Tag Archive: Emily Blunt


Sicario-1Denis Villeneuve has very much confirmed himself as one of the most interesting and captivating directors on the scene. After a string of highly accomplished works produced out of Quebec, the French-Canadian director came onto the Hollywood scene with the beautifully bleak Prisoners, a film which introduced a larger audience to his brand of emotionally charged thrillers. Then came Enemy, a true definition of a mind-fuck, positioning Villeneuve as a director capable of the unpredictable and the unsettling. Here with Sicario, he has come to a culmination of his talents, a film that feels oh so very real, and incredibly unpredictable as we traverse down a blood-soaked Rabbit hole with Emily Blunt on the front line of the Drug War on the US/Mexican border.

Blunt plays Kate Macer, a by-the-book FBI Agent whom, after discovering a house full of corpses and losing two men to an ID, is recruited to join a Delta Task Force led by Department of Justice Advisor Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), who are going after the man, and gang lord, responsible. Also on board this team of carefully selected operatives is the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) a man whom seemingly has his own agenda, yet one who also warms to Kate in a very paternal fashion. As Kate gets deeper and deeper into morally murky waters, she soon finds herself at odds with her own idealistic views and the means in which her team operates in bringing these Drug Lords to justice.Sicario-2

Villeneuve operates much in the same way as David Fincher, taking rather dark and morally complex situations and thrusting the audience in, no matter how uncomfortable or gruesome the results may be. Also, much like Fincher, Villeneuve is aware of the potent power of the unseen. Much of the atrocities and violence committed in the film is kept off-screen, with the aftermath being clearly displayed. It is an old trick, but none the less affecting, as it allows the imagination to run wild, and perhaps forcing darker suggestion to the forefront of ones mind. Sicario employs this at many occasions, and particularly when associating itself with the perspective of Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro, a truly mesmerising character of both mystery and sympathy, made all the more interesting through the tired eyes of del Toro.

Sicario features many set-pieces which engage the senses on a very visceral level, helped in no small way by Roger Deakin’s cinematography, yet another example of awards-worthy work from the masterful lenser. Having worked together on Prisoners, as well as attached to the Blade Runner sequel, Villeneuve and Deakins have struck up a very fascinating partnership, with Sicario standing as a masterpiece of visual story-telling. The overall proceedings look Sicario-3as if they have been bleached in the Mexican sun, while the final act which sees the team head down a secret tunnel to root out a cartel, employs a wide variation of different means of shooting the event, creating a palpable sense of tension, so taut that you may indeed forget to breathe for the majority of the final act.

Sicario represents American film-making at its most mature and most assured. It explores murky depths, without sacrificing hope, as Emily Blunt’s Kate stays strong in the face of questionable procedures and violence. Blunt is a strong focus point, with many of our readings of the other characters very much reflecting her judgements. The cast is pretty faultless, with Josh Brolin on brilliantly smug form as the ultra-macho operative in charge, who lets del Toro’s Alejandro off the leash should the situation call for it. Benicio is most definitely the strongest link here, putting in a quietly menacing performance, whilst also being reservedly charismatic, marking Alejandro as an incredibly complicated and captivating. Sicario-4

Come Awards Season this year, Sicario should be ever present across numerous categories, with hopefully this being the year that Deakins wins his long awaited Oscar, and one can hope Villeneuve will have a presence in the directing category. The film truly is that strong, very masterful without being particularly  showy. It is unreserved, very taut film-making, a master-class of a thriller that others will surely hold in high regard for years to come. At a point in the year when blockbuster fatigue is surely setting in, Sicario represents a different kind of thrill, one that is both visceral and intellectual and packs a hell of a punch. It’d be a crime to miss it.

5/5- Easily one of the best of the year, Sicario is an intelligent, morally murky, and visceral thriller; a masterful piece of film-making.

 

Greetings all! It is time for a catch up of the films I have seen since the start of the New Year. In order to make it more reader friendly (and tidier on my old blog) I thought I’d split them in to two, starting with this collection of three small reviews. The three films in question; Exodus: Gods and Kings, Into the Woods, and Big Eyes. All three of these features were not particularly ones I was itching to see (most of those are in part 2), but none the less, they made it on to my radar and proved to be interesting, if not entirely successful, cinematic endeavours. 

