Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 Film of the Year!

Film of the Year!

The Wolf of Wall Street

There you go! In the longest drawn out list since time began, the movie of the year is the one where Jonah Hill eats a goldfish. Bambi, this is not.

This is a movie about excess and greed. But not the dark and moody Wall Street with Gordon Gecko. This is the bright and shiny Wall Street where you trade stocks at 9.30am and you're knee deep in hookers and blow by 12.05pm.

This TRUE story may have been embellished by its creator but the more you believe the more you'll enjoy it. And I enjoyed it.

For those not in the know, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a determined stock broker who breaks all the rules to become the hottest trader in town. He loses his principles very quickly to get what he wants and a decade of drug use brings his whole world crashing down.

This film would not be top if not for the casting of Leo DiCaprio who MAKES this film and OWNS it completely. Generally speaking his film choices seem to be on the nose every time and it doesn't hurt to be the current muse of Martin Scorsese. If anyone else were to attempt to steal the limelight on the film it would be Jonah Hill or Matthew McConaughey. The "McConaissance" as it is currently known, only finds enough space for 2 scenes but his chest thumping performance is, arguably, the most memorable of the entire 3hr running time. Jonah Hill, along with Leo, was Oscar nominated for his role and this further proves that he can do drama just as effortlessly as comedy although this role requires both in equal measure.

In terms of offending the public, this doesn't shy away from portraying the stressful environment of Wall Street. Full frontal nudity (both sexes), bums (both sexes), rape, drugs, the most uses of the word 'fuck' in a movie ever, spousal abuse, child abuse (kind of), objectification of women, objectification of monkeys, goldfish cruelty and much more. Enjoying the film doesn't mean you agree to all this behaviour but it's definitely a world we find hard to swallow (pun intended).

Scorsese has found his groove with the Biopic genre with Raging Bull leading all the way to The Aviator and it is confidently directed and expertly edited. The drug fuelled scenes even feature continuity goofs on purpose to showcase the instability of the situation.

All in all, if this makes you want to try drugs like it did with me and my wife, you probably enjoyed it as much as we did.

Adam Yates

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

2014 Films of the Year No 2

No 2 - Guardians of the Galaxy

It's perhaps fitting that the second highest box office success of 2014 should be second on my list. This was also one of the more pleasing surprises of the year. GotG has been on many end of year lists, most recently as The top film of 2014 as voted for by the readers of Digital Spy. All this from a comic hardly known to anyone let alone the occasional  comic book reader.

A group of space misfits band together reluctantly band together to serve their own selfish purposes and would you Adam and Eve it, they realise they need each other and instead rely on team work to thwart a great evil plot to destroy entire worlds.

This group is headed by Star Lord aka Peter Quill aka Chris Pratt of Parks and Rec fame. 2014 has been his year, not only entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also by being the best thing about The Lego Movie. It was also announced this year that Pratt would be the lead in 2015's Jurassic World.

And so begins the most fun you'll have (or would have had - it's not on now) in the cinema in 2014. It really was a different experience to the recent offerings such as the sombre Iron Man 3, the political Captain America 2 and ultra moody Man of Steel. This was funny, full of jokes and most surprisingly, extremely confident despite its relatively short life span in comics.

GotG amongst other things nailed the casting on the head more than any other film this year. Major quibbles were made about the appointments of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as double act Rocket and Groot respectively but that turned out to be a masterstroke. Former WWE Dave Bautista, who has to my knowledge no major acting experience (unless you count wrestling as acting) became his character Drax so effortlessly, that Bautista already has his next role lined up in the next Bond film.

There are some downsides but they are mostly minor quibbles. The main villain RONAN THE DESTROYER, feels quite diluted and has a weak screen presence. His boss of sorts, THANOS, still looks a tad dodgy in terms of CGI and I'm hoping it's sorted in time for his next appearance. Finally, it's been quite well publicised if you read up on marvel movies that the final action scene is pretty similar to the last 3/4 installments where a large ship falls from the sky. No more please, ahem Age of Ultron.

Ultimately this may not make some Critics top 10 lists but for the audience, Guardians of the Galaxy would be hitting the top.

