwhile, Hunt’s marriage has fallen apart and that, combined with bad luck, means Niki establishes a very early and seemingly dominating lead in the title race.

Niki marries his girlfriend just before the German Grand Prix is due to take place. The weather is terrible and the track already has a reputation for injuring people and taking lives. Niki calls a meeting to get the race postponed but Hunt rallies the room to vote for the race to go ahead. Lauda’s suspension breaks midway through the third lap and sends him crashing into the safety railing. Lauda has to be pulled from the burning wreckage and is taken to hospital.

In his absense Hunt closes the gap and this motivates a severely burnt and ill Niki to come back. Niki does eventually recover to rejoin the season still in the lead of the title race. Niki struggles in his first race back, quickly overcome with fear of the same thing happening again, but he soon regains his focus and goes on to finish the race, whereas Hunt has mechanical failures. That result means that despite missing a hefty section of the season, Lauda goes into the final day ahead of Hunt, but the weather when the race goes ahead is worse than Germany and Lauda leaves the race early on, realising that it isn’t worth the risk. Hunt eventually goes on to finish third and therefore winning the title.

Rush is one of the most stylish and realistic sports films that I have ever seen, possibly only bettered by Moneyball. Rush is visually incredible on every single level, right down to the simple things, such as Niki Lauda’s overbite. Too many sports films based on historical events ignore the little things, such as not making the actors look like those that they are portraying, and if you see a picture of Daniel Brühl normally compared to how he looked in the film, you will be amazed. It is a truly incredible transformation that the film-makers have pulled off.

Brühl is incredible as the Austrian Lauda and it’s impossible not to be impressed by him. I first became aware of Brühl due to his appearance in Inglorious Basterds and his mesmerising portrayal of a seemingly well mannered young man who simply won’t take no for an answer. He brings a great level of sympathy to the character because although the character is a self confessed arsehole, you understand why he is how he is and Brühl plays it excellently.

Both Landa and Hunt are portrayed as exactly what they were, flawed human beings. Hunt, despite being a world class racing driver, struggles with the normalities of life and this costs him his marriage, and Landa refuses to accept anything less than perfection and doesn’t know how to do anything other than via the most simple to achieve it. For example, when he marries his girlfriend, it’s simply in a registry office, he doesn’t go with a full on wedding because it is simple. Even Landa’s home is as basic as it gets.

Hunt and Landa are the perfect antithesis to each other and the duel between them, and how it escalates from a mere professional rivalry to a more personal battle, is a great build, but even better is when Niki has had his rivalry and James’ reaction to it. James’ guilt about how he rallied the other racers to ignore Niki’s protests for a race to go ahead, and the subsequent accident, is the perfect character development.

At the time of writing, Rush is ranked 161 in the IMDB Top 250 and yet was completely ignored by the Oscars, not even one nomination. It is highly unusual for a mainstream film to be in the IMDB Top 250 without receiving a single Oscar nomination.

 

Scott Pilgrim vs the WorldScott_Pilgrim_vs._the_World_teaser

Director : Edgar Wright

Cast : Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman, Ellen Wong and Mark Webber

Much like Nightcrawler I had precisely no interest in watching this film when I first saw it advertised and only saw it because I had time to kill in Sheffield. I was there to watch football but decided to do Christmas shopping before hand. I still had about 5 hours to kill so I went to the Vue that’s in Meadowhall and this was the only film on that whilst I didn’t overly want to see it, looked tolerable. It subsequently became arguably my favourite comedy film.

Portrayed in similar fashion to a video game and a mix of pop culture references, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is one of the most enjoyably fun films I’ve ever seen. It is one of the most visually unique films that I have ever seen, right from the simple things such as presenting a “pee bar” (similar to a life bar in a computer game) when Scott goes to toilet, right up to it’s comic book style visuals when one of the evil ex’s is skating down a steel bar too fast.

Scott (Cera) is a 22 year old going nowhere in life and refuses to admit it. One day he starts dating Knives Chau (Wong), a 17 year old high school student and Scott gets openly mocked by his friends and family. Scott soon attends a party there he lays eyes on Ramona (Winstead) for the first time, but his attempts at small talk go hilariously badly. Scott wallows in this for several days before he devises a plan to get Ramona around to his house.

After a while the pair do eventually start dating, all whilst Scott is still with Knives. When Scott’s band is invited to compete at a Battle of the Bands event and midway through performing, Scott is suddenly attacked by a man who claims to be one of Ramona’s ex-boyfriends and the first of seven tests he must past. Scott eventually makes light work of the man before Ramona reveals that in order for them to date, Scott must defeat he seven evil-ex’s. Scott finally breaks up with Knives.

As Scott progresses through his week to keeps running into more evil ex’s, finding it increasingly difficult to defeat each of them as their powers become more extreme. With his neuroticism in full swing, Scott begins to question whether Ramona is worth all of the effort and soon starts taking a half-arsed approach to the situation, only becoming concerned again after they split up and Ramona gets back together with one of her former boyfriends, Gideon (Schwartzman).