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Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dir: Ridley Scott)

Much has been discussed about Exodus, particularly in the build-up to its release. Much of this discourse regarded the white-washing of the cast in a film which concerns Ancient Egypt, an issue which was somewhat exacerbated by Sir Ridley’s rather ignorant and flippant response. The film itself was very quickly dismissed, failing to make a great impression at the box-office (currently it has made slightly under $250 million on a budget of $140). This is somewhat of a shame, as the film, while certainly problematic, is an ambitious epic, with a scope and confidence that only a Ridley Scott motion picture can muster and project. Scott’s re-telling of the story of Moses is rather bold in the tone it strikes. Despite the 12A certificate, Scott ensures that the violent and sinister moments of the Biblical tale are all there to witness in their entire wrath of God glory. What is also an intriguing aspect of this re-telling is the interest taken in rationalising the acts of God, providing some logic to the origins of the plagues, Moses’ visions, and even the parting of the Red Sea. It follows in a similar fashion to Aronofsky’s Noah, if in a more traditional fashion, and arguably more successfully. The film succeeds as a visual spectacle, with utterly stunning production design by Scott’s regular collaborator Arthur Max, and exceptional visual effects, aided by a refreshingly smart application of 3-D, which truly aids the scope and detail of the Ancient world on display. It is never dull to look at, but what proves detrimental to the technical brilliance on display is, indeed, the actors chosen and the performances delivered. Christian Bale is terribly mis-cast, and seemingly lacking in any direction, as he shouts and barks his way through with a fluctuating London accent that leaves his Moses rather colour-less and lacking in charisma. Joel Edgerton fairs better as Ramesses II, but is not given a great deal of screen-time in what is predominantly Bale’s tale. Much of the supporting cast range from either offering very little or to be being down-right ridiculous, namely a criminally under-used Sigourney Weaver and an out-of-place Aaron Paul. This film is a pure visual treat, with the acting either getting lost in the vast landscapes or doing too much to be heard within them. A pleasure on an aesthetic level, just lacking in a truly compelling drama, with characters that were drawn out far better in The Prince of Egypt. 3/5 

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Into the Woods (Dir: Rob Marshall)

Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods is not a property that I am that familiar with; I am more aware of the concept than I am the musical numbers. Taking well known fairy-tales and extending them beyond their happy endings, Into the Woods promises a farcical take on the fairy-tale genre and its generic happy endings. For the most part, that is very much the case, as we join the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) on a quest to break a Witches’ curse (said Witch played by Meryl Streep). As they head into the woods (so that’s why it’s called that), they run in to a number of fairy-tale characters on their own adventures, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford). The first half of the film is a more traditional fairy-tale musical with a farcical bent to the lyrics and the way in which certain characters are portrayed and performed. It feels energetic and driven, moving between characters smoothly, with most of the songs achieving great levels of satire. The highlight would have to be the ballad between the two handsome Princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen), entitled ‘Agony’. The two actors strike a perfect chord in terms of tonality and deliver utterly hilarious performances. It is a shame that they aren’t in it more (particularly Pine) as nobody else quite manages to strike the right balance between playing it straight and being satirical. The closest to them has to be Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, turning in a giddy and spirited performance. Elsewhere, Streep hams it up all the way to an inexplicable Oscar nomination, Kendrick sings beautifully but struggles to make that great an impression, and Corden seems a little lost in the mix, often playing a bit too seriously. The film suffers in its second half when the tales take a turn for the macabre. It does not follow all too smoothly from what we’ve seen before, and while this is kind of the point, it makes the film feel disjointed, poorly paced, and far too long. The musical numbers become fairly routine, bland and lacking in distinction, while the cast appear to be making it up as they go along in-between each song leading to the ending coming off as a rather bum note. It was rather a relief for the film to end in all honesty, despite a few colourful performances and a spirited opening, it quickly descends into a cheap-looking, somewhat forced adaptation. Still, it is quite refreshing to see Disney once again support a subversive take on the genre which has made its fortune, yet Enchanted remains the more successful endeavour. 3/5 

big-eyes-posterBig Eyes (Dir: Tim Burton)

While not one that has proven to be an Awards contender, Tim Burton’s Big Eyes still had a lot of promise. For one, it reunites Burton with the screenwriters of Ed Wood, my personal favourite of the oddball auteur’s rather mixed back catalogue. This, along with the energetic trailer, promised a more reserved Burton, both dramatically and visually, relying more on bright pastel lighting than the over-use of CG characters and environments. And no Johnny Depp. Extra plus. The story itself is also a curious one, telling the true tale of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) an artist whose portraits of big-eyed children became popular in America during the 50’s and 60’s. Yet, no one knew it was her who painted them, as her husband and con man, Walter (Christoph Waltz) took all the credit for her work. With a secure home and vast income, Margaret feels trapped, desiring to let her talent be known, but aware that telling the truth would see the collapse of her stable home. This story may not be one that you would think to assign to Burton, as it requires a great attention to character and inner emotion, something which Burton has never been too astute at (he’s always been more interested in exteriors than interiors, arguably). And while he does seem to do his best to convey Margaret’s pain, there is still a niggling sense that his heart is simply not in this tale. Much of the execution is fairly routine and restrained to the point where what he has presented is somewhat un-engaging. Bruno Delbonnel’s high key lighting makes the environment look inviting, and harkens back to the pastel-hued suburbia of Edward Scissorhands, but the script and the pacing itself lacks drive and purpose, meaning that by the end of the ordeal there is not a great surging sense of accomplishment that one should feel. The most successful component of the film is most definitely Amy Adams, who turns in a delicate and sympathetic performance, conveying Margaret’s desires to be both the best mother and artist she can be at torturous odds with each other. Waltz, however, is in a completely different film, often dissipating any drama from a scene by acting like a pantomime villain playing for an audience who isn’t there. It is a rare turn from Waltz, one that is so irritating and uncontrolled that it’s a joy whenever he is off screen. A bizarre and bewildering turn from an actor who is usually such a charismatic presence worthy of holding the screen. Quite a disappointment for a film that seemingly had a great deal for potential, meaning that all we are left with is an interesting story told in an un-inspired fashion, containing a worthwhile Amy Adams performance. 2/5 

