Film Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

During grotesque warlord Immortan Joe’s chase of Max, Furiosa et al, one of the many, many vehicles is fronted by a blind bloke in a red jumpsuit playing a double-necked guitar that spews fire. For no apparent reason. And that pretty much sums up the absurdity of Mad Max: Fury Road.

They say never go back, but that’s exactly what director George Miller has done and there’s absolutely no signs whatsoever of him mellowing with age. Incredibly light on dialogue and exposition, Fury Road opts for retina-burning action instead, rarely giving you chance to catch your breath before the heavy metal soundtrack erupts and away we go again.

You feel sweaty and grimy, covered in dirt, sand and oil just watching it, and it feels great.

Its several action set pieces are visceral, brutal and simply spectacular, stunningly choreographed into a dance of death across the dystopian wastelands. Whilst undeniably impressive, the non-stop action does become a bit one-note and the film would benefit greatly from just taking the odd breather and fleshing out its characters a little more. Max himself feels woefully underdeveloped, and just giving us that little extra glimpse into who he is would have been welcome.

Charlize Theron as Furiosa

One of the main reasons the films works as well as it does is the aesthetic created by Miller and his cinematographer John Seale. Many post-apocalyptic films tend to have a rather washed out colour pallette but Fury Road is drenched in colour which just adds to the ludicrousness of the whole thing. And then there’s the vehicles and the noise and the make-up and bonkers editing – you feel sweaty and grimy, covered in dirt, sand and oil just watching it, and it feels great.

Whilst claims that Fury Road is some kind of visionary feminist masterpiece are somewhat wide of the mark, the film does do plenty to puts its men and women on much more equal footing than most other films of similar ilk.

For most of the film, this is Furiosa’s story, not Max’s – whether you want that is up to you.

You don’t need to look much further than Charlize Theron’s apocalyptic Ellen Ripley, Imperator Furiosa (Furiosa Road?), and her relationship with Max for proof of this. Furiosa enjoys just as much screen time as Max and we learn much more about her than Max’s Silverback grunts and gesturing ever give away. For most of the film, this is her story, not his – whether you want that is up to you.

At times Max does feel a little sidelined and this does bring about some issues, not because he has the right to be front and centre at all times, but because here we have a main character that, often, you struggle to really become invested in. Those who have seen the original Mad Max films may fare better here, but for those new to the series, there’s a good chance you won’t actually care that much about Max.

Whilst Fury Road is hardly the modern day classic some are labelling it as, it’s hard to beat when it comes to adrenaline-fuelled, fire guitar-wielding action. Its sheer vision and extravagance are to be applauded, and whilst a little more plot/character development wouldn’t have gone amiss, it’s a tremendous way to hopefully kickstart a new era in the Mad Max franchise.

Pros

  • Amazing action set pieces
  • Strong female lead in Charlize Theron’s Furiosa
  • Wonderful aesthetic and lore

Cons

  • Becomes too action-heavy
  • Could have done with more character and plot development

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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What is… Aspect Ratio?

I haven’t written one of these posts for quite some time so I thought it about time to put that right. Always wondered what aspect ratio is? Here’s your answer…

Aspect ratio is the relationship between the width and height of the image on screen. It is represented by two numbers separated by a colon – the first number is the width of the screen, the second is the height. An example is 4:3, where for every 4 inches (or centimetres or whatever) wide an image was, it would be 3 inches high.

You may also see 4:3 written as 1.33:1, which is just purely stylistic. If the second number is a ‘1’ then some people like to drop it completely, so it would just be 1.33, again just for stylistic reasons.

History

When films first started to be made, they were done so in the above ratio, 4:3, as they were 4 perforations high on a film reel. This altered slightly when sound was introduced onto the reel, making the ratio 1.37:1 rather than 1.33:1. In 1932, this ratio was officially approved by the The Academy, and therefore pretty much the whole of popular film making, and thus was known as the Academy Ratio.

In this famous clip from Casablanca you’ll notice the black bars on either side of the frame, a feature of 4:3 aspect ratio.

The Introduction of Widescreen

Cinema was the be all and end all until televisions started to become a more staple fixture in people’s homes in the 1950s. This made the film studios nervous and they looked for something new to keep the punters coming in.

