Sunday, 4 January 2015

2014 - A Year In Film In 140 characters Or Less

2014 is like so last year already! But for my own benefit more than anything else, here's all my mini-reviews I published on my Twitter account for films released last year handily gathered together in one place. This is by no means every film I saw, but just the titles which I felt compelled to post a succinct '140 characters or less' verdict upon. For my latest Twitter reviews you can follow me here: @M_R_Movie.

In Alphabetical Order:  

3 Days To Kill: An awkward mix of violent espionage thriller & maudlin family / fatherhood drama. Tonally vague, listless & misjudged. Poor.

12 Years A Slave: Flawlessly performed, elegantly composed, but bludgeons viewer with relentless misery to trigger a guilt reflex. Overrated.

13/13/13: A barely there plot & strictly amateur hour acting compensated for by sundry violence & black humour in a Crazies/Signal variant.

20,000 Days On Earth: Documentary, drama, archive, art project. A profile of Cave as unique, idiosyncratic & maverick as the man himself.

ABCs Of Death 2: Remains a cool concept but execution as erratic as before. Fewer real turkeys this time but equally few memorable letters.

Afflicted: Uses the Chronicle template to document a horrific physical transformation. A cut above the usual found footage genre offerings.

After: An intriguing mystery unravelling in the subconscious with deviations from expected plot & sensitively handled central relationship.

Alien Abduction: Not quite 'Dire In The Sky', but fails to capitalise on initially eerie build-up & camcorder FF conceit rapidly wears thin.

All Cheerleaders Die: Tonally ramshackle, entertainingly madcap subversion of high school horror, even if it's essentially Jennifer's Bodies.

All Is Lost: A minimalist, purely cinematic tale of endurance, works as intense character study - dignity & stoic physicality against odds.

Almost Human: Invasion Of Bodysnatchers meets Fire In The Sky with a slasher mentality & emphasis on shocks & splatter. Crude but effective.

American Hustle: Amusing study of manipulation with fine period authenticity. Its greatest con-trick is its note perfect Scorsese forgery.

Among Friends: An 80s themed party of dark revelations, duplicity, depravity & dismemberment. It's The Loved Ones meets Would You Rather.

A Most Wanted Man: Less war on terror, more snore on terror. Talky & tedious, a thriller devoid of thrills but rife with wayward accents.

Antisocial: Subliminal social network messages infect users in a nightmare of technological dependency which echoes core Cronenberg themes.

As Above So Below: The Da Vinci Code meets The Descent. Claustrophobic & creepy in parts, milking primal fears amidst chimerical mythology.

At The Devil's Door: Slow burn Satanic shocker, switches focus between leads & has some mood & menace, but drags its cloven hooves terribly.

Automata: Stylish but hugely derivative dystopian sci-fi. It's debt to I,Robot & Blade Runner in particular, borders on blatant plagiarism.

A Walk Among The Tombstones: Set in 90s, feels like 70s, with its prowling, oppressive, grim atmosphere. Cliched, but Neeson is impressive.

Bad Country: Above average cast in a fairly average southern fried crime drama, which is a convoluted attempt at portraying real life events.

Bad Neighbours: I laughed twice. Both those moments were in the trailer. The latest spin in the downward spiral of mainstream U.S. comedy.

Bad Turn Worse: Texan neo noir with teens in over their heads. Has a simmering intensity but the plot doesn't go anywhere you don't expect.

Big Bad Wolves: Brutal torture, graphic child murder & broad black comedy make for a queasy mix in a gripping but tonally asymmetrical film.

Blood Glacier: Retro Alpine creature feature is an entertaining monster-mash with admirably icky practical FX & eco agenda. Throwback fun.

Blue Ruin: A searing, savage revenge thriller simmering with pain & anguish, bristling with rage, tension & tragedy. One of the year's best.

Boyhood: A sprawling, meandering slice of life. Ambitious, but low on dramatic content. Like watching someone's home movies for three hours.

Captain America - Winter Soldier: Bigger, bolder, brilliantly choreographed. '70s espionage & NWO paranoia in state of art blockbuster. Huge fun.

Cheap Thrills: Blistering brutal black comedy of credit crunch cruelty. It's a downward spiral into dares & depravity through desperation.

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla: Melancholic & darkly comedic, turns into Taxi Driver in an ice-cream van for a finale which goes full retard.

Code Red: Never lives up to impressively gory WW2 prologue, this Bulgarian based zombie opus descends into a generic Nightmare City clone.

Coherence: Labyrinthine lo-fi / high concept mind-bending sci-fi, cultivates a warped reality of escalating paranoia & cryptic perception.