Come back later today for Part Two, in which I shall review four Oscar contenders!

My Top 10 Films of 2014!

Seasons Greetings to you all! This countdown post must of course begin with an apology, as it has been sometime since my last posting, with many reviews falling to the way-side in favour of University work (which I am still very much in the clutches of). As a result, I have chosen to reveal my top 10 in a different manner to previous years. Instead of punching out one long article, I have chosen to reveal my favourite films of 2014 one-by-one, culminating with number one being revealed on New Years Eve. This is in the hope that each instalment will only take 10-15 minutes out of my day, as well as building a lot more anticipation as we count down to my top spot. So, be sure to check back everyday until New Years to see which films have come to stand as my favourites of the year that has been 2014. That time, has now come.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Lego Movie, Nightcrawler, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Raid 2, 12 Years a Slave 

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10. Edge of Tomorrow (Dir: Doug Liman)

I always make a case in point of putting my favourite summer blockbuster in my top ten (Pacific Rim held that honour last year), and this year Doug Liman’s return to blockbuster film-making holds the honour. Edge of Tomorrow was marketed quite terribly, with the trailers not making enough of what marks this Sci-Fi actioner as something other than simply another Tom Cruise movie, leading to disappointing box-office returns. EofT has plenty to offer beyond the expectations of a Cruise-action picture. It has incredibly sharp humour, inventive thrills, engaging performances, a fun central concept, and an acute reverence for a certain blockbuster spirit of a by-gone era. Essentially Groundhog Day with a Sci-Fi tinged, EofT sees Cruise’s cowardly Bill Cage re-living the same day in a futuristic war being fought on the beaches of Normandy. With the help of ace soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), he sets out to be rid of his ailment, and to find the means of defeating the alien race that looks set to claim the Earth. The coupling of Cruise and Blunt leads to an endlessly watch-able pair, allowing for EofT to (ironically) become a film that holds up incredibly well on repeat viewings. Aside from an ending which is most definitely the worst any of the three credited screen-writers could have thought of, this feature stood out amongst the crowd in a cluttered summer season as one of the more refreshing outputs from Hollywood in 2014.

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9. Paddington (Dir: Paul King)

One of the most heart-soaring surprises of the year came in the form of the big screen update of Michael Bond’s lovable furry critter from deepest darkest Peru. Once again, the marketing did little to stir my interest, deciding to focus on the more slapstick elements of the movie. What the trailers failed to reveal was quite how brilliantly Paddington Bear has been updated for a 21st Century audience, allowing for fans both old and new to easily embrace this new adventure. Following the young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) as he tries to find a home in London, the endlessly inventive script has all the classic elements of the character blended with moments of humorous slapstick, gently placed emotional beats, and a welcomingly unexpected allegory concerning immigrants trying to find a place within British society. Having such a message of tolerance is incredibly important to feature in a children’s film, particular in a modern Britain in which such a party as UKIP gains a worrying following. This careful, yet well articulated allegory allows Paddington to stand up as a film that is as important as it is entertaining. And boy, is it fun. The film pops with vibrant life; feeling like a brightly coloured story-book brought to energetic life. Paul King, one of the creators of The Mighty Boosh, makes his comedic voice heard, all the while delivering the comforting family vibes expected of a film such as this (particular in the Christmas season). This is aided by the spot-on cast; Hugh Bonneville is affable, Sally Hawkins is utterly adorable, while Nicole Kidman has the most fun she has had in years. Yet it is the voice-performance of Whishaw that will win your heart, his naive and optimistic tones bringing the stunningly rendered CG Paddington to life in quite perfect fashion. All in all, Paddington stands as one of the most successful updates of a classical character in recent memory, with King et al delivering a film that is as welcome as a Marmalade sandwich (a snack one must always keep under their hat in case of emergencies).