1952 saw the development of Cinerama which used an aspect ratio of 2.59:1 and need three cameras and three projectors to display the picture on a curved screen. As you might imagine, this wasn’t particularly practical. CinemaScope was another widescreen development with a slightly more narrow 2.35:1 and used only the single camera and projector.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was filmed in widescreen 2.2:1 – you can see the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen rather than the sides.

When widescreen films were shown on TV (which back then was 4:3 only), the picture either had to be chopped at the sides or squashed down to fit it all in, the latter producing big black bars at the top and bottom, known as letterboxing. Interestingly, when 2001 was first screened on TV by the BBC in the 1980s, they bizarrely inserted fake ‘stars’ on the black bars to fill in the gaps during the outer space sections as they thought audiences would be confused that the picture didn’t fill the whole screen. The effect was apparently very cheap and looked like someone had painted them on.

A technique was also developed called ‘pan and scan’ in which the manufacturer decided which was the most important part of each shot and showed only that, lopping off parts either side. A ‘centre cut’ was also sometimes used, which only showed the middle part of the widescreen image.

Studios started to try and push what they could do, with MGM using 2.76:1 on 70mm film (twice the size of the regular 35mm film) for Ben Hur.

Getting creative

As with many aspects of cinema, directors decided to manipulate aspect ratio for stylistic purposes and used it as a vital part of the film. One of the most recent and effective examples of this is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest HotelAnderson presented the film in three different aspect ratios, each indicating a different time period.

The film starts off with a prologue displayed in the, now regular, 1.85:1.

Tom Wilkinson in The Grand Budapest Hotel For scenes in the 1960s, Anderson then shifts the aspect ratio to a widescreen format of 2.35:1

F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law in The Grand Budapest Hotel

It then changes again to the Academy Ratio of 1.37:1, and it’s in this ratio that most of the film is displayed.

the-grand-budapest-hotel-movie-poster-6

Interestingly, the change in aspect ratio indicates a journey back in time through cinema, moving from modern day back to how films used to be shown back in the day. Not that I’m old enough to remember that. Even more interesting is that Anderson (or perhaps the studio, or both) actually sent a set of instructions to cinemas about how to properly display the film.

A list of instructions from Wes Anderson about how to properly show The Grand Budapest HotelThe change and use of aspect ratios is something that is constantly in flux. The use of IMAX has changed this again, especially when certain scenes in a film are filmed in the format and other aren’t, with it switching part way through. Some filmmakers for both cinema and TV also employ what’s known as ‘shoot and protect’ where they ensure the most important parts of the scene are shot in the middle so that as little as possible is lost should the aspect ratio not convert to different size screens – from cinema to TV, for instance.

Do you have any opinions on aspect ratio? Prefer one over another? Couldn’t give a flying film reel? Drop me a comment and let me know. If you want to read more in the ‘What is…?’ series, click here.

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Sunday Soundtrack: Be My Baby (The Ronettes)

Be My Baby by The Ronettes featured in the opening credits of Martin Scorsese’s brilliant Mean Streets. Many might actually know it for its use in Dirty Dancing but Mean Streets is better, so there.

If you have any suggestions for future Sunday Soundtracks, leave them in the comments below.

5 Films That Have Better Sex Scenes Than Fifty Shades of Grey

Things are getting a little steamy here with this guest post from my good pal Ruth from the really rather good Crown Rules. Discussion and videos here are of a very adult nature so if you’re a child or prefer to veer away from such talk, heed the warning! If you like a bit of the ol’ slap and tickle, however, do read on…

With a teaser trailer that looked like the world’s weirdest adverts for ties and a novel based on a teen series of Vampire books, Fifty Shades of Grey was never going to win me over. Since the film’s release on Valentine’s Day this year the overwhelming response to the ‘sex’ in it is that the two co-stars have zero on screen sizzle and the woman’s orgasm was, once again, omitted. Being a big fan of female pleasure (particularly my own) I thought it would be helpful for viewers to be exposed to a list of films that got sex scenes totally right. These scenes will leave you flustered, grabbing the sheets and enjoying a bit more ‘me time’ than usual. Let’s take a look at 5 Films That Have Better Sex Scenes than Fifty Shades of Grey and revel in their ecstasy.