Monday, 22 December 2014

2014 Films of the Year No 3

No 3 - All is Lost

It's not a coincidence that of my top ten movies of the year, the top 3 were all seen in their natural environment of the cinema. Not on a TV or my iPad. I wish I had the time to see them all on the big screen but I only go if I know there's a strong chance of enjoyment and this was one of them.
As with most great films, the plot is simple. Guy has boat, boat broken, man strives to survive. That's it. There is no internal monologue or pointless drivel.
The amount of dialogue in All is Lost is clearly noticeable. There is about 5 lines of speech all in all. The reason isn't just because there is only one character however it is a factor but also because the mise-en-scene is so clear and precise, there's no need to sully it with meaningless exposition.
The drive or perhaps more aptly the wind behind the sails comes from acting heavyweight Robert Redford. He clearly doesn't NEED to make movies anymore so when he does, he sees a standard of quality visible. His performance in All is Lost stands against his more historic roles easily and possibly beyond. His character is in dire trouble but an air of calm ensures that his chances are as strong as can be. He's a loner, a man that finds his own company preferable to any land dwelling family and friends. He exudes all this, without saying a word.
It's Castaway without the corporate sponsorship, Captain Phillips without the pirates. There are movies and there are films, this is a film. Respectable, emotional and an acting tour de force.

Adam Yates

Friday, 19 December 2014

2014 Films of the Year No 4

No 4 - Boyhood

My whole top 5 has moved around a dozen times since I started to write these blogs and in the end Boyhood has JUST missed out on a medal and I will explain why at the end but for now I will briefly concentrate on why it HAS made the list. I haven't seen a lot of director Richard Linklater's efforts and the ones I have seen, I doubt they would be considered his best. After seeing Boyhood, I'm definitely going to catch up on his work. For those not in the know, the plot is a simple coming of age story. The device used however is one that has to be admired. The cast members met up once a year for over a decade to film 12 short films and then they were spliced together to make one movie where we see the actors age before our very eyes. The thing I liked most about the film is the way in which we jumped ahead in time. Not by a poxy One Year Later but by choosing a song which represented the year in question. The second you hear the songs you know our characters have progressed and you yearn to see where they have landed.
Boyhood has been winning end of year awards left and right and is certain of Oscar nods and rightly so. The performances are central to these accolades and even though most seem
to be aimed at the elders, it's the boy (now man sized) actor that needs to walk away with statuettes. To find a child with the attention span to be filmed every year for 12 years and still be compelling is rare luck and that's what they found.
The ONLY reason which is why it's not higher is the age device itself which I have just lobbied for. The fact that the film is being lauded for its unique production technique kind of waters down the core value that what should make a film great is what's in front of the camera, not what happened behind it. This may not make much sense but if they had done the exact same film with several different actors portraying different ages, would it have been so acclaimed?

Adam Yates

Thursday, 18 December 2014

2014 Films of the Year No 5

No 5 - Locke

The concept of the movie was also all I knew about the film going in....it's Tom Hardy in a car. Does that mean it's a car chase? Is he a hostage? A bank robber? A cop? A Murderer? No, he's none of those things. I'm of two minds to explain the plot as I enjoyed it much more not aware of the storyline so if you want to watch it blind, stop now.
The plot is simple. Tom Hardy works on Europe's biggest building site but leaves on the eve of the most important day of the build to sort out a personal issue. His drive from Birmingham to London is the centre of the film as he must deal with his problems past and present and juggle his responsibilities via mobile phone. If any one saw the Ryan Reynolds film Buried it was also one setting, one locale, life or death scenario which relied heavily on a mobile phone. Locke isn't life or death, it's life. Normal everyday life. There is no fancy camera tricks, no witty dialogue or twist at the end. The excellence in Locke is in the realism and effortlessness of the performance of Tom Hardy. He exudes so much confidence as an actor that he is able to turn this movie away from the 'man in a car' hook and instead make it into a 'story about a man.'

Sunday, 14 December 2014

2014 Films of the Year No 7-6

No 7 - 12 Years a Slave

A Heartwrenchingly powerful and saddening look at a dark part of World History. Slavery still lives on today