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8. Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir: Joel & Ethan Coen)

Apologies for no postings the last two days, Christmas eating and drinking took priority. I hope you all had a wonderful, gluttonous Christmas Day, and allow me to present you the gift of three entries in my countdown of my favourite films of the year. Coming in at number 8 is a film that I initially didn’t particularly warm to, Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest offering from the Brothers Coen. The reason being that it is very much a film with an affable asshole at its lead, who seemingly cannot help being self-destructive in nearly evey aspect of his life as he bums around from couch to couch trying to make it in the Folk scene in New York’s Greenwich Village, circa 1961. But upon numerous re-visits, Llewyn Davis may very well stand as one of my favourite Coen Brothers movies, for its moddily beautiful cinematography, perfectly placed and selected folk tunes, and for arguably the best ensemble cast they have worked with. Oscar Issac delivers one of the most naunced performances of the year, doing the impossible by making us care a great deal about an individual who only has himself to blame for most of the failings in his life. Inside Llewyn Davis stands as the film that I have revisited the most this year, and each time I have come to appreciate it for its simple ambition and quite excellent production. It has also deemed a place for the fact the soundtrack has come to be present in many moments of my life this year, be it commuting, listening whilst working, or with a group of friends and a guitar; Inside Llewyn Davis has earned itself a place in this list due to the nature of its re-watch-ability and the Coen’s undeniably impressive craft.

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7. Calvary (Dir: John Michael McDonagh)

If you have seen John Michael McDonagh’s first feature, The Guard, you will be very aware of the sharp comedic voice and style he is very much capable of. Yet, his second feature is an entirely different beast. While it occasionally falls into the ‘pulpy’ genre quirks hat chraracterised The Guard, Calvary stands as a much more mature and incredibly vital piece of cinema. Taking the the burning matter of Irish Catholic guilt concerning the actions of certain Priests and the ensuing scandals that have disgraced the church and shocked its patrons, Calvary is a film of great courage, relevance, and importance. Brendan Gleeson plays Father James, whose life is threatened during a confessional, giving him a week to set his affairs in order and continue to try and be a symbol of control and wholesomeness in a town that has very much lost its way into darkness. McDonagh’s second feature is nothing short of a triumph. Mixing the deathly black comedy that played more broadly in The Guard with a hard-hitting social commentary, as well as a gallery of oddball characters, the film shifts through different tonality’s and a wide variety of themes with grace and a biting sense of a very dark reality. Larry Smith’s cinematography builds a bleak atmosphere, not as stylish as his work on Only God Forgives, but equally vital to establishing a sense of location and a gradual sense of devastation. That coupled with a sweeping score allows the subject matter of Calvary to truly resonate as something incredibly vital and pivotal to not only an understanding of the Catholic Church, but of our own opinions to religion and how the actions of individuals can affect the image of a certain group. With Gleeson also delivering the best performance of his career, Calvary is one piece of work this year that demands your utmost attention.

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6. Snowpiercer (Dir: Bong Joon-Ho)

With seemingly no UK theatrical release date in sight, it would seem Snowpiercer is destined to become a true definition of a cult movie; that high concept film which deserves a great audience, yet was never given the chance to do so. I was lucky enough to catch this movie in the summer, and have been eagerly awaiting the news of a UK release, but as it stands, VOD seems to be the only answer. Bong Joon-Ho, who is perhaps best known for the glorious B-movie, The Host, brings the French graphic novel to the screen with great flair, grit and style. Within this dystopia, the world has been plunged into a relentless Ice Age, making survival impossible on the surface. The last of the human race survive on a globe-spanning train which never stops. ON board this train, the last of the human race has established hierarchy, in which those at the back end of the train live in poverty, with those at the front living in frivolity, with little care for those at the back. Cue the revolution. Snowpiercer is an absolute marvel of production design, with each carriage of the dystopian train, which range from either being drenched in oil and dirt, or being bright, illustrious and glamorous. With a knowing sense of humour and satire, Joon-Ho creates a film of potent allegory, a rich text that I’m sure many BA undergrads will mine in the future. It is a dark and violent world in which mankind has been pushed to its very limits, making revolution an inevitability. Leading that charge is a brooding Chris Evans, the Captain delivering a suitably moody performance in a turn which reminds you that he is more than just a Marvel poster boy, he is an actor capable of delivering a performance of great depth and menace. The ensemble cast all deliver fine performances, but the stand out (as is often the case) comes in the form of Tilda Swinton’s Yorkshire bred Minister Mason. If you only come away from this list intending on only watching one of these recommendations, then make that choice Snowpiercer, a film as original as it is entertaining, and as thought provoking as any piece of pivotal science fiction of the past century.