Blue Valentine

 

The utter lad that is Ryan Gosling kicked off when Blue Valentine was going to be released without the now infamous oral sex scene. He was outraged that the film was going to receive an adult rating (in America) just because it showed a woman enjoying oral sex. It baffles me just as much as it baffles Gosling that this is still seen as something women should be ashamed of. The clitoris’s only function is pleasure – that is literally all it is – a load of nerve endings. Got an issue with that? Take it up with The Gosling Committee for The Female Orgasm, I’m pretty sure he’s responsible for a few of them anyway.

Young Adult

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

‘Better’ in the context of this post, doesn’t necessarily mean ‘sexier’ and Young Adult is a glowing example of this. This sex scene is realistic. It’s cringe-worthy accurate. I think the scene officially had me when Theron takes off her all-in-one dress and reveals her completely strapless bra. Those bad boys just wiggle there as she tries not to cry. That moment is so tender that it almost made me forget about the great sex scene that followed with Patton Oswalt. It’s raw, vulnerable and a little bit too familiar, what a great bit of film making.

Secretary

This is the Mr Grey you want to be watching. James Spader is a naughty, naughty man in this film and Gyllenhaal needs to stop being so Maggie the whole damn time. They’re so good together it’s like a lesson in on screen chemistry. Never has the pencil skirt been worn better and never has a Lawyer been more intolerable, both of which are big claims to fame. You’ll never hear the lines “Just one scoop of cream potatoes, a slice of butter and four peas” the same way again. Who knew such ordinary food could be made so extraordinary with the power of the female orgasm?

Y Tu Mamá También

The Oscar nominated Spanish film, Y Tu Mamá También, won lots of acclaim for its presentation of sex between two young men and a much older woman. I’ve got a soft spot of Gael García Bernal so anything that has him in it naked for 90% of the film is going to win me over. From the pool diving board masturbation scene to the steamy back car scene this film has sex in many forms, however, it’s the sex that changes the boy’s relationship that really stole my attention. They both kiss in a heated moment and it changes their friendship into something neither is comfortable to recognise. It’s a beautiful moment and something that should be looked at more in sex scenes; the changing moment, the catalyst for something new.

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Apparently, if you want to portray sex realistically then it helps to have blue in the title. Blue is the Warmest Colour is an honest representation of a gay female relationship and the intensity that comes from your first flush of a new experience. Released only last year this film heralds a new approach to sexual representation in film. Too often gay female relationships are portrayed for a male audience, but in Blue is The Warmest Colour it feels as though a new level of honesty is achieved. It’s a film about finding yourself and discovering what it is you like and love. This is something that is symbolically shared with Fifty Shades of Grey, however, it is Blue is The Warmest Colour that shows the beating heart of this decision making.

Ruth Hartnoll is a full time copywriter, part time queen at www.crownrules.uk and obsessive theatre & poetry enthusiast. She adores animated characters, particularly female, and encourages all women and girls to go and to have lots of naughty fun – if the boys are doing it, we can do it better. Adventure is out there! Follow Ruth on Twitter here and check out her previous article on 7 of her favourite animated female characters.

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Film Review: Foxcatcher

Channing Tatum & Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Champion wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont (Steve Carrell) as he trains for the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

Olympic wrestling (not the uber camp scripted stuff) probably isn’t the most glamorous of sports in all honesty. Two men in big baby-grows and weird helmets rolling around on the floor whilst no-one is really sure of the rules isn’t exactly riveting stuff, which makes it all the more amazing just how absorbing Foxcatcher is.

But of course Foxcatcher isn’t really about wrestling. Naturally there are wrestling scenes dotted throughout the film, and some of them are superbly done, but the actual wrestling very much takes a back seat. Instead it’s the relationship between Mark and Du Pont and to a slightly lesser degree Mark’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) that is the main focus.

Foxcatcher is a film that shouts the loudest during the very quietest of moments

This gives the film a much slower pace then it might otherwise have; so slow in fact that it might turn some people off to it, but it’s a film that shouts loudest during the very quietest of moments. Director Bennett Miller keeps everything very methodical and purposeful, rarely breaking out of walking pace, yet creating something wholly absorbing.