Crawl Or Die: Micro-budget creature feature throwback. 90 mins of monotonous crawling about in dark confined spaces. Tedious tunnel-vision.

Dallas Buyers Club: Routine issue movie mixes bitterness & tenderness. Greatly elevated by powerhouse performances from McConaughey & Leto.

Dark House: Starts out as catalogue of cliches & turns increasingly strange & surreal. Lacks cohesion or logic, a madcap surplus of ideas.

Daughter Of Horror: A bizarre beat generation oddity, a surreal psycho noir which felt like Mulholland Drive directed by Ed Wood.

Dawn Of Planet Of Apes: Perfect mix of story & spectacle, character & cutting edge FX. A blockbuster with brains, heart & soul. Monkey magic.

Dead Snow 2: Far more comedic than previously. A cavalcade of creative cadaverous carnage & inspired comic-book splatter. An absolute blast.

Delivery: Rosemary's Baby for the reality TV era. Nothing groundbreaking, but manages to raise a few shivers & the climax genuinely shocks.

Deliver Us From Evil: Gritty mix of hardboiled cop movie & demonic shocker throws up solid scares but stretches credibility. Bana on form.

Edge Of Tomorrow: Source Code as a shoot 'em up. It's slick, stylish & rattles along with enough spirit to disguise its nonsensical science.

Enemy: Disturbing doppelganger drama fuelled by an air of escalating dread & unease, with abstract arachnid symbolism. Unsettling & exceptional.

Extraterrestrial: Alien greys in generic kids go to cabin in woods & get slaughtered fare.Scenery-chewing Michael Ironside is the highlight.

Found: Raw & rough edged, this controversy-baiting indie pulls no punches with its grim vision of a psychotic sibling & copycat violence.

Frank: A fictionalised account of a fictional alter-ego. Uses the Sidebottom character in a tangential musical journey into mental illness.

Fury: Visceral & grim. A vision of mud, blood & thunder. Captures the intensity of warfare, but has little substance beyond the brutality.

Godzilla: Great moments too widely dispersed. No focal point with characters, much of action takes place on periphery / aftermath. A letdown.

Gone Girl: Deception, duplicity, performance & perception. Gripping from start to finish with a sly satirical bite, the attraction is fatal.

Grand Piano: Technically audacious & outlandish, stylish & absurd. It's a genre-savvy concerto of Hitchcock, DePalma & Argento's best tunes.

Grudge Match: Predictable, overly sentimental, a dull ode to former glories which reminds you just how long ago Rocky & Raging Bull were.

Guardians Of The Galaxy: An 'awesome mix' of humour, charm, engaging characters, invention & stunning visuals. Cooler than Kevin Bacon.

Gun Woman: Heroically deranged & depraved orgy of cartoonish sex, sleaze & splatter with a hardcore taboo-busting agenda. Gloriously extreme.

Her: Electric Dreams for the iPhone era. A glacially-paced slice of shoegaze sci-fi with irksome indie romance trappings. Wishy-washy whimsy.

Heretic: A crisis of faith in the guise of a funereal fright film. Solemn, subdued & serious in tone, but with convincingly creepy moments.

Honeymoon: An intimate relationship decays in a genuinely creepy portrait of paranoia & emotional isolation. Cultivates real sense of unease.

Horns: Uneven & unusual, a lovelorn murder mystery which switches from religious allegory to full-blown horror with oddly puritanical streak.

Housebound: Gloriously chaotic, never really settles on tone or style, but it's an enjoyable, well engineered blend of horror & humour.

In Fear: Employs primal fear, paranoia & disorientation to great effect, chilling rural nightmare with escalating sense of dread & despair.

Inside Llewyn Davis: An elegiac, emotionally fractured character study, set to the tune of melancholic soul-searching folk. Classic Coens.

Interstellar: Nolan reaches for stars but fails to get into orbit. Intimate moments work best, but adrift in 3hrs of time & relativity twaddle.

Jessabelle: Nothing new or innovative, but a decent southern Gothic horror benefiting from lead by Sarah Snook whose star is in the ascent.

Joe: A powerful character study of wounded souls on periphery of society, with dark pasts & bleak futures. Cage's best performance in years.

Last Vegas: Sweet-natured if disposable. This wrinkly wolfpack is far more agreeable & fun to be around than their Hangover counterparts.

Late Phases: Solid werewolf film with unusual location & mature cast, actually works best as a character study of superbly grouchy Damici.

