31 December 2014

Lost In The UK 2014

Ten great films I saw in 2014 which don't yet appear to have a UK release.

In order of enjoyment.

December 31, 2014 at 06:21PM

Soundtracks of 2014

The best soundtracks of 2014

Plus a special mention for all of D-Lime's wonderful appearances in Paddington.

Based on UK release.

December 31, 2014 at 02:46PM

2014 The Regrets

The films of 2014 I regret not seeing

Based on UK cinema release.

...plus 3 more. View the full list on Letterboxd.

December 31, 2014 at 12:03PM

Performances of 2014

The standout performances for new films I saw in 2014.

This list is based on UK releases but also includes films (Bird People and Tusk) which I saw at festivals and have not yet had a UK release.

  • Maps to the Stars

    Evan Bird

  • Gone Girl

    Rosamund Pike

  • Nightcrawler

  • Tusk

    Michael Parks plus special mention for Guy Lapointe

  • The Drop

    It's Gandolfini doing what he did best, knowing we'll never see another performance makes this one special.

  • Bird People

    The bird(s) - performance of the year.

  • The Imitation Game

    Benedict Cumberbatch

  • St. Vincent

    Bill Murray, or the cat, or the kid.

  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

    It's so great to see Christopher Lloyd on the big screen again, shame the rest of the film is so terrible.

  • Under the Skin

    Not just Under The Skin but Scarlett Johansson was great in The Winter Soldier, Chef, Her and Lucy (I also caught up with Don Jon and she had a baby!)

December 31, 2014 at 11:51AM

Cinderella, 1950 - ★★★★★

Contains something for everybody and does it so well. In fact it's only let down by the flaws of the original story which never made much sense.

December 31, 2014 at 12:11AM

Scenes of 2014

The best scenes I remember from new films I saw in 2014. Most of these were UK releases but Titus and Bird People may not have had a UK release yet.

Ordered by viewing date.

  • American Hustle

    It could be Live and Let Die or the entry and quick exit of the science oven but for me the greatest moment in American Hustle is Sydney (Adams) and Richie's (Cooper) date night.

  • 12 Years a Slave

    The final whipping scene is just too brutal for me to consider including but the hanging sequence is just magnificent in every possible way.

  • The Wolf of Wall Street

    There are many great moments; all of McConaughey's screen time, the moment the Lemons kick in, the London park bench but for me the biggest surprise and delight was Rob Reiner's entrance.

  • Inside Llewyn Davis

    It may be the worst song in the film but when Please Mr. Kennedy is performed the smile that sat on my face throughout most of the film turned into a huge grin.

  • Her

    There's an inevitable moment in Her that's heavily signposted in the trailer which could have derailed the entire film. I wondered how it was going to be handled and if it could work. I was so impressed when Spike Jonze just fades to black, other sex scenes have moved the camera away from the action but this just seemed like the perfect way to film the scene. Unfortunately we stick with black and the dialogue continues which is lessens the initial impact but for a few seconds I thought it was going to be one of the best sex scenes.

  • Titus

    When Titus finally takes to the stage we find out everything we need to know about him in the most amazing way. The final scenes are pretty special as well.

  • Noah

    The "Creation" scene.


  • Calvary

    My favourite film of the year so far and it's full of great scenes but I'll have to go for the opening scene which has the best first line and perfectly sets up the entire film

  • Godzilla

    In a film with a series of spectacular set pieces there are many candidates for the best scene. Right now it's hard to pick just one. The airport, the HALO jump, the electricity breath...

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past

    The prison break.

...plus 15 more. View the full list on Letterboxd.

December 30, 2014 at 11:57PM

30 December 2014

Wild Bill, 2011 - ★★★★

Dexter Fletcher was obviously paying attention to all the filmmakers he's been working with over the years. This is an impressive debut offering a fresh and likable take on themes that have been done many times before.