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5. Her (Dir: Spike Jonze)

In the time that lasped across the earlier part part of the year, Her stood as my favourite film for the best part of the year. An affecting tale of man and machine, constructing a unique love story along the way, Spike Jonze’s Oscar-winning screenplay is a modest piece of genius, filled with his usual doff-beat humour, yet driven by a melancholic sense of longing to connect in a society in which communication has become somewhat limited in a technologically driven age. Joaquin Phoenix plays recent divorcee Theodore, who downloads the latest OS on his computer. This being a new breed in Artificial Intelligence, the OS called Samantha (voiced amazingly by Scarlett Johansson) exhibits the intelligence and initiative of a human being. The lines between human and machine blurred, Theodore soon begins to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with the A.I. With Phoenix exhibiting a sweeter side than we have come to expect from him, the story of Theodore and Samantha becomes rather hard not to fall for yourself, despite the ever-knowing inclination that this is not something entirely normal. The production design brings this near-future to colourful life, as we are brought into a world in which hipsters have taken over, while the atmosphere is effectively forged through the swooning and moving score courtesy of Arcade Fire. What marks Her as an important film for our lifetime is its concern for contemporary issues, namely that of the effect of technology on communication, and how ‘wired’ in a generation we truly are. It is as much about the now as it is about the future, meaning that it will more than likely become more relevant as time passes, perhaps marking Her as a timeless product of our modern times. It may be too early to claim such a thing, but the emotion and fresh design mark Her as at least one of the most important and affecting films of the past year.

GoneGirl4. Gone Girl (Dir: David Fincher)

We all like to humour our dark side from time to time, and when I myself fancy delving into something more macabre, I often visit David Fincher in order to get my fix. Be it the mind bending twists and turns of The Game, or the seedy unseen horrors of Seven, Fincher has often conjured tales of the darker side of human nature. Gone Girl, the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling 2012 novel, can stand with some of Fincher’s best work, thrusting you into a twisted marriage and mystery and laughing devilishly as you squirm in your seat. The marriage of Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is the focus, as Amy goes missing, throwing Nick under the media spotlight as more and more evidence puts him in the frame as the man responsible for Amy’s rather sudden disappearance on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. While it may not be his best feature in his illustrious filmography, Gone Girl proves to be an example of a director who is a true master of his craft. He lashes the proceedings with humour, wrings career best performances from Affleck and Pike, and has complete command over Flynn’s screenplay. He clearly revels in the twisted relationship of the Dunne’s, as well as the vampirism of news media and the personalities often found within that industry. The editing is slick, the cinematography stylish, the music fittingly atmospheric; it is simply a flawlessly mounted film, demonstrating the meticulous nature of its director. Gone Girl is an intoxicating rumination on the notion of never knowing what is happening within the minds of those closest to you. A compelling thriller made by a true master, Gone Girl effortlessly holds a high ranking place in my countdown for 2014.

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3. Whiplash (Dir: Damien Chazelle)

Perhaps a bit of a cheat this one, as it does not come out in the UK until January 16th, but has indeed screened numerous times across the Autumn/Winter festival season. I was lucky enough to catch it at a screening at the Barbican last month as part of the London Jazz Festival, and seeing as it has been on theatrical release (for quite sometime I might add) in the States, I believe I can justify giving Whiplash a place in this Top 10. And plus, it’s really fucking good. Portraying a battle of wits between a promising young music student drummer, Andrew (Miles Teller), and his hard-ass and ruthless conductor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), Whiplash is one of the most exhilarating and pulse-pounding cinematic experiences of the past 12 months. Chazelle’s tight direction and rhythmic editing help to aptly convey the sheer pressure of playing in an orchestra, and how that pressure increases exponentially when put on the spot by the conductor. I should just be thankful that in my time playing for an orchestra I never came across a figure as intimidating as J.K. Simmons’ Fletcher. With his bulging biceps and unpredictable anger, Simmons gives his all for a performance of a life-time. His treatment of Andrew disgusts and repels, particularly when Andrew begins to sacrifice other relationships in his life in order to improve as a drummer. It is an enthralling conflict between the two, made unpredictable by Simmons, yet driven by Teller’s commitment, blood, sweat, and tears. Much has been said about Simmons (and he deserves every award coming to him), but Teller’s contribution cannot be under-sold, as he also gives 110% to convey the desire and frustration of the clearly skilled young music student. With a damn fine jazz soundtrack, unpredictable turns, and a final confrontation as tense as anything in the finest sports movies, Whiplash is a cinematic experience that will leave you sweating in your seat and screaming for more. Be sure to catch it in January.

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2. Boyhood (Dir: Richard Linklater)