Life After Beth: An indie-spirited Warm Bodies, with manic sense of absurdity & surprising emotional depth. Enjoyably offbeat & affecting.

Lone Survivor: Eschews political context for gritty realism of conflict, dropping viewer into the chaotic heart of battle at close quarters.

Lucy: For a crackers sci-fi cocktail add equal parts The Matrix, Limitless, Transcendence & Enter The Void. Shake well & serve ice cool.

Maleficent: Visually arresting fairytale updating, spruces up familiar story with flashy optics & an impressive Jolie giving good cheekbone.

Mandela-Long Walk To Freedom: Elba & Harris are dynamic in a respectful film which feels more like bullet-points of a life & lacks real depth.

Maps To The Stars: Scathing satire on celebrity, unhinged & acerbic it's Hollywood as an incestuous psychotic pit of neurosis & toxicity.

Mindscape: Absorbing psychological chiller of paranormal psycho analysis. Treads familiar ground, but with assured footing & a classy cast.

Monsters Dark Continent: Like first one, not a film about monsters. Here it's a loud, long, mega-dull Band Of Brothers war film. Disappointing.

Mr Jones: An oft-incoherent macabre mosaic of found footage, urban legend & renegade art, turning increasingly surreal, strange & amorphous.

My Amityville Horror: Fascinating cathartic testimony by edgy, confrontational Daniel Lutz. High on speculation, but draws few conclusions.

Mystery Road: Simmering, stunningly shot pseudo western. A slow-burn Outback noir awash with corruption, bigotry, malaise & mistrust.

Nebraska: Wonderfully whimsical monochrome Midwest odyssey. Bittersweet blend of sarcasm, cynicism & schmaltz in charming slice of Americana.

Need For Speed: Hot wheels & incredible non CGI stuntwork, but ludicrous plot, risible dialogue & dire acting. And waaayyyy too bloody long!

Nightbreed Dir Cut: Not sure new footage solves all flaws, but more than ever now is a horror film of huge ambition & twisted imagination.

Nightcrawler: The parasitic pursuit of sensationalist news through a moral & ethical void. A biting satire of our times. Film of the year.

Ninja - Shadow Of A Tear: Routine revenge plot boosted by bone-crunching Raid level fight choreography. Adkins makes an immense one man army.

Nurse 3D: Single White Female with an ass-shot fetish. A lusty slice of fervid exploitation, surgical splatter & a laughably wooden lead.

Nymph: A Serbian Fin, full of eye candy (scenery, locations, female flesh), but takes eternity to reach its creature elements. A damp squib.

Oculus: Confident,creepy,cleverly choreographed between sharply edited timelines & warped reality. Confirms Flanagan as rising genre talent.

Oldboy: Has no real reason to exist & lacks original's style & impact, but it certainly doesn't sanitise the violence & Brolin is good value.

Only Lovers Left Alive: Sophisticated, cerebral, sensual. Poetic & philosophical vampire tale of nocturnal nostalgia, music, love & death.

Open Grave: From bleak opening, cultivates a sense of clammy disorientation. Build-up is better than reveal but it's a solid grisly mystery.

Open Windows: Cleverly constructed cyber-thriller, big on suspense, voyeurism, manipulation & conspiracy theory. Short on internal logic.

Outpost 11: Low budget lunacy - a surreal psychotropic experiment of isolation & insanity with giant spiders, exploding hares & wanking.

Out Of The Furnace: Downbeat & dirty, has brooding brutality of classic 70's cinema. A simmering study of sibling honour with a stellar cast.

Paranormal Activity Marked Ones: Sheds usual format to be a sort of Hispanic supernatural Chronicle. Confusing & largely bereft of scares.

Patrick (2013): Atmospheric & effective with nice line in gruesome cruelty. Impressive cast - Dance & Vinson stand out in this worthy remake.

Pompeii: B-Movie with a budget, it's Gladiator from the Irwin Allen school of schlock. Utterly generic nonsense, but oddly entertaining.

Predestination: A slow burn until its main reveal then becomes truly mind-bending time travel conundrum with two fantastic lead performances.

Proxy: Funereal-paced miserablist, melancholic psychological shocker with turbulent changes of tone & direction. A bit of a slog.

R100: A fetishistic fantasy, grief & guilt manifested in a series of increasingly perverse & surreal encounters as the fourth wall shatters.

Rigor Mortis: Jiangshi revival / supernatural portmanteau set in gloomy apartment block. Beautifully shot, visually rich, but erratically paced.

Robocop (2014): A film about the illusion of freedom, crisis of identity & ethics of automation in age of drone wars. Surprisingly not bad.