December 30, 2014 at 12:26AM

A Shot in the Dark, 1964 - ★★★

Sometimes the simplest jokes are the best.

December 30, 2014 at 12:18AM

On the Town, 1949 - ★★★★

After the disappointment of Guys And Dolls it was a relief that I liked this so much. All of the songs are great, the dancing is fantastic, New York looks wonderful and there's a plot and characters to care about. The only minor problem is that it suffers from repetition, there really isn't any need for the Day In New York sequence, although it is also wonderful.

December 30, 2014 at 12:01AM

29 December 2014

Disappointments of 2014

10 films from 2014 that disappointed me in some way or another. Only Sin City 2 is a bad film, all the others are good or great and still recommended but personally didn't work for me in the way I wanted.

In alphabetical order.

  • Frank

    I liked Frank but I wanted to like it a lot more, I kept hoping for something special to happen. It nearly does towards the end but it wasn't enough to rescue my disappointment.

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel

    It's great that The Grand Budapest Hotel did well, I know people I never imagined even seeing a Wes Anderson film really liking it. Everybody else appears to adore it and it's high in several films of the year list. My expectations were high (Moonrise Kingdom was my favourite film of 2012) but it just left me cold. Hopefully when I watch it again I'll like it a lot more.

  • Ida

    No grand expectations here apart from only hearing very good things. It was a film I saw when I was too tired to fully appreciate it, and as I was watching I knew I should be getting more from it but it didn't connect.

  • The Lego Movie

    The Lego Movie is very good, you don't need me to tell you that. But whereas everybody else came out of the cinema thinking everything was awesome I left disappointed. With no expectations or reason to think a film about Lego should work I think most people were pleasantly surprised. I, on the other hand, had The Lego Movie as one of my most anticipated films of the year. I'd already been surprised by 21 Jump Street and the Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs films, so I had high hopes for directors Lord and Miller. I'd also played the Lego City Undercover video game and knew how funny the Lego Universe can be (the game features a level with an Austrian building site foreman who manages to work the titles of nearly every Schwarzenegger film into his dialogue). When I watch it again (and I already own the DVD) with lowered expectations I'm sure it will be awesome.

  • Leviathan

    This just didn't work for me.

  • Nightcrawler

    I liked Nightcrawler but got a shock when I saw people dishing out five star reviews and claiming it was one of the films of the year. The performances are fantastic, delivering wonderful dark dialogue and the film frequently looks great. I found the direction was lacking a lot and manage to make everything look incredibly cliched. Perhaps I was too harsh (another tired viewing) and look forward to giving it another chance sometime in the near future.

  • Nymphomaniac: Vol. II

    The first part of Nymphomaniac was really fantastic and interesting which just makes the disappointment of part two all the greater.

  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

    Incredibly boring and no where near the greatness of the first film.

  • Mr. Turner

    Another highly rated film from a director I usually like and a performer who I thought could do no wrong but I couldn't see what any of the fuss was about.

  • Two Days, One Night

    I've liked the Dardenne's other films and the critical response to their latest was all positive. I like Marion Cotillard and the story here offered lots of potential but it didn't work for me. It felt like a wasted opportunity which I found repetitive and full of small flaws that added up to a bigger problem.

December 29, 2014 at 06:03PM

28 December 2014

Win Win, 2011 - ★★★½

It may not be as good as The Visitor or The Station Agent but it still has a lot of charm.

December 28, 2014 at 11:26PM

City of Angels, 1998 - ★★

I don't remember a film ever misjudging so many tones as much as City of Angels does. Even if Cage's character turned out to be a serial killer it would have been played far too creepily. You know those remixed trailers where family films are portrayed as horrors, well this entire film is like that.

Terrible overbearing soundtrack as well.

December 28, 2014 at 11:24PM

Zulu, 1964 - ★★★

A problem with many films that are held up as classics is that I've found the fondness for them is often due to nostalgia. This seems especially true for films of a more 'epic' nature and those which are traditionally shown at holidays.

