Last month I did a horror films special. This month, I’ve got both months in a double whammy special. The last 2 months have been fairly good for film viewing and I have a good balance of knockouts and solid gold stinkers. I haven’t seen a huge number of films, but I’ve tried to watch some. I’m working my way through the 2014 new releases, so that for the first time ever I can have a top and bottom 10 of a year. Nothing more to say!
Touch Of Evil: 7/10 the opening tracking shot isn’t well done and is overhyped and overrated. The rest of this technically brilliant and well acted but hollow noir follows suit.
The Road: 6/10 it doesn’t really work as a film but some of the power of Cormac McCarthy’s prose can be found.
Oculus: 7/10 finally a worthwhile horror film from 2014. Unoriginal but scary.
The Butler: 7/10 blatant Oscar baiting material, but with fine acting and a moving story.
Mockingjay Part 1: 7/10 a blatant cash grabber short on action, but thanks to the acting and writing it deserves to grab the cash.
Ride Along: 5/10 it’s certainly not as bad as some say it is, but it’s not great either.
8 good movies:
8. The Equalizer: 6/10 Denzel Washington launches a one man war on the Russian Mafia. Sign me up! In this adaptation of the 80s TV show, Denzel Washington plays an insomniac, troubled former black ops operative who tries to help a young teenager and free her from her captors. The Russian gangsters aren’t too pleased and Denzel starts to fight his way through them. It’s difficult to not enjoy it at least moderately as Denzel Washington dispenses justice in a series of brilliantly executed stylish action scenes rendered in glorious slow mo. It’s far from a great film though. It’s too long, the violence makes it feel like an action movie version of Saw at times and it has its dips. Despite providing the emotional core of the movie, Chloe Grace Moretz is only in it for 20 minutes which is a total waste of talent and a mysterious decision. Still, it certainly delivers and the finale is one of the best examples of filmmaking I’ve seen all year.
7. The Last Of The Mohicans: 8/10 in the midst of the French-Indian war, 3 trappers are protecting a British Colonel’s daughter. Daniel Day Lewis takes the lead and he prepared by living in the wild for long stretches of time and training for months. It paid off and he delivers a compelling and fascinating performance despite not actually saying that much. The plot won’t wow anyone and this isn’t as good as Heat, but Michael Mann proves he’s one of the coolest directors working today. It’s consistently entertaining thanks to great cinematography, a strong script, blazing action sequences and an amazing soundtrack. The various battle sequences are intense and exhilarating and ultimately, TLOTM is a gut punching, mind blowing action epic without a fast car, hot chick, explosion or one liner in sight.
6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 8/10 banned until 1998, this controversial horror film has a horrible title and bad reputation but is genuinely superb. 5 young adults on a road trip to Texas. What could possibly go wrong? Every single tiny thing is the answer. TTCM strips the genre to the bone; plot and characters are non existent and this makes it feel slighter than it should, however this also means nothing can get in the way of the hair raising, scream inducing, borderline harrowing terror as total carnage erupts. It’s also a subtle piece of social commentary. With documentary style filming, Tobe Hooper crafts a razor sharp horror classic and the acting is surprisingly good for a film of this kind. A true gut punch more terrifying than any haunted house attraction, this is also nowhere near as violent as made out to be. Just don’t watch it before visiting Texas.
5. The Railway Children: 9/10 certainly far better than a dreadful stage version I saw many years ago, this is likely the best British children’s film of all time. 3 children move to the countryside after their father is imprisoned and the railway becomes a source of adventure for them. It’s a little dated, but mostly the age doesn’t show. It’s emotional and sweet without drowning itself in syrup, and railways have rarely been cooler on film. It’s well directed too, and the acting (Even though 2 of the ‘children’ are actually in their early 20s) is good all around. Without loads of dancing animals, sentimentality, sugar and fart and poop jokes which is what many children’s films have, Lionel Jeffries crafts a moving and highly enjoyable children’s film which is just as good for adults.
4. Calvary: 9/10 Brendan Gleeson plays a good natured priest who has had his life threatened during a confession. He encounters corruption and misery in the Irish village where he lives as he tries to prevent the dark forces closing in on him. Calvary is pretty much a dialogue based film and there’s a bit too much talking in it. However, the script is genuinely amazing. Emotional without being hammy, sentimental without being manipulative, talky without being boring and deep without being pretentious, Calvary is a deeply moving meditation on Religion and morals. The direction is very interesting and Brendan Gleeson is fantastic as the priest. The whole cast is excellent alongside him. Calvary is a tough film and not a particularly easy watch but it’s worth the effort.