Sabotage: The plot is ludicrous, the twists are telegraphed. It's empty overt machismo, first person gun fetishism & extreme violence. Terrible.

Sanitarium: Well acted if rather overwrought & unremarkable horror anthology of escalating dementia. Very much Tales Of Ordinary Madness.

Saturday Morning Mystery: Fails to make most of its inspired Scooby Doo derived shtick. Some effective material but an opportunity wasted.

Savaged: I Spit On Your Grave meets Scalps with sun-scorched, grim grindhouse aesthetic of The Devil's Rejects. Gloriously gory, trashy fun.

Scarecrow: Starts as Breakfast Club meets Jeepers Creepers & becomes a more generic CGI-heavy creature feature. Its TV movie roots run deep.

Sin City 2: Stale, limp, languid retread of the first instalment. Feels like a film which has arrived at the party after everyone has left.

Soulmate: Low key & leisurely, an old fashioned, mournful, melancholic ghost story more concerned with character & mood than cheap scares.

Stage Fright: A song & dance Sleepaway Camp with the emphasis on camp. Musical mutilation, equal parts tongue in cheek & blade in throat.

Stalled: Horror / comedy literally full of toilet humour. The premise is stretched to breaking point at feature-length, but has its moments.

Starred Up: Hardly groundbreaking, but excels in gritty authenticity & bruising bare-knuckle brutality. O'Connell is a force of nature.

Starry Eyes: Emotionally & physically brutal. Plays in crude metaphor, Hollywood as Satanic cesspit, ambition as a cancerous curse. Superb.

Stretch: After Hours in a limo. Joe Carnahan returns to Smokin Aces territory for a manic cameo-laden crackpot crime caper. A mess.

St.Vincent: Bittersweet dramedy, Murray on fine cantankerous form, but syrupy nature of material at odds with world-weariness of character.

The Amazing Spiderman 2: Too long & tries juggling too many elements, but central motif of fathers, sons & generational consequence is well done.

The Art Of The Steal: Kurt Russell's charisma aids this disposable but fun heist caper which is punchy, pacy & has a cool comedic streak.

The Babadook: Genuinely eerie & unsettling, a fearytale which reflects grief & paedophobia in the form of a truly creepy boogeyman. Superb.

The Borderlands: Extends lineage of classic rustic folk horror, cultivating an escalating dread & paranoia with a genuinely unnerving climax.

The Canal: Crimes of the past haunt the present in effectively creepy & solidly acted blend of psychological decay & supernatural mystery.

The Congress: Strange satirical fantasy, scathing of studio systems & technology. A brave performance from Robin Wright in multiple guises.

The Counselor: Great cast set adrift in an incoherent plot devoid of direction or structure & sunk by crass cod philosophising. Garbage.

The Den: Ingeniously merges current online & horror cinema trends to form suspenseful & sinister zeitgeist grabbing cyber-stalk & slasher.

The Drop: A trio of fine performances (& a cute dog) help disguise a fairly low key crime drama which largely gets by on brooding menace.

The Equalizer: B-movie masquerading as A-list thriller. Overlong, but delivers crunching brutality & Denzel excels as ice cool killing machine.

The Expendables 3: Slicker & less self-mocking than previously, but overlong & overstaffed & midsection with the younger team drags fatally.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: A magnificent multi-layered cinematic tapestry. Nostalgic, playful, a charming, cheeky, lavish feast for the eyes.

The Guest: Highly entertaining genre mash-up with authentic retro style & soundtrack. Stevens a magnetic mix of charisma & brooding menace.

The Hobbit - Desolation Of Smaug: Less exposition, more momentum & better than first, but textbook example of a film carrying excess baggage.

The Homesman: Bleak, austere, windswept, uncompromising. Top notch performances & Jones has a firm grasp of the harshness of frontier life.

The Human Race: Intriguing twist on Saw-patented games of survival & sadism, mixing sci-fi, faith n' theology & multiple exploding heads.

The Last Showing: Obsolescence turns to psychosis as embittered Englund goes One Hour Photo in cat & mouse multiplex manipulation & murder.

The Lego Movie: A sugar rush of technicolour visual invention, boundless imagination & inspired surreal humour. Awesome indeed.

The Machine: Visually & thematically nothing new, but works wonders with modest budget, forging sinister undercurrent. Caity Lotz impresses.

The Purge - Anarchy: Expands on social / political / class themes of original in a cross between The Warriors & The Most Dangerous Game.

The Quiet Ones: Generic & far too reliant on jump scares & sound FX shocks, but at its core is an intriguing science v supernatural conflict.