Much of this is down to the wonderful performance of Steve Carell as the creepy, menacing John Du Pont who, whilst being almost entirely deplorable, you just want to see more of and is totally engrossing when on screen. Everything about his demeanour is unsettling, from the way he walks to how he holds himself in conversation to how clearly uneasy he is around other people.

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Carell does, however, inject just enough vulnerability into the character, stopping him from becoming too one-note. The constant search for validation and acceptance from all those around him actually make Du Pont, at times, more accessible than his chilly exterior first allows.

Mark Ruffalo is also excellent as Dave Schultz, showing the caring and attentiveness Du Pont could only dream of from a member of his family, whilst Channing Tatum does what needs to be done but rarely anything more. Tatum gives us occasional glimpses of a more nuanced character, but is largely just a canvas on which Carell can work.

Mention should also go to Greig Fraser’s cinematography which is mercilessly foreboding and chilly with even the odd horror film inflection thrown in every now and again.

The story of Schultz and Du Pont is an odd one, and much has been made of the accuracy of the film in depicting the real-life events, largely by Mark Schultz himself. The homoerotic undertones may be disputed by Schultz but they’re subtle enough to add an extra layer of intrigue to the story and depth to the characters.

Whilst wrestling might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Foxcatcher is about so much more than that, and the central performances ensure an absorbing watch from start to finish regardless of your interest in the actual subject matter.

Pros

  • Brilliant performance by Steve Carell
  • Strong performance from Mark Ruffalo
  • Hugely effective cinematography

Cons

  • A little slow paced at times

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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I Could Do With Your Help

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Hello lovely film fans – I could do with your help.

I have the chance to become a film reviewer for Vue Cinemas. British readers will know who that is, but for those in other countries Vue is one of the largest cinema chains in the country.

I have reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service along with a load of other people and the person whose review gets the most votes becomes a reviewer for Vue.

Here is the like where you can vote for me – http://www.myvue.com/peoples-pundit-competition-action

For the few people searching for Terry Malloy, my name is actually Chris Thomson and you’ll see my lovely face on there too. I know this is a bit rich considering I’ve not been round many people’s blogs for a while, but it would mean a lot if you could vote for me. You can do so via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

If you do give me a vote and I go onto win then I’ll personally thank you on here in a post and link through to your blog.

Let’s show those other reviewing upstarts the power of us bloggers. Or something. Please get friends and family to vote as well if you’d be so kind, that’d be amazing!

Anyway, thanks very much in advance, really appreciate it!

Chris

Does The Academy Have a Duty To Represent Diversity?

Should the Oscars Better Represent Divsersity?

The internet loves a good kick off, doesn’t it? If it’s not about freedom of speech over potentially blasphemous material then it’s Cadbury’s changing their Creme Eggs (location specific, that one). Of course, the most pertinent issue right now is the 87th Academy Awards, or as we peasants call them, the Oscars.

Now, we always get the usual ‘film X should have been nominated’ or ‘film Y shouldn’t have been nominated’ or ‘how on earth did Bradley Cooper get nominated again?’, but this time there’s a slightly more contentious issue – the lack of diversity in the nominations.

More specifically, it’s the lack of female and non-white nominations, particularly in the ‘major’ categories. But does the Academy have a duty to diversify its nominations or have we made a lotta something outta a lotta nothing?

First of all, we all know that the Oscars doesn’t truly represent the year of film and so they’re never really going to be that diverse anyway. The fact that the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category even exists is proof of this. There are always films made by men and women of various races and ethnic backgrounds that don’t get a look in, so why are we really surprised that it’s not a particularly diverse year?

Now let’s rewind to last year. Amongst the winners were a a film made by a black director (Steve McQueen), a black woman (Lupita Nyong’o) and Jared Leto winning for playing a transgender character. Not hugely diverse given the number of overall nominees and winners but there is diversity in there, and amongst the big categories, too.

Ava Duvernay

Ava Duvernay, director of Selma

Onto this year and there isn’t a single black nominee in any of the acting categories. Only Ava Duverny represents any kind of diversity in the main categories for Selma in the Best Picture character, but other than that everything is a whiter shade of pale. There are, however, several women nominated in the Actress in a Leading Role and Actress in a Supporting Role categories.

