31 December 2014
The best soundtracks of 2014
Plus a special mention for all of D-Lime's wonderful appearances in Paddington.
Based on UK release.
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- The Lego Movie
I'm only including it for Everything Is Awesome, but you knew that.
The music is a big part of the film but the closing song is simply wonderful.
- 20 Feet from Stardom
- The Wind Rises
I'm not sure how great the songs are but as a reflection of the period of time the music in Boyhood works really well.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
It didn't work for me as much as it did for others but there's no denying that this is one of the best movie soundtracks.
December 31, 2014 at 02:46PM
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
- Gone Girl
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
The "Creation" scene.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
This just didn't work for me.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
23 December 2014
21 December 2014
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
26 November 2014
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
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
22 November 2014
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
21 November 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
19 November 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
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
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
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
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
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
Epic and ambitiously packing a lot of deep ideas into what seems like a fairly simple story.
November 17, 2014 at 11:33PM
A promising start which looks like it's going to be a high quality ghost story but quickly descends into a horrible mess of clichés. 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.
November 17, 2014 at 12:15AM
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
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
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