The Raid 2: Bloated & baggy at first, but once it hits its stride has all savage intensity, blitzkrieg pace & bone crunching brutality of Pt1.

The Rover: Bleak, brutal, barren, a sparsely plotted, scorched fable with flickers of humanity in a nihilistic near future of dust & despair.

The Sacrament: Expertly builds a spiralling sense of paranoia & threat beneath a benign exterior. A chilling vision of control & conformity.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty: Well-meaning whimsy, it's a feather-light fantasy comprised of stray vignettes & greeting card sentiment.

The Signal: Like an X-Files episode conceived with surreal dream logic. Drip-feeds moments of abnormality & is frequently visually stunning.
The Taking Of Deborah Logan: Alzheimer's as a disturbing supernatural catalyst - a terrific central performance & a genuinely chilling film.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014): Works as both a meta slasher cleverly riffing on the original & a superior remake with a harder horror edge.
The Wind Rises: A beautiful dream of flight & romance. Nostalgic, wistful, heartbreaking. If it's Miyazaki's swansong he goes out on a high.

The Wolf Of Wall Street: Excess all areas! A hedonistic hit of pure cinematic vivacity in a capitalist vision of Sodom & Gomorrah. Essential.

The Zero Theorem: Obtuse existential odyssey, a poignant pondering of the human condition in a garish, cartoonish companion piece to Brazil.

Torment: Formulaic home invasion fare, essentially You're Next minus genre-savvy smarts. Katherine Isabelle in scream queen mode is a bonus.

Transcendence: Unsure if it's weighty study of the human condition or man v machine cyberpunk action. Not great - an opportunity wasted.

Transformers 4: Underwritten & overlong. Less puerile than previously, but still just a series of set-pieces in search of a coherent plot.

Tusk: Genuinely twisted & perverse, somewhat diluted by Smith's trademark puerile humour, but still plenty of warped body horror insanity.

Under The Skin: Moments of brilliance adrift in a bland, repetitive, sparse storyline. As cold, clinical & detached as ScarJo's seductress.

Vendetta: Rubbish obviously, but as far as Danny Dyer films go it's a cut above - a mean-spirited slice of reactionary urban exploitation.

We Are The Best: Outsiders united through youthful rebellion & punk. Terrific chemistry, utterly infectious. "Hate the sport", love the film.

What We Do In The Shadows: Sharper than a bloodsucker's fangs, consistently hilarious throughout, a brilliant spoof of vampire folklore. 

Wer: The werewolf myth as explored via forensic procedural & criminal interrogation. An offbeat & original twist on a classic horror staple.

Willow Creek: Follows the Blair Witch template to the letter. Surprisingly conventional, uneventful & irony free. Utterly unremarkable.

Witching & Bitching: Agreeably barking mad supernatural battle of sexes, bit ragged, but inspired lunacy & visual flair prevail. Bitchin'.

Wolfcop: Very uneven in terms of balance between horror & comedy, but it's entertaining nonsense & hard to hate a film so knowingly absurd.

Wolf Creek 2: This has transformed from an Outback slasher to a furious, full-on action epic, akin to Duel with gallows humour & butchery.

X-Men DOFP: A surplus of characters & a plot that doesn't hold up to close scrutiny, but delivers its core man v mutant theme on a grand scale.

Zombeavers: Gory, goofy, knowingly ridiculous monster movie spoof. Intensely annoying teens become beaver bait. I was definitely Team Beaver!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Best Films Of The Year 2014

According to my Letterboxd diary HERE I watched 317 films in 2014. Seeing as it was a World Cup year, I set myself the optimistic target of 300 films, so to not only reach that tally but to beat it was pleasing. I thought 2014 threw up a lot of impressive films, kicking off with some fantastic awards season movies (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS etc), as the year progressed we got an unusually strong blockbuster season (DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, CAPTAIN AMERICA - THE WINTER SOLDIER), a terrific selection of gritty American thrillers (BLUE RUIN, COLD IN JULY, NIGHTCRAWLER), and a growing list of quality indie horror movies from across the globe (THE BORDERLANDS, STARRY EYES, THE BABADOOK). As ever there were some misfires and disappointments - Gareth Edwards' GODZILLA and Christopher Nolan's INTERSTELLAR failed to meet their immense promise and the high expectations I had for them. Whilst as tends to be the case, my often contrary nature meant I found some of the year's best reviewed and most admired movies a bit underwhelming (HER, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, BOYHOOD, UNDER THE SKIN take a bow!). Despite viewing over 300 films in 2014, the bulk of which appeared to be new releases, it was as always the case that it's impractical or indeed impossible to see everything in time before the year ends, but I pretty much managed to see all the films I most wanted to catch, so while there were a few notable exceptions which appeared on many other end of year 'best of' countdowns, several of these were films I have little or no interest in actually viewing (NYMPHOMANIAC for one), and there were a few films which have had just limited festival runs or no UK release as yet, which I either haven't seen, or won't include here until they officially open in the UK. A list of my favourite films which fall under this category can be found HERE 