On a serious note, why is this? It’s difficult to say and it would take a much deeper digging than I am capable of or can be bothered doing. It’s likely a much more complicated issue than simply saying the Academy are white or male biased – although that’s not to say there isn’t some truth to that! You need to look at production companies, agents, producers, sponsors, and probably just about every other aspect of filmmaking. We don’t really know how much pressure the Academy is under, if any, to choose particular films over other.

But here’s the question… should the Academy be duty bound to represent diversity? Those making the nominations may argue that the films, actors and actresses they have chosen really are the best this year, and if that’s really the case then should they be made to change their nominations to include a more diverse selection? Perhaps the make up of Academy members or the voting process needs looking at, or should there even be other categories created to represent the under represented?

It could well be that this year is somewhat of an anomaly, albeit a slightly worrying one, and that next year the nominations will be more diverse. But what if they’re not? Does it matter? The Oscars already alienate a lot of people, so let’s hope they don’t make it even worse.

What do you make of this year’s Oscar nominations? Is the lack of diversity an issue and if so, what should they do about it?

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Film Review: Birdman

Michael Keaton & Edward Norton in Birdman

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero. He must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

How do you review a film like Birdman? It’s virtually impossible to truly describe it and do it justice using only words on a page or a screen. I did consider writing this review in one continuous sentence or paragraph as a nod to the film’s camera work, but decided it would just make reading my stuff even more painful than usual!

So where do we start? Let’s go for Birdman himself, Michael Keaton. Getting Keaton to play the role in the first place is a stroke of genius considering his role as Batman in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. Like Riggan, Keaton has never been as popular since playing a superhero and you could argue that Birdman is Keaton’s version of the play Riggan is attempting to direct.

Keaton is fantastic as Riggan, constantly walking the lines between creative genius, enthusiastic try-hard and mental breakdown, all three personalities vying for centre stage. Due to the semi-autobiographical nature of the film, it does feel as if we’re seeing a window into Keaton’s own mindset and, as such, it feels like a very personal performance. A scene in which Riggan lays into a Broadway critic feels very much like he’s finally spewing forth an opinion he, and countless other actors, have been waiting a lifetime to express.

Emma Stone as Riggan’s daughter and Edward Norton as an arrogant Broadway star also put in excellent performances, both of whom also seem less than mentally stable themselves.

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Birdman’s cinematography is in the hands of Emmanuel Lubezki, who did such sterling work on Gravity, and here, along with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction, he’s created something quite breathtaking. Birdman is shot as if it’s one, continuous sweeping camera shot, swooping gracefully from one scene to the next and occasionally using timelapse to advance the narrative, all set in and around Broadway’s St. James Theatre.

Like Hitchcock’s Rope, edits are hidden very cleverly, although on first viewing the whole thing may be a little distracting as you could be forgiven for focusing more on the camera technique than anything else. It is, however, nothing short of a technical and creative marvel and should be applauded for helping to make Birdman something rather unique.

There’s a fair bit going on under Birdman’s hood, which is why a written review barely scratches the surface. It’s about fame, popularity, social media, mental health, the film industry and a million other things. It’s one of those films in which you get out what you put into it; there are metaphors and subtexts at every turn and you’re never really sure whether what you’re seeing is literal or metaphorical. For example, does Riggan really have the telekinetic powers he exhibits when no-one else is around or are they figments of his imagination? It’s a film that lets you make those kind of decisions for yourself.

You could even go as far to say that there’s actually a little too much going on. With the aforementioned camera work, the erratic drum soundtrack and myriad of ideas and themes criss-crossing here, there and everywhere, it can be a little difficult to take it all in, at least on first viewing. It’s all good stuff that’s being thrown at you but with so much of it, only some of it can actually grab your attention at any one time.

Birdman is one of those films that almost demands a second viewing (and perhaps a third and a fourth) but it’s such a whirlwind of an experience there’s every chance you’ll watch a different film each time. It’s difficult to say Birdman will appeal to everyone as it most likely won’t, but if you want a film that’s innovative, thought-provoking and unique then it’s an absolute must-watch.