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is an excellent throw away film. If you have a random Sunday afternoon where you have nothing at all planned, this is an excellent film to put on and enjoy for a few hours. Much like Fight Club, every time you watch you get something new from the film and that is something that is so rare with films these days. There is always something that you’ve forgotten and it is a delight

The humour within Scott Pilgrim vs the World is relateable, regardless of whether you’re a geek of not. There is a joke for everyone and my personal favourite comes from ex-boyfriend number 3, Todd. Todd is a vegan and because of this, he is granted special powers, such as telekinesis, but when he accidentally drinks an animal based product, the vegan police show up and strip him of all of his powers. He is the scene in all of it’s glory.

 

Arguably the biggest plus for me though is that it is full of people that can’t act and actually makes it enjoyable. Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick and many other members of the cast are terrible at acting, especially Plaza, and yet they somehow make it work and make the film enjoyable, which is something that if you told me that this was the cast and nothing else about the film, I wouldn’t watch it.

Scott Pilgrim vs the world is an enjoyable romp and although it does start getting a little tiresome towards the end, it is still at least an 8 out of 10. I’m not going to lie, if I was ranking all of the films that feature in this list of my top 20 films, Scott Pilgrim vs the World would be in the lower reaches of the list, but it is still a worthy addition to my list.

 

 

So that’s it for Part One of my Top 20, I will be posting Part 2 within the next few weeks.

B7ZWH-NCcAAEbR8 (1)

Well Oscar season is now in full swing and yet again I find my favourite film of the year doesn’t even feature in the Best Film category. Last year I was exceedingly disappointed that “Rush” wasn’t even nominated, and this year it’s the case for my favourite film of 2014, Nightcrawler.

So now that the nominations are out, I’m going to run through the main categories, give general comments and who I think will win.

BEST PICTURE

Nominees : American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything and Whiplash.

Glaring Omissions : Nightcrawler and Gone Girl

For me there is only one worthy winner and that is “The Theory Of Everything”. It is the only film of the eight that I actually feel passionate about having seen six of the other seven. The only one that I haven’t seen is Whiplash due to not being released in the UK yet (although it does look well made).

I saw “Birdman” fairly recently and I’ll be honest, I was bored. It’s a well made film and Ed Norton in particular is fantastic, but for me it was just frightfully dull and although it definitely looks unique due to it’s editing making it appear to be one continuous shot, but that isn’t enough for me.

As I mentioned above, “The Theory of Everything” is for me easily the best film of the eight. It is exceptionally well made, is heart-warming and life-affirming. It makes you realise just how great Stephen Hawking’s achievements are and out of the ones that I have seen, it’s the only one I would consider watching again.

Prediction : The Theory of Everything

thetheoryof

BEST ACTOR

Nominees : Steve Carrell, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne.

Glaring Omission : Jake Gyllenhaal

Right away I’m going to rule out Cooper or Cumberbatch as for me the other three stand out.

Redmayne was absolutely incredible as Stephen Hawking. Although he spends the majority of the film not really doing a lot, he has that presence which you would expect from an actor double his age and he commands the screen. The scenes early on are well played by Redmayne as well and he is a very strong candidate in this category.

Despite Birdman being dull, Keaton is actually quite good as the titular character. I haven’t seen anything of Keaton since the mid-90s comedy Multiplicity, and he has aged considerably since then, and he played the character very well. Infact, I’ll go as far as saying that there isn’t actually any member of the cast that did a bad job on Birdman, they all did very well, but it was just the story that I found hard to get into.

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed with Foxcatcher, it just wasn’t very engaging and I still don’t find Channing Tatum entertaining in the slightest, especially not enough to lead a film, so I am glad that he was ignored for this film and Carrell was given the best actor in his role as John Du Pont. It says it all about an actor that you wouldn’t know it was them unless you’re told. Usually you can see past the make up and still see that person, but I didn’t get that with Steve Carrell at all.

I’ve never been sure on Steve Carrell, he was awesome as Brick in the Anchorman films but other than that I’ve been largely “meh” about him, but for me this shows that he has a broad spectrum and that for me is a great thing. It’s similar to Jim Carrey, I didn’t really like him at all until I saw “The Truman Show” because it shows that he isn’t one-dimensional.

Prediction : Steve Carrell

steve-carell-is-unrecognisable-in-first-image-from-foxcatcher-143170-a-1377071676-470-75-steve-carell-is-unrecognizable-in-new-foxcatcher-t

BEST ACTRESS

Nominees : Marion Cotillard, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore, Rosamund Pike and Reese Witherspoon

Pike, all the way. Not a question about it at all.

She is incredible in Gone Girl and although I’ve liked her for quite some time, this performance stands out as the best in her career and she is the only one here who is worthy of the Oscar.

Prediction : Rosamund Pike

gonegirl_pike

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees : Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nightcrawler

For me there is only one winner in this category, my film of 2014, Nightcrawler, however, I know the Oscars don’t work like that. The Oscars tend not to give an award to a film that is only nominated in one category when the other films in that category have been nominated for best picture.

I would love Nightcrawler to win this as it was an incredible story, however, with the unlikely event that the Academy won’t against their long term form, I reckon it will go the most enjoyable film of the other four, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Whilst it dragged at point, TGBH was enjoyable in parts and had an excellent all-round cast, including Ed Norton, the only person who appears in more than one of the films in the Best Picture Categories, and it’s the case with this category as well.

Prediction : The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand-Budapest-Fiennes-Revolori

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.