Criteria for inclusion on this rundown of my favourite films of 2014 in the end boiled down to films that were released in UK cinemas for the first time this year and new films which debuted on DVD / Blu-ray which had bypassed UK cinemas. Films available on import discs which had not yet been released in the UK, but were legally available to purchase from overseas, and films that featured in UK film festivals or regional screenings were omitted from my selection process this year, some of those may well make it onto my Best Films Of 2015 rundown.


Nightcrawler is an incredibly assured directorial debut from screenwriter Dan Gilroy, a sort of savage zeitgeist satire which plays out like Network meets American Psycho by way of Peeping Tom. Yes its targets may be obvious and its strokes rather broad, but its critical barbs are piercing and provocative. Plus, at its rotten black heart is a quite staggering central performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, creating one of the screen's great poisonous antiheroes, a calculating, manipulative, ghoulish emotional void, who seems to care more for the potted plant he methodically waters in his sparse apartment, than any member of his own species. It's an incredibly manic, oddly mesmerising mix of Travis Bickle, Rupert Pupkin and Patrick Bateman, and should be a shoe-in for Best Actor recognition come awards season, in spite of the darkness of the material. Russo's scene-stealing media mercenary is equally impressive and worthy of attention, as is Four Lions' Riz Ahmed as Bloom's exploited, nervy lackey, who crucially is notable for being the film's only remotely sympathetic character.
At once a brutally biting modern media allegory, a sobering cautionary critique of dwindling career prospects, a terrifically twisted nightmarish noir thriller, and primarily a magnetic character study of a predatory, soulless sociopath surgically attached to a video camera documenting the bottomless abyss into which society is increasingly plunging. Nightcrawler is a haunting film for our times. For me, the standout film of the year.


Excess all areas! The Wolf Of Wall Street is a hedonistic hit of pure cinematic vivacity in a capitalist vision of Sodom & Gomorrah. Martin Scorsese's account of shamed stockbroker Jordan Belfort's rise and fall presents the banking sector as a sybaritic cartoon world of greed, vulgarity and crime - it's Goodfellas with fewer murders but pretty much every other deadly sin ticked off the list in duplicate.
Leonardo DiCaprio dominates as Belfort, a decadent deity whose rise from green-gilled Wall Street novice to self-made multi-millionaire is expertly portrayed in incremental stages of unrestrained ambition and coke-fuelled debauchery. But it's not just a one man show however, Scorsese also finds time to offer impressive support from a career best Jonah Hill, Rob Reiner as Belfort's weary father, Margot Robbie as his feisty trophy wife, and a nearly film-stealing early mentoring monologue from a shark-like Matthew McConaughey.
Even at three hours in length, The Wolf Of Wall Street never outstays its welcome, sizzling set pieces and crazed comedic peaks littered throughout its sprawling duration, in what for me is Scorsese's most ambitious and essential film for over twenty years. A film I rather perfectly heard summed up as the movie Wall Street would've been had Gordon Gekko directed it.

The Coen Brothers' latest is an elegiac and nuanced study of an emotionally fractured character against a backdrop of melancholic musical soul-searching. In many ways the title character (a wonderfully passive Oscar Isaac) is one of Joel & Ethan's most flawed and unsympathetic leads, a world-weary man out of time, one half of a former singer/songwriter partnership, aimlessly drifting through a sofa-surfing existence of apathy in a pre-Dylan Greenwich Village folk scene. Yet as Llewyn's feckless world falls apart, the Coens somehow draw us into his mostly self-inflicted misery and career sabotage, setting off on a week long odyssey thanks to a ginger cat(alyst), a journey with no direction home, which starts to unravel the depths and despair of the film's uncompromising eponymous character.
Thematically, Inside Llewyn Davis shares most common ground with O' Brother Where Art Thou in both its musicality and Odyssey inspired narrative, yet stylistically it's more reminiscent of those personal and existential films in the Coen's back catalogue, particularly Barton Fink and A Serious Man. It's a delicate balance between sympathetic and sadistic, the angst and despair offset by typically offbeat humour ("Where's its scrotum?"), it's a film despite its petulant protagonist, and the fact it never delivers the epiphany it teases throughout, remains awash with wicked whimsy and prickly poetic charm. 