Pros

  • Breathtaking camera work
  • Great performance from Michael Keaton and surrounding cast
  • Gives you plenty to think about

Cons

  • Sometimes a little too much going on for its own good

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

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My Top 20 Films of 2014 – Part 2

I covered the first part of my top 20 a few days ago, and so here is part two – numbers 10 to 1 of my top films of 2014. Enjoy!

10. The Lego Movie

The lego Movie

It could have gone so very wrong. Everything about it screamed corporate cash-in but The Lego Movie actually turned out to be bloody fantastic. Poking fun at pop culture at every turn, there really is something for Lego fans young and old to revel in, and the fact that literally everything on screen is made from Lego bricks makes for a visual treat. Full review here.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

With our cinemas bursting at the seams like Hulk’s shorts with superhero films, Marvel took a massive risk bringing a relatively unknown franchise to the big screen in Guardians of the Galaxy, but it was a risk that paid off. The script was witty, the soundtrack was brilliant and most of all it was damn good fun.

8. The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game

The importance of what Alan Turing did can simply not be underestimated, and neither can the barbaric treatment of him at the hands of the UK government simply because of his sexuality. The Imitation Game gives a ‘for dummies’ guide to Turing’s work and life, which is by no means a criticism, hitting most of the important points and driven by a brilliant central performance by Benedict Cumberbatch. Read a mini review here.

7. 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s harrowing tale of Solomon Northup being sold into slavery isn’t an easy watch, but is an incredibly important story that is depressingly not as long ago as it should be. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a brilliant performance as Solomon, whilst the cinematography, as you’d expect from McQueen, is stunning. Read my full review here.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel couldn’t be more of a Wes Anderson film if it tried. A picture book caper stylised to its limit, it’s glorious fun from start to finish. It might be a little too frenetic and stylised for some, but fans of Anderson will lap this up, whilst it’s also brilliant to see Ralph Fiennes revelling in a comedic central performance. Read my full review.

5. Boyhood

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood took over 12 years to film, following the same characters and cast members as they grow up. It sounds a bit of a gimmick, and it could have well turned into one, but what we got instead was a wonderful study of family and growing up, not just from the viewpoint of Ellar Coltrane’s Mason as the lead, but also of all those around him. There’s something here that almost everyone will relate to. Read my review here.

4. Her

Her

The story artificial intelligence and its sentience is something that outdates cinema (probably) but very few films have covered it like Spike Jonze’s Her. It’s a world of high-waisted trousers and one that sees human interaction dying out in favour of artificial intelligence, something that doesn’t seem to improbable. Joaquin Phoenix is fantastic but it’s Scarlett Johansson as the disembodied Samantha that really steals the show. Read my full review here.

3. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler’s look at the seedy world of crime ‘journalism’ has plenty to say about our modern form of news and how we consume it. We may baulk at what Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom does but we lap it up at the same time, feeding his lust for fame and validation. Gyllenhaal’s performance is outstanding, channeling Travis Bickle whilst adding enough of his own style and menace to stand apart from De Niro’s character. Read more of my thoughts here.

2. Pride

Pride

It’s a story that almost sounds too bizarre to be true, but when a group of gay men and lesbians rocked up to a lowly Welsh village in support of the miners’ strikes it showed that we all aren’t so different. Pride tells that story and will warm even the coldest of hearts. Sure, it may be a little stereotypical and cheesy at times, but it does what it does remarkably well and is accentuated by some stellar performances. A crowd pleaser if ever there was one. Read my review here.

1. Frank

Michael Fassbender as Frank

Michael Fassbender wearing a big paper mache head – what’s there not to like?! Frank takes its inspiration from Manchester performer Frank Sidebottom who did indeed used to wear a head just like the one in the above picture. That, however, is where the similarities between the two Franks end and instead we get a fantastical tale of trying to make it big in the music industry, but with something much deeper bubbling under the surface. Michael Fassbender is phenomenal as Frank, especially considering he’s essentially acting with his body and voice, removed of all facial expressions aside from the one painted onto his fake head. It’s quirky and indie and this may put some people off, but it was the film that bewitched me the most in 2014. Read my full review of Frank here.

There we have it – my top 10 films of 2014. Agree? Disagree? Don’t care? Let me know in the comment below! Thanks very much for sticking around even though I haven’t been around as much, and hopefully see you all a bit more in 2015.