Seeing this for the first time and I didn't really see anything that great. There are good moments and it's great to see so many real extras instead of CG armies. The battle sequences have dated badly and are quite embarrassing, I've seen children playing with sticks appear more authentic. There's also a much bigger problem that the film never gave me any reason to think the British were the "good guys" and it was uncomfortable watching that much slaughter. It always felt like the Zulu side of the story would be much more interesting but I guess that would never happen.

December 28, 2014 at 11:21PM

God Help the Girl, 2014 - ★★★

There was a strong chance that I'd really love this film so I felt like I had to try and fit it in before the year was out. Sadly, whilst there was a lot to admire, the film never quite clicked into place with only a few of the songs hitting the right notes and never quite escaping an amateur feel.

December 28, 2014 at 01:19PM

Next Goal Wins, 2014 - ★★★★

A well made and moving documentary that surprised me by making me care about the results of a football game. The rest of the world has a lot to learn from American Samoa, not just about participating in sport but living life and gender identity.

December 28, 2014 at 01:17PM

Paddington, 2014 - ★★★★½

Paddington is so meticulously crafted that it's difficult to criticise it in anyway. Perhaps the opening Peru based sequence goes on a little too long but once in London the film never puts a foot wrong. Not a moment of the film is wasted with every shot setting something up for later, looking beautiful or just being charming (or all of these things). The attention to detail and production design out does Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel and the visual FX are better than Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

An utter joy.

December 28, 2014 at 01:10PM

Serendipity, 2001 - ★★★★

I love this film, thanks to the BBC's annual screening it's become a Christmas tradition. I only wish some of the cheesier moments were done with a little more class so I could confidently claim it was a great film. It isn't a great film but despite it's many flaws it's still one of my favourites and I'm sure I'll come to watch it every year.

December 28, 2014 at 12:18AM

24 December 2014

Guys and Dolls, 1955 - ★★½

Mostly unmemorable songs are a big problem for a musical and as a result this was really quite dull.

December 24, 2014 at 04:17PM

It's a Wonderful Life, 1946 - ★★★★★

Attaboy, Clarence.

December 24, 2014 at 10:11AM

23 December 2014

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2011 - ★★½

A disappointing waste of great talent on a cliched (possibly racist) script.

December 22, 2014 at 11:59PM

Holy Motors, 2012 - ★★★★

I'm still not sure what I saw but I did like it a lot.

December 22, 2014 at 11:36PM

21 December 2014

Black Mirror: White Christmas, 2014 - ★★★★

Watched on Saturday December 20, 2014.

December 21, 2014 at 10:03AM

22 Jump Street, 2014 - ★★★

Not as surprisingly good as the original but a much better take on sequels than Muppets Most Wanted. When it does work it works well but as a whole it felt like it was lacking something.

December 21, 2014 at 10:02AM

Leviathan, 2014 - ★★½

Once again I find myself at odds with the majority of critics as I completely failed to see why this was so great. Each frame of the film may be beautifully composed but that is no excuse to linger on every shot for so long. When I checked the time to confirm it must be nearly over I was dismayed to find there was still more than 30 minutes left. Admittedly those 30 minutes are probably the best part of the film where something actually happens but by that time it was too late.

The film also isn't helped by an absolutely awful trailer which gives away at least three of the better moments (2 dramatic and 1 comedic). Those scenes have no impact and part of the ending is clear from the moment it is set up.

The following statement feels unfair because there is obviously some artistic merit to the film even if it was lost on me but I'm going to say it anyway. Leviathan is the arthouse equivalent of Michael Bay's Transformer films with beautiful imagery instead of robots, explosions and lingerie models but overlong, empty and incredibly dull.

December 21, 2014 at 09:59AM

The Past, 2013 - ★★★★

In the first hour of The Past as we are introduced to all the characters it is clear that there are secrets in the titular past. All of this is wonderfully done but it's in the second half when the secrets come out that the film really stands up. There may only be one incident that it causing so much trouble but it's true nature is slowly unravelled a layer at a time in a mesmerising way.