Jeremy (Murder Party) Saulnier's self-financed sophomore feature Blue Ruin is a searing, savage stripped-back revenge thriller simmering with pain and anguish, and positively bristling with rage, tension and tragedy. It opens dialogue-free and disorientating by following the day to day trials and tribulations of a destitute and desperate homeless vagrant Dwight (brilliantly played with doe-eyed twitchiness by Macon Blair), and gradually drip feeds the viewer his disturbing back story - how he came to be this pitiful broken shell of a man, and what leads him on the misguided path to redemption as he sets out on a tumultuous trail of revenge as a reluctant, ramshackle anti-hero.
Blue Ruin is a film which stresses that vengeance comes at a terrible price, here's a movie which reinforces the notion that violence begets violence and that it's a grim, ugly business, utterly devoid of the glamour and glory of any traditional Hollywood vigilante justice thriller. Dwight is as far removed from a stereotypical action hero as is imaginable - utterly out of his depth on his quest for payback, his fallibilities and failings exposed via his meek, clumsy ineptitude and everyman vulnerability.
Punctuated by shocking, realistic brutality, a blackly comedic undercurrent and genuine emotional heft throughout, Blue Ruin is the sort of gritty, mature indie-spirited thriller which bears favourable comparison to classic examples of the genre such as One False Move and Blood Simple. It also reminded me thematically at times of the idea of the difficulty, cost and impact of taking lives as addressed in Clint Eastwood's masterpiece Unforgiven. Pretty exalted company admittedly, but Blue Ruin is a fantastic piece of work, captivating and contemplative, both subverting and saluting its particular genre.


My reaction to Wes Anderson as a filmmaker has been every bit as enigmatic as his movies. I genuinely hated his breakthrough film Rushmore, and really couldn't get to grips with The Royal Tenenbaums, but somewhere around The Life Aquatic he won me over, and ever since then I've steadily become ever more enthralled by his deliciously eccentric and esoteric output.
His latest quirk-fest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is perhaps the most quintessentially idiosyncratic Anderson film to date, a star-studded distillation of styles and subjects from his earlier filmography, crafting a magnificent multi-layered cinematic tapestry - nostalgic, playful, a charming, cheeky, lavish feast for the eyes and imagination. Playing out over interweaving time periods (each represented via different screen aspect ratios), this charts the eventful history of the titular establishment in the fictional kingdom of Zubrowka, primarily through the exploits of charismatic and scheming concierge M.Gustave (Ralph Fiennes brilliantly tapping into previously underemployed comedic prowess) who is "a faint glimmer of civilisation in the barbaric slaughterhouse we once knew as humanity."
By turns a richly observed comedy of manners, farcical crime caper, fanciful wartime drama, and affectionate ode to vintage cinema, this is an impish, endlessly entertaining, utterly individual directorial tour de-force, populated by crazy and kooky characters and with an immaculate attention to detail and composition throughout. With its inclusion of bygone cinematic trickery that harks back to silent films through to the stop-motion and lush matte work of Anderson's own Fantastic Mr Fox, this is a vibrant, visual delight, its film within a film construct magically unravelling hidden layers of narrative and character like a cinematic Russian doll. An absolute joy, and extra credit for allowing Saoirse Ronan to speak in her natural Irish accent.

A near perfect mix of storyline and spectacle, character and cutting edge technology. Not only does this improve upon the already impressive Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, but for a mainstream franchise film it also works as both a superb standalone story and a pivotal chapter in what is clearly going to be an ongoing, ever expanding story arc.
Here's that rarest of commodities - a mature movie for the masses, a blockbuster with brains, heart and soul, unafraid to spend screen time on developing characters and relationships, and exploring themes of conflict, intolerance and trust. And yet it works admirably as an action-packed popcorn movie too, with state-of-the-art special effects, which set new benchmarks for CGI realism. You genuinely forget you are watching computer animated creations, rather than real living, breathing characters. 