A film which has topped many critics and magazines lists this year, Boyhood is undoubtedly one of the greatest successes of 2014. Quite unlike anything else produced in cinema, Boyhood was shot over the course of 12 years with the same cast. It is quite an unprecedented feat of film-making that will stand in cinema history as one of the most triumphant and enriching texts concerning everyday human life. It is utterly crazy that Linklater managed to pull it off, even more impressive when you consider he still found the time to make the likes of A Scanner Darkly, School of Rock and the concluding parts of his similarly ambitious Sunset Trilogy across the years. Hard to describe in terms of plot, Boyhood is a film better described in regards to its thematic concerns, as we experience the joys, pitfalls, and anxieties of growing up through the eyes of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) over the course of 12 years. With popular songs from the likes of Family of the Year and Goyte as some of our only indicators of time placement, as well as strangely predictive pop culture discussions, Linklater’s script is effortlessly human and moving, relying on big moments of drama very sparingly in the hope that more genuine emotions are forged between his characters and his audience. It helps that the cast is quite effortless in conveying a very natural relationship with one another. Patricia Arquette is particularly impressive, while Ethan Hawke proves that he is never better than when he is being directed by Linklater. Yet, the whole film rides on the shoulders of its young, un-tested lead, and Coltrane strides through on his cute naivety in the early years, which soon develops into a laid back charm which is very easy to engage with. While Boyhood is concerned with the tribulations of a young boy’s puberty, there is something for absolutely anyone to connect with. If you’ve ever been a sibling, a mother, a father, heck if you’ve ever been a child there are emotions and moments of experience that you can liken to your own. Perhaps what stopped Boyhood taking the top spot is its universality; it’s a very hard film to dislike and those that find flaw must really be willing themselves to nitpick. It seems odd to say, but Boyhood is a hard film to call my personal favourite of the year because it seems to belong to EVERYONE. Boyhood is a piece of cinema that we are unlikely to ever see again, a pure shot of lightening in a bottle, whose top has been carefully wound tighter over the course of its 12 year production. Just take a minute again to consider that. Consider the perseverance and commitment (and damned good luck) that Linklater managed to complete his ambitious project. Linklater deserves every accolade that is sure to be coming his way, as Boyhood confirms an inkling that many of I’m sure already had in our minds; that Richard Linklater is one of the most important, varied, and talented film-makers of a generation.

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1. Interstellar (Dir: Christopher Nolan)

Now bare with me on this one. I am very aware that Interstellar is a film that has been on the receiving end of a very mixed reaction, and that is one of the main reasons as to why it has worked its way to the top of the list. It helps that I adore it, but the fact that it has proven so divisive, giving so many people the passion to defend or rile against highlights one of the simplest pleasures of cinema. All art is subjective, and all art is made for discussion, and Interstellar proved, for me at least, to be the film where I was engaged in most debates, both with others and with myself. I was initially cautious following my first viewing (in 60mm IMAX I must add) due to the over-whelming nature of Nolan’s ideas and imagery, particularly those which arise in the course of the final act. I immediately wanted to see it again. And I did. Twice. There are films on here that I have seen many times since release, but no film quite demanded a re-visit with quite the same immediacy. Christopher Nolan had something to prove to me (and I’m sure many others) with Interstellar following his Batman trilogy closure. The Dark Knight Rises, while certainly more cerebral than common Hollywood blockbuster fare, remains a disappointing, frustratingly scripted franchise closer. Perhaps my trepidation into Interstellar aided me, but there is no denying that Nolan’s 9th feature film comes accompanied with some of his most startlingly beautiful images, that can be at once awe-inspiring and haunting, striking the sublime chord in quite an impressionistic fashion. Interstellar wears its inspirations on its sleeve, evoking Kubrick (it would be stupid to avoid mentioning the K-word in any discussion of Interstellar) through its mix of science-fiction and philosophical questioning, while it is also easy to detect a dash of Spielberg through the family dynamic on display. Reacting to his critics (which is something more directors should practice), Nolan attempts to devote more time to emotion and character, and truly does succeed in crafting an operatic adventure which is grounded in raw human emotion, namely that of a relationship between a father and his daughter. This is in no small way aided by the performance of McConaughey, who grounds the action by always ensuring that his character, engineer and pilot Cooper, keeps what is at stake front and centre as he embarks on a mission to save mankind through finding a new world at the other side of a wormhole. Interstllar may well be one of the most flawed films on this list, flaws which are almost endearing rather than frustrating in the grand scheme of the text. Its powerful cinematography, soul-shuddering score bring to the screen an adventure that only the cinema can bring to life and take you on. Despite the complex physics and theories involved, no other film quite matched up for me in terms of the epic nature of its journey, nor did any other film quite demand you to seek out the biggest screen possible in order to experience it. Interstellar stirred a passion and a wonder within me concerning space and cinema that I had not felt since Apollo 13 first inspired me to hold my thumb up to the Moon and ponder on what was to be found in the far reaches of space, I am always grateful to a film for stirring such a curiosity within me, and I am truly grateful and impressed that Interstellar managed to allow those sensations to return. It is this emotion, this feeling, this thrill, that allows Interstellar to deservedly hold the top spot of my countdown this year.

So there you have it, the count-down is complete and we can all say a fond good-bye to 2014 and look forward to the cinematic ventures that await us in 2015. I wish you all a very Happy New Year, enjoy your celebrations tonight, and all the best for the year ahead.

Enjoy this Cinematic Retrospective, courtesy of Nikita Malko.