There are many great moments of inaudible dialogue through windows which perhaps add more than if you were able to hear what is been said. All of the performances are amazing. Even though there isn't too much back story, each character feels complete, although not always likeable. In fact my biggest problem was how unlikeable Marie was, it was difficult to sympathise with her but perhaps that was the point.

December 21, 2014 at 09:45AM

20 December 2014

Starred Up, 2013 - ★★★½

A really great set of opening sequences set up a well made film but I'm not sure if there's much that hasn't been done before (or perhaps I've just spent too much time in TV prisons this year). There was potential for a great bleak ending but disappointingly things don't head that way so the film just feels good rather than great.

December 20, 2014 at 12:39PM

15 December 2014

The Bishop's Wife, 1947 - ★★★½

Lots of magical moments that frequently reminded me more of Mary Poppins than It's A Wonderful Life. It may not make a whole lot of sense but it is unbelievably charming, especially at this time of year. Another Christmas film to go on the "nice" list.

December 15, 2014 at 11:50PM

14 December 2014

Interstellar, 2014 - ★★★★

Seeing a 35mm print of Interstellar after seeing it in Imax wasn't a disappointment like I worried it may be. There's still an immense thrill to be had every time the music ramps up to deafening levels. The video message and docking scenes both stand out for different reasons, highlighting how successfully Nolan manages to combine the human(ity) story with science fiction action.

The many flaws (obviousness, science talk, Caine's exposition, timey-wimey-what-now) are perhaps more obvious without the distraction of the awe inspiring Imax sequences but not in a way that really detracts from what else is happening. It felt longer this time but on the plus side I really noticed how great Mackenzie Foy was, which I didn't pick up on originally.

The Imax experience was immense, unlike any other cinema experience I remember and left me no option to award five stars. This regular version is still a very good film but that final star was just out of reach.

December 14, 2014 at 11:21PM

07 December 2014

St. Vincent, 2014 - ★★★★

After seeing the middling reviews for St Vincent I thought I may give it a miss but I'm glad I didn't because it was one of the most enjoyable cinema experiences of the year. To be honest the reviews are understandable as there isn't anything new here and everything about the film is completely predictable. The draw here was always going to be Bill Murray and he doesn't disappoint. Everything is done with competence and frequently laugh out loud funny (interestingly different people in my audience laughed loudly at different moments). The sentimental ending shouldn't work but it completely got me and did I mention Bill Murray.

December 07, 2014 at 10:55PM

'71, 2014 - ★★★★

Going into '71 I thought I knew what to expect; a well made film depicting a new British soldier exposed to The Troubles in a way that has been done before. Instead we get a serious version of something like After Hours as Jack O'Connell's soldier gets lost one night and stumbles across the city encountering different groups. The film is always gripping (in what is turning out to be a very edge-of-your-seat year for cinema) and stylishly directed. The frantic camera movements may be off putting to some but the camera almost ends up being a character in the film. The scene outside the pub is one of the best of the year, as the stillness of the camera gives way to action moments before any of the characters have chance to react. My only disappointment is that for a film that manages to be bleak throughout the ending is somewhat conventional in comparison, a darker ending had been earned and would have been a lot more powerful.

December 07, 2014 at 10:45PM

04 December 2014

Mr. Turner, 2014 - ★★★

Another highly lauded film with a great central performance where I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. There are many spectacular and beautiful moments but the film feels more like a collection of sketches than a full blown masterpiece. It's too long (I found that I'd lost interest after 90 minutes even though many of the better moments are in the last hour) and many of the supporting characters such as the Mrs Doyle/Overall housekeeper just feel out of place and are distracting.

As expected Timothy Spall is fantastic but even all his grunting becomes tiresome before the end.