Is it the new Star Wars? Probably not. But it could well be the new Spacehunter or Ice Pirates or Battle Beyond The Stars - quirkier, cultier, cooler films which followed in Luke Skywalker’s wake. James Gunn, up until this point one of genre cinema’s great unsung talents, deservedly hits the big time with a deliriously entertaining romp, that’s big on laughs, stunning visuals and strong characters. It’s a warm, witty, wildly creative crowd-pleaser bursting with great one-liners (“Don't call me a thesaurus”) and memorably madcap set pieces (a city inside a giant floating ancient alien head). Yes there’s a rather perfunctory plot with the usual predictable mcguffin as ever central to proceedings (why do they always make planet destroying weapons quite so portable and easy to lose?). But seriously, you’d have to be a monumentally joyless sod not to be won over by a feelgood film quite so hellbent on being as engaging and entertaining as this. GOTG is essentially Indiana Jones in space, or Firefly with a mega-budget, with a rag-tag crew of “A-hole” misfits, a killer kitschy soundtrack, a wisecracking trigger-happy raccoon, Vin Diesel’s best performance since The Iron Giant, and the most unexpected cameo from an M.I.A. Marvel character in the customary post-credits scene.
Without a shadow of a doubt the most fun film I’ve seen in a very long time. I watched it with a huge idiotic grin etched wide across my face throughout, my inner child thoroughly appeased with the rainbow colour scheme, eye-popping intergalactic backdrops and breezy, bustling action sequences. It's a film which makes us all "just like Kevin Bacon".....or at least "high on believin".

It begins with “a startling opening line”, a catalyst which leads to a twisted murder mystery, as John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to his assured debut feature The Guard, plays out like a parochial mix of Father Ted and High Noon. It’s a film which tackles weighty issues of morality and mortality with a profane, acerbic, pitch black wit. Brendan Gleeson is immense as the Catholic priest threatened with murder during a confessional, wrestling with his own faith and frailty, whilst surrounded by lost souls adrift against a sobering backdrop of the Church’s abuse scandal and Ireland’s economic downturn. And yet there’s charm and humanity and humour at the heart of the frequently intense and provocative subject matter - a caustic, philosophical and ultimately moving study of a conflicted man defying adversity and indifference, in a small-town populated by oddballs, eccentrics and sinners, arriving at its ultimate act of revelation and redemption with genuine emotional impact.

We Are The Best is a charming, spirited, beautifully realised coming of age story about three outsiders allied through youthful rebellion and punk rock music. Lukas Moodysson's film is full of wonderful whimsical moments, and whilst it's the music which binds the narrative together and forms the central theme, more than anything this is an ode to friendship, individuality and attitude. It's a film which admirably avoids cliches, even when it steers towards obvious subjects like relationships with family and rivalry over boyfriends. Ultimately it's a film which succeeds because of its terrific trio of young performers, utterly naturalistic, enchanting and frequently hilarious as they proclaim their improvised, naive philosophies - "I don't believe in God. I believe in ketchup."
Spiky, sweet, life-affirming and sharing a similar maturity and magic between its young cast as another magnificent Swedish film - Let The Right One In - the pugnacious spirit of punk lives on......"Hate the sport", love the film.


Sharper than a bloodsucker's fangs, this comedy/horror from the creators of cult TV show Flight Of The Conchords (which I've never seen), is consistently hilarious throughout, proving to be an inspired spoof of vampire folklore, and a reminder (alongside this year's other festival hit Housebound), just what a knack New Zealand has for producing the perfect blend of gore n' guffaws.
Leaning more towards an outright comedy vehicle than say Peter Jackson's early visceral efforts, this takes the form of a Christopher Guest type mockumentary as a film crew document the day to day (or rather night to night) lives of a pack of vampires all living together in a gloriously ramshackle house on the outskirts of Wellington. With wonderfully well-etched undead characters of differing personalities, ages and eras (cleverly representing various iconic vamps from the history of cinema and literature), this has the anarchic feel and chaotic energy of something like The Young Ones, which this oddly reminded me of. With a staggeringly high joke hit-rate, the film piles on the gags whether it be the mundanity of housework when you're eternal - batfights over doing the dishes are commonplace, fish out of water problems - our heroes' general incompetence with technology and antiquated fashion sense, or just the general pitfalls of being a creature of the night - getting into bars and clubs being particularly problematic when you need an invite before entering, which proves fruitless when confronted with an array of disinterested doormen. The film is also terrifically cine-literate, lampooning everything from The Lost Boys and Nosferatu to Twilight, and it even finds room to ridicule werewolves ("not swearwolves"), and the inherent absurdity of accepted vampire mythology (much inspired idiocy is mined from the notion of a vampire's lack of reflection in a mirror).
Not just the year's best horror/comedy, I'd say this was 2014's funniest film full stop - the virgin blood / sandwich line alone secures that honour.


11) JOE
16) THE RAID 2
20) R100
31) '71
38) FURY