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My Top 20 Films of 2014 – Part 1

When I compiled my top 10 of 2013, I didn’t include those films that came out just in 2015 here in the UK but still featured on many people’s lists as they came out in the US in 2014 and were in the running for awards.

However, by doing that I last year, I need to include those films this time around which makes choosing a top 10 really freakin’ difficult, and rather than try and whittle them down and because i’m weak and indecisive, I decided to do a top 20 instead. I have split it into two parts, however, so it’s not a complete bore to read in one go.

You will notice that some major films aren’t here but appear in others’ lists purely because they’re out over here in 2015.

So here are numbers 20-11 of my top films of 2014…

20. Calvary

Calvary

The McDonagh brothers have a bit of a thing for black comedies (The Guard, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) but none of them are as black as Calvary. In fact, you might be hard pressed to even call it a black comedy at times, rather a drama with sprinklings of comedy here and there. Either way, it’s an absorbing tale of a good priest being threatened with his life and a brilliant performance by Brendan Gleeson. Read my review.

19. The Raid 2

The Raid 2

The Raid was a lesson in how to bring martial arts to the masses and The Raid 2 takes what the first film did so well and turns everything up to 11. The fight scenes are unbelievable, almost balletic in their choreography, and are as brutal as anything else you’ll have seen this year. Its attempts to create an interesting story miss the mark, but we’re only really here for the fights and they don’t disappoint. My review.

18. The Babadook

The Babadook

It’s always refreshing when a horror film doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares, and thankfully The Babadook steers away from these for the most part. It plays on the audience’s familiarity with the situation and mixes in elements of the uncanny to create an intriguing story, even if it does lose its way slightly in the final third. Read my mini review here.

17. Locke

Locke

Being stuck in a car with Tom Hardy may well be many people’s idea of a dream day out but his Ivan Locke is a little unhinged and we stare in fascinated horror as he does his best to stop his life falling apart around him. Hardy is the sole (on-screen) character and he carries the burden with ease, proving that he can turn his hand to just about anything. Read my full review.

16. Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davies

For me, The Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis is an easier film to admire than it is to love, but by God there’s a lot to admire. Wonderfully shot with chilly, muted tones, it’s packed full of metaphor and subtext and has some brilliant performances at its core. Not the most accessible film of the year but definitely one of the most thought provoking. Read my full review.

15. Interstellar

Black Hole in Insterstellar

Sometimes a film does some things so well that it makes you forgive the things it’s not so good at. Interstellar has some horrendous plot contrivances and some dodgy plot points, but it also has some absolutely stunning visuals and Christopher Nolan’s lofty ambition, making it simply one of the most pure cinematic experiences of the year. Read my review here.

14. Dallas Buyer’s Club

Dallas Buyer's Club

As we all know, Dallas Buyer’s Club picked up the Best Actor (Matthew McConaughey) and Best Supporting Actor (Jared Leto) awards at the 2014 Oscars, and for good reason. Both McConaughey’s and Leto’s performances are the heart and soul of the film and really sell this heartbreaking true story. Read my full review here.

13. Gone Girl

Gone Girl

David Fincher has built up quite the cinematography and Gone Girl is another excellent addition. It starts as a whodunnit of sorts and then however transforms into something wholly different with twists and turns lacing the narrative throughout. Affleck’s great here but Pike is even better and Fincher’s attention to detail really helps draw you in. Read my full review.

12. The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

It’s Scorsese and DiCaprio working together once again, this time on the tale of Jordan Belfort and his rise to astronomical wealth and influence on the stock market. Some fantastic performances help to pull the film through which runs about 6 weeks in length, although it still left DiCaprio waiting for that elusive Oscar. Read my review.

11. Paddington

Paddington

For film viewers of a certain age, Paddington Bear will have a certain nostalgic value, but for many he’s somewhat of an unknown. Either way, Paddington is absolutely essential family viewing. It’s utterly charming, like a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day. It also carries an important message about accepting those different to yourselves, so has plenty of substance to back up its marmalade-laced hi-jinx.

That’s numbers 20-11 of my top 20 of 2014. Let me know your thoughts below and stay tuned for my top ten of 2014 in a few days.

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