December 03, 2014 at 10:56PM

01 December 2014

A Trip to the Moon, 1902 - ★★★★½

Fascinating is so many different ways. The effects are truly special and there is no need to add a "for their time" disclaimer as they are more convincing than the CGI in The Imitation Game (as a recent example from the top of my head).

Shown with a live score by Stems

December 01, 2014 at 10:50PM

30 November 2014

The Imitation Game, 2014 - ★★★★

Some excellent performances and a (mostly) superb script are let down by lacklustre direction which resorts to far too many cliches. Still a solid and enjoyable film though.

November 30, 2014 at 11:06AM

26 November 2014

Nymphomaniac: Vol. II, 2013 - ★★

After two hours of foreplay the second volume arrives and is a messy anticlimax. It's hard to know if the problems are to do with length; four hours is just too long to maintain interest in what turns out to be a fairly straightforward story. The older Joe's story becomes unpleasant without adding anything (would the film suffer if Jamie Bell's scenes were removed - no offence to the former Billy Elliot). Joe's career path came as a surprise and is quite interesting but the film ends in a way that was predictable from the very start. Disappointing.

November 26, 2014 at 07:42PM

Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, 2013 - ★★★★

The first part of Nymphomaniac is pretty much what I've come to expect from a Lars von Trier film although surprisingly not that repulsive. It's stylish, thoughtful, provocative, gratuitous, funny, uncomfortable and only really let down by an irritating accented Shia LaBeouf.

November 26, 2014 at 07:31PM

23 November 2014

Little Fockers, 2010 - ★

Occasionally skates close to something resembling humour but on the whole there is no reason for this to exist. Hopefully it will have put an end to the series.

November 23, 2014 at 10:12PM

22 November 2014

Bangkok Dangerous, 2008 - ★

There's no such thing as a bad Cage film. There's no such thing as a bad Cage film. There's no such thing as a bad Cage film.

However when he's playing things straight in a dull action film it all ends up being incredibly boring.

November 22, 2014 at 12:31AM

Year One, 2009 - ★½

A great cast (and Vinnie Jones) are wasted in a completely unfunny script. A disappointing and therefore sad final film from Ramis.

November 22, 2014 at 12:29AM

The Gatekeepers, 2012 - ★★★

Insightful talking heads combined with some fantastic visual work recreating scenes of photos make for a compelling documentary.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21AM

21 November 2014

Birdman, 2014 - ★★★★

Everything about Birdman made me want to love it, but I didn't and I don't know why.

November 21, 2014 at 12:14AM

The Creeping Garden, 2014 - ★★★★

Always fascinating, frequently beautiful. In the middle it spends too much time on humans but their passion is also great to watch. Towards the end it looked like things were building to a satisfying climax as the more emotional side began to be explored. Unfortunately due to the film starting late I had to leave early and missed the final ten minutes.

November 21, 2014 at 12:12AM

Song of the Sea, 2014 - ★★★★

Beautifully borrowing from so many styles yet remaining completely unique. I kept hoping for something really special to happen but despite all the magic it was still lacking something for me.

November 21, 2014 at 12:07AM

What We Do in the Shadows, 2014 - ★★★★★

Even better on the second viewing, the anticipation of some of those lines confirms that they and the film will become a classic.

November 21, 2014 at 12:03AM

19 November 2014

Heaven Adores You, 2014 - ★★★★

A celebration of Elliott Smith's life and the cities where he lived throughout his life.

Q&A with the producer Marc Smolowitz

ps My bad audience tag is for the people who managed to eat the loudest packet of crisps during the first half of the film, not the enthusiastic but very drunk fan who hijacked the Q&A (and apparently was talking throughout the film but I couldn't hear this).

November 19, 2014 at 11:37PM

Shame, 1968 - ★★★½

I liked this a lot more than Persona which I saw first in a double bill at Leeds International Film Festival. It seems to take a long time before the interesting parts happen and gets quite absurd towards the end but perhaps that's the point.