3. Interstellar: 9/10 by far the most anticipated film of the year for me, Christopher Nolan’s new film has Matthew McConaughey blasting off into space with Anne Hathaway and a couple of others to go through a wormhole and find a new home for humanity since earth has been overcome by famine. This has split critics down the middle, but the truth is few others would attempt a blockbuster so dialogue based, ambitious, thought provoking and deep. There’s not that much action, yet it’s endlessly compelling and as an example of filmmaking it’s completely brilliant. Everything in the film looks great; everyone is great in the movie except for Anne Hathaway who’s pretty lame; Christopher Nolan’s script has its holes but is rather moving; visually, it blows every other blockbuster of 2014 out of the water (And I’ve seen The Grand Budapest Hotel). This is awesome science fiction cinema. It may not have lived up to the hype for some, but it’s destined for classic status.
2. The Wind Rises: 9/10 the Cheryl Cole of animated movies, this anime is visually mind blowing and nearly every shot is stunning. This is sadly Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, but he’s gone out on a high with this bittersweet and beautiful portrait of the man who designed fighter planes for Japan in World War II. A meaningful character study, a love story and a tribute to the art of flight all wrapped into one stunning, sensational whole, The Wind Rises is marred only by over length. It’s got everything people love about Studio Ghibli and is definitely one of the best animated films to come out of 2014. It certainly puts everything animated from 2013 to shame. Like the planes at the centre of its story, this takes off and absolutely soars.
And the best is….
1. The Imitation Game: This covers the tragic life of the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing, who is played by Benedict Cumberbatch in this. Covering Turing’s school days, tragic post war decline and his attempt to break the German enigma, there’s certainly no enigma that this is a brilliant, triumphant and devastating biopic anchored by Benedict’s amazing performance. With top direction, a deeply moving script and great acting all around (Although Keira Knightly is a bit jarring), this is a huge success deserving of Oscar attention. It doesn’t focus on Turing’s later life as much as it should but it’s still a great movie and it’s surprisingly suspenseful. A genuinely outstanding movie and easily the best British film to come out of 2014. And the best actor Oscar goes to…
8 bad movies:
8. Toy Story 3: 6/10 2 of these are re-evaluations of films I loved in the cinema. Toy Story 3 conclude the story of Andy’s toys, as Andy prepares to go to college and they get dumped at a day care centre with a sinister secret. Part comedy, part adventure, part horror, part drama, this was great at the cinema, but didn’t hold up as well on a second viewing. So how did it hold up the third time? Even worse. It’s beautifully animated with some fairly emotional moments. Some of the jokes are very sharp and it hits various peaks and high points. However, the first Toy Story was a very moving tale of friendship and the second an emotional adventure with a dilemma at the centre. This is just a prison break film. The action sequences are completely lacking, it’s not very original and it doesn’t feel that satisfying. It’s just… boring. A good second sequel which shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as the first 2 Toy Story films. Please stop pretending this one is better.
7. Noah: 6/10 this one has angered a lot of people and caused controversy and division among the public. I’m in the middle. It’s a bonkers retelling of Noah’s Ark. Remember those colourful books with painted ark and all the animals drawn and a rainbow at the end? This is nothing like that. This has to be admired for its strong acting (Emma Watson does a surprisingly good job), inventive visuals and audacious vision. This has rock monsters, a Roland Emmerich style flood, various disturbing new plot points and God is never seen, heard from or mentioned by name. Noah has good points, but the script is genuinely terrible and it’s a pretty long and boring slog. This certainly won’t kick start a trend of modern biblical epics. A controversial film that will be forgotten by the end of the year.
6. A Nightmare On Elm Street: 4/10 this supposedly classic 80s horror is the perfect explanation as to why I’m sick of horror. Like in all slasher films, a group of teenagers and being hunted by a murderer. This time, it’s the chilling Freddy Krueger (The man in the hat that isn’t Indiana Jones) who only gets them in their sleep. ANOES has some good performances (Look out for a pre fame Johnny Depp), creepy moments and Wes Craven shows he has earned the Master of Horror nickname with his direction, but this is a load of preposterous nonsense. It’s nasty, ugly slasher stupidity which is so desperate to show off its special effects that any suspense or effective shocks fall by the wayside. There are 3 effective scary moments (The fourth was spoiled by the trailer), but this is ultimately less a scary movie, more a 90 minute advertisement for fake blood. Overrated is an understatement.
