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!

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