2014 In Review

Notables

The Surprise - The Guest (Adam Wingard)

What we said at the time: 'Wingard clearly isn’t a man that has any need to stick to a genre storyline and the movie is all the better for it. Throwing in an awesome eighties synth score from Steve Moore and ladling on some pretty gruesome but nonetheless slickly funny violence, Wingard has a whale of a time gleefully subverting our expectations. Stevens is magnificently malevolent in the lead role and the whole twisted thing is brilliantly summed up by one character’s exclamation in what must be the most fitting last line for a movie I’ve heard in a long time: “What the fuck?!”'

Why it's here: Because I couldn't fit it into my top 10 for the year and so invented this category. I spent more time during this movie with my jaw on the floor at the sheer audacity of the whole thing than in any other movie. The best post-pub film in a long while.

Festival Pick - Black Souls (Francesco Munzi)

What we said at the time: 'Munzi's film is an awesome exercise in restraint and building tension. And I really do mean tension. There is actually very little violence in his movie (though a little too much goat death for my taste) but the pervading air of threat is ingrained in every frame. Dealing with the nuts and bolts of family life, it's clear that something is very amiss and only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down. Black Souls is certainly not a typical gangster movie, its intelligence and dark heart mark it out as something special.'

Why it's here: The best movie I saw at the London Film Festival this year, it's a brilliantly original and authentic Mafia tale with proper characters, rather than gun toting stereotypes. One to watch out for in 2015. 

One to Watch - Desiree Akhavan

What we said at the time: 'Written and directed by Desiree Akhavan (with a good deal of input by producer / partner in crime Cecilia Frugiuele), there is simply too much wonderful, relatable material in [Appropriate Behavior] to present in a review this short. Akhavan has a brilliantly quirky view on the world, clearly born out of first hand experience and her acting is perfect to convey this. The bi-sexual element was talked about a lot post-screening but that's really a red-herring, this is a story for anybody who's ever felt an outsider. And let's face it, that's all of us.'

Why she's here: Because she is going to be massive. And we want to be able to say we told you so. Akhavan has just the right amount of quirk combined with a wonderfully self-deprecating manner and a razor sharp wit. She will go far. 

The Disappointments

The Riot Club (Lone Scherfig)

What we said at the time: 'I guess the main reason I’m disappointed with The Riot Club is that it didn’t give me anything new to rant about when I exited the screening. I wanted to be scandalised by biting satire that showed how these people get away with it because they’re rich and although that is certainly laid out during the movie (and nicely highlighted in the final scene), it just didn’t press my buttons as it should have.'

Why it's here: I'm the first one to admit I love a bit of establishment bashing and this should have provided hat in spades. A lack of character depth really scuppered it though, leaving me shrugging rather than railing.

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards)

What we said at the time: 'I’m unsure exactly how Edwards could have done better given the script (which in addition to the above, takes itself a little too seriously) but the movie needed more of an emotional anchor and less cut out and keep characters. The only consistent human anchor comes in the form of Ford Brody who spends most of his time chasing around after different military units before inevitably saving a city'

Why it's here: We had such high hopes after Edwards' previous effort with beasties. Sadly, despite some noble intentions, this one felt like a damp squib. And killing off Cranston that early? Tut.

Worst Movie - Transformers: Age of Extinction (Michael Bay)

What we said at the time: 'Age of Extinction’s biggest sin beyond it’s woefully bloated running time [is that] set piece after set piece after set piece whizz by without a moment of peril being formed. Once Ensign Expendable is despatched (you’ll spot him early), we’re never really troubled by who’s going to survive and who isn’t because frankly, we could care less about any of them. And that unfortunately leaves us picking at the usual trope of Michael Bay special moves. It’s like a horrible checklist hovers over everything he touches.....'


Why it's here: This kind of horrifically cynical cinema depresses me immensely. Seeing that wonderful silver screen mangled into a vicious marketing campaign is physically painful and the deepening realisation that the 'auteur' at the helm of this not only has no interest in producing anything interesting, he also does not give two shits about what he is producing because ultimately what he is producing is money. Also the most boring film I've ever sat through.

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