5. Transformers Age Of Extinction: 4/10 we know the Transformers formula by now: Explosions, political conspiracy, more explosions, sexism, racism, immature jokes, screaming, a few more explosions, robots beating each other up and then just to put the cherry on top a couple more explosions. This doesn’t deviate from that at all. We all know what to expect by now. If you don’t like it just stay away from it. Sadly it made over a billion dollars worldwide. Mark Wahlberg is better than Shia Labouef. Stanley Tucci is a treat. The dinobots are cool. There’s less sexism than before. There are a couple of good action scenes. The CGI is genuinely excellent. Aside from that, you know what’s coming. The first Transformers is OK but the other 2 failed at even providing casual entertainment. Transformers 2 is one of the worst films ever created. Transformers 4 is just an artificial money making machine, and Michael Bay is a bigger super villain than Blofeld.
4. Sabotage: 3/10 Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in this murder mystery meets gritty action flick, as a murderer picks off the members of a DEA team. David Ayer is a decent director and injects some gritty tension into the film, Arnie is a reasonable protagonist and there are a couple of good action scenes. Aside from that, this is the nastiest, most obnoxious action film which doesn’t have the word ‘Transformers’ in the title. Fuelled by swearing, obnoxious behaviour and needless, gratuitous violence, this is more a 100 minute punishment machine than a film. The script (From Skip ‘Die Hard 5’ Woods) is utter toilet paper and it has a cast of characters so unlikable and obnoxious they make the various slasher movie villains (Michael, Jason, Freddy, Leatherface etc.) look like Disney princesses. Worthless, shameful trash with no likability whatsoever. Let it burn.
3. Endless Love: 2/10 romantic movies are not my thing. This is the most clichéd, silly love story one could humanly make up, but it’s not just any love story. It’s a romance with Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde. Think of that and tremble. Pettyfer is that bland guy who turned Alex Rider into a boring shopping mannequin, while Wilde is a model who can’t act her way out of a tissue packet and embarrassed herself trying to in last year’s Carrie remake. There are 2 big questions with Endless Love: 1. The original film which this is a remake of was meant to be awful so why do it again? 2. How can a film be called Endless Love, be full of nauseating romantic montages, consist mainly of the 2 main characters staring into each other’s eyes and involve every romantic cliché in the book yet feel less romantic, emotional and moving than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Weird.
2. Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen: 1/10 sadly I can’t put this at number 1 as I saw this years ago and enjoyed it. Now, I can see it for what it really is: Vile, ugly, pathetic, putrid, lazy, loathsome, incompetent, boring, repugnant, abysmally directed, excruciatingly lazy, poorly written, sinful, shameful science fiction garbage. With very little story, decency or anything ressembling a human touch, ROTF is genuinely a slightly evil movie. It’s racist and sexist at the same time, and the action sequences are confusing, boring and incoherent. This just isn’t good enough to actually be put in a cinema or to actually be available for people to buy. Proving Michael Bay is one of the worst directors ever and shouldn’t be allowed to touch a movie camera with a 10 foot pole, this is a sickening garbage with the personality and soul of a robotic arm in a car making factory. Excuse me while I puke.
And the worst is:
1. The Legend Of Hercules: 1/10 January. Only in January. Renny Harlin’s latest effort in his career, which is on a nosedive, is a terrible telling of the Hercules legend. The Gods aren’t even in it and it doesn’t feel like Greek Mythology at all. Looking like a glitchy, laughably awful play station 1 video game, this is made up of Kellan ‘Twilight’ Lutz flying through the air in obnoxious slow motion, dreadful drama and uninspired action. Less interesting and sophisticated than a nursery child’s crayon drawing and the equivalent of watching a tortoise go from one end of the room to the other through an obscured sheet of glass, TLOH should be appearing in every single worst list of 2014. Let’s just forget this one. We’ll acknowledge it with loads of razzie nominations, then let it fade away.
Thanks for reading!