November 19, 2014 at 11:18PM

Persona, 1966 - ★★★

Somehow I've not seen any of Bergman's films (I remember falling asleep during a wild Strawberries as a teenager) and this may not have been the best place to start. It's easy to see why this is regarded so highly from an academic point of view but I found it difficult to engage with in any meaningful way (which may be a result of it being my 30-something film of the festival).

November 19, 2014 at 11:11PM

18 November 2014

From Bedrooms to Billions, 2013 - ★★★

A comprehensive but overlong look at the British video games industry. Unfortunately it's unlikely to appeal to anybody who doesn't already have an interest in the subject matter. The opening titles are incredibly well done and outline the entire path of the film (and therefore industry) stylishly in a few minutes. The rest of the film drags on and could be edited down, especially when two talking heads are basically saying the same thing.

November 18, 2014 at 09:07PM

17 November 2014

Wild, 2014 - ★★★

A solid if somewhat unremarkable film. Seeing it so soon after Tracks probably lessened the appeal.

November 17, 2014 at 11:56PM

Catch Me Daddy, 2014 - ★★

I've had enough of this style of filming, it's been done to death over the last few years in cinema and on TV. The film wasn't badly made but it was completely heartless and boring. I couldn't and didn't care about anything that was happening. Apart from the Bovril scene, that was quite good.

Apparently the film was supposed to be subtitled but this made little difference. Apart from the final scenes the intention always seemed obvious.

Some of the cast and crew were in attendance but really wish they hadn't bothered. Three turned up on stage and said nothing, the rest talked throughout the film.

November 17, 2014 at 11:49PM

Trespassing Bergman, 2013 - ★★★

Some of my favourite filmmakers talking about a filmmaker I'm lamentably unfamiliar with. The framing device of allowing directors to explore Bergman's (seemingly) preserved home is fascinating but also under utilised - I wanted to know so much more about the writing on the furniture. Providing an overview of Bergman's whole career also means the film does drag on a little. Bonus points for Lars Von Trier basically being Lars Von Trier.

November 17, 2014 at 11:40PM

Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise, 1987 - ★★★½

Epic and ambitiously packing a lot of deep ideas into what seems like a fairly simple story.

November 17, 2014 at 11:33PM

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, 2013 - ★★★★

With so many people quite rightly having so much to say the film dashed along at a cracking pace to fit in as much as possible. An always fascinating insight into a wonderful career.

November 17, 2014 at 12:17AM

The Canal, 2014 - ★

A promising start which looks like it's going to be a high quality ghost story but quickly descends into a horrible mess of clich├ęs. The cinematography is the only redeemable quality, everything else is bad and gets worse as the film progresses. When I thought it was pretty but was going to other nothing new I considered leaving (something I've never done before). I was trapped in my seat and couldn't easily leave so I got to stay and see things get even worse. By the time they give up on cliche and just start ripping off other films all my patience was gone.

Unforgivably awful.

November 17, 2014 at 12:15AM

Patch Town, 2014 - ★★★

One of the films I was looking forward to at #LIFF28 but a big disappointment. There were lots of ideas that failed to be pulled together in any satisfying way. Still a lot of fun though and I suspect the short film on which this was based will work a lot better.

November 17, 2014 at 12:11AM

Songs from the Second Floor, 2000 - ★★★

Once again I found myself wanting to like this more than I ever was. In theory it was my kind of thing, a nice combination of surreal sadness, but it just didn't connect. On a different day, in a different mood, I may have appreciated it a lot more.

November 17, 2014 at 12:07AM

16 November 2014

Housebound, 2014 - ★★★★

The second horror comedy from New Zealand in the #LIFF28 and nearly as fantastic as What We Do In The Shadows. This is more of a horror but it manages to perfectly mix the haunted house story with lots of humour and is just a whole lot of fun.

November 16, 2014 at 12:25AM