The last time director Doug Liman presented us with a blockbuster, it was in the form of 2008’s Jumper, a failed franchise kick-starter that remains as bad as everyone says it is. But he is a director one should never take for granted. Above anything, he has proven himself to be a director of great versatility, moving smoothly from the shoe-string indie Swingers to the more action-packed, big-budgeted affairs like The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Thankfully, Edge of Tomorrow marks a welcome return for Liman to blockbuster filmmaking, with a light touch and visual flair that marks this particular Tom Cruise-actioner as one of the summer’s best.

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Set in the near future, Edge of Tomorrowconcerns mankind’s battle against an alien race known as Mimics. With the alien hordes being held at the English Channel, a battle on the beaches of Normandy is set with the intention of pushing back the alien forces, hopefully taking them by surprise. General Bingham (Brendan Gleeson) wants to use the battle as a piece of publicity, leading him to assign P.R. Officer Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) to observe on the battlefield. After the cowardly Cage attempts to blackmail the General, he finds himself stripped of his rank and sent on the frontline. Cage’s life takes an even stranger turn when he inherits the Mimics power to reset the day after dying. With Cage now possessing a tactical advantage, he teams up with skilled soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who also once possessed the power. Together, they aim to find a find to defeat the Mimics once and for all at a moment when all hope seems lost.

The central premise of Edge of Tomorrow can be boiled down to a sci-fi tinged Groundhog Day. And while it certainly wears this comparison on its sleeve, the way in which it portrays its concept within its environment allows the idea to feel fresh, inventive, and most importantly, fun. Liman effectively builds up to the moment when Cage possesses the power to re-live every day after dying. The script, his game A-list star, and his own visual grit power the film in moments of emotion, thrilling action, and visual gags which take a certain glee in finding ways to kill Tom Cruise. It smartly negotiates its concept by allowing the character of Cage to become more competent in a believable fashion, becoming a highly efficient killing machine under the teachings of Rita, the ‘Full Metal Bitch’, as well as developing a deeper connection to her, one that he has to re-build every single day.

The warfare presented here, which requires the human forces to wear weaponized mech-suits, provides the film with a steam-punk vibe, while the design of the Mimics proves to be well-realised, vicious, and visually exciting. The combat itself is one that evokes skirmishes of the Saving Private Ryan variety (being set on the Beaches of Normandy) but re-brands that style with sci-fi bombast and the kineticism we have come to expect from action pictures in this blockbuster climate.

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Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the combat is that all of the action takes place in European locations, rather than New York, or any other generic U.S. city which is used as the battleground for the fate of humanity. The European locations present the film with another unique element, and also prove very fitting as we commemorate the 70thAnniversary of the D-Day landings.

For those of you who are of the mind-set to write-off Edge of Tomorrow due to the fact that it is a Tom Cruise movie, then I have one thing to say; shame on you. Cruise has always been a dependable leading man, no matter what you may make of his personal life, and EofT proves to be one of his strongest action movies to date. It is not only in the design and execution of the film, it is in Cruise himself. His character, Cage, is a snivelling coward who must earn our sympathy. Cruise manages to earn this by giving Cage a nervous, inept sensibility, which even manages to stay once he becomes a more capable soldier. It is a carefully measured performance, presenting the frustration and bewilderment we’d expect an individual to exhibit in this kind of situation.

Equally impressive, both in physicality and performance, is Emily Blunt as Rita. The ‘Full Metal Bitch’ is one of the most kick-ass female characters of recent memory. Blunt has the capability to strike chemistry with any of her co-stars, but to see her leading the way in terms of the action stakes is incredibly refreshing.

While I do doubt that the ending of Edge of Tomorrow is the best any of the writers could have come up with,EofT proves to be a Hollywood blockbuster that feels distinctly unique amongst this summer’s studio offerings. It is tightly paced, thrilling, funny, engaging, and a hell of a lot of fun; easily the best movie of the summer so far.

4/5- A summer blockbuster with brains and fun to match its brawn; EofT will most definitely stand as one of the most refreshing surprises of 2014.

Originally Published at The Boar: http://theboar.org/2014/06/19/edge-tomorrow/#.U7aDxY1dXCc

Time-Travel is a tricky thing. No matter how detailed you may be, there is bound to many a plot-hole and paradox established. Some films falter because of due to lack of character, or lack of a self-awareness. There are few successful efforts; Back To The Future did it well due to the fact that it is one of the funnest and entertaining and well written movie ever made. The Terminator kept it going for at least two films. Looper does join the ranks of these more successful time-travel movies, mainly because it is aware of the dangers of over-explaining a concept that merely needs an interesting premise to convince the audience of its concept. And more importantly, it contains well-developed characters who ground the high concept on a human, sometimes super-human, level. However, do not go expecting the genre blending masterpiece of the century, as a lot of critics have been praising it to be. Looper is certainly one of the smarter and impressive Sci-Fi action thrillers of the past 20 years, but it is not one that changes the rules of the game. It does however, confirm Joseph Gordon-Levitt as one of the most surprising actor’s working today, and Rian Johnson as one of the most interesting director’s emerging in Hollywood.

SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW- DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE.

Looper is set in year 2044. Thirties years from 2044, time travel will have been invented, and immediately made illegal. Due to new technology making it impossible to dispose of a body without being court, the Mobsters use time-travel outside of the law to send their targets back in time to be disposed of. Once they are sent back, the targets are killed by these hired killers known as Loopers. In order to make sure there are no loose ends, the crime bosses have a way of ‘closing’ these loops; they send their future self back to be taken out by their younger self. If they fail to do so, then they are automatically given a death sentence. Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of these Loopers, living a life of luxury and indulgence. However, all that he lives by is thrown out of balance when he is faced with the task of closing his loop. His future self (Bruce Willis) escapes his grasp and heads out on a personal vendetta to prevent the rise of a terrible power in the future. The younger Joe must stay one step ahead of his employer and find his future self and put an end to his loop. However, it soon becomes clear that there is more at stake then simply Joe’s present and future life.

Looper is a thoroughly thought out movie with a wonderful concept providing the structure around a Sci-Fi action movie that surprisingly has a strong beating heart within it. The character of Joe is one who is tormented by his own lifestyle; his drug habits and partying lifestyle are a hollow way of attempting to fill the void of intimacy that he is sorely lacking. The older Joe is once again a very tormented character, trying to find anyway to cling on to the happiness and love that he has found in his later years, filling the void that h desperately does not want reappearing. However, in order for him to do such a thing, he must conduct a series of murders that test his devotion and morality. Despite being given a rather awesome Bruce Willis action-star moment, Willis rather downplays the role, resulting in an affectingly tortured performance, one of his best for quite sometime. However, it is Gordon-Levitt who perhaps wins the Joe battle. Aided by some well-judged prosthetic’s, JGL makes for a thoroughly convincing young Bruce Willis. He is a man who has certainly done his homework. He has the air of a Die Hardera Willis, from the speech pattern to certain facial ticks, he convinces. It helps that he has his own strong star charisma, that shines through enough in order to convince the audience that he is not just playing a young Bruce Willis; he is playing a character.

Within this future landscape, certain individuals of the human race have begun to develop telekinetic abilities, seemingly as a form of evolution. It is an element of the world that plays a large part in one of the main subplots of the movie, namely regarding the future Joe’s mission of saving his future. In order to do this, and this is where most of the spoilers shall come into play, the older Joe is out to kill a small boy who will grow up to become The Rainmaker, a very powerful TK who is responsible for the death of his wife and also a lot of the future’s problems. The young Joe tracks down the young boy first, at a farm in which the boy, Cid, lives with his mother Sara (Emily Blunt). It is here that the film lets itself down somewhat. The opening first act and a majority of the second works as a bombastic, clever, slick and thoroughly engaging Sci-Fi thriller, with a brilliantly dark streak (namely involving the fate of Paul Dano’s character). It builds a steady exciting pace, that is suddenly brought to a walking pace once the young Joe finds Sara and Cid. Emily Blunt impresses as an equally lonely figure to Joe, but it is the character of Cid that causes some issues with the second act. For one, the child actor playing him is perhaps too young; he seems very mature for his age, but instead of containing a dark ferocity that the character should perhaps posses, he just ends up looking ridiculous and rather laughable, making it very hard for me to take the foreshadowing seriously. That, along with too much time and exposition on the farm, makes you crave for the simple yet Sci-Fi twisted take on the chase movie that the first act so effectively established. Which thankfully it does, with that aforementioned, and awesome, Bruce Willis action-star moment.

One thing’s for certain in Looper, Rian Johnson is an incredibly exciting director, and one who I’m sure has plenty more genre blending concoctions yet to give us. From his startling debut with Brick, and his fantastic television work directing the occasional episode of the I-shouldn’t-have-to-tell-you-how-awesome-it-is Breaking Bad, Johnson is a man with a keen visual eye and a wonderful sense of movement, and Looper is his most exciting work yet. He highlights a assured mastery of aesthetics in terms of the design of his future America. It is a world that feels rich, and could easily be exploited further, as there is a sense that we are only viewing a certain aspect of this particular vision of the future. His craft as a writer perhaps could do with some work in terms of pacing, but in terms of concept; Looper is thoroughly captivating. So, despite not being the game-changer that some critics promised, Looper remains one of the more impressive, intelligent and well designed Sci-Fi movies of recent years with a hugely talented cast and crew, that is certainly a trip that I would like to take again very soon.

4/5- Although not the mind-blowing experience promised by some, Looper is an intelligent, brilliantly performed and exciting genre blend of a movie, that can stand as one of the best Sci-Fi films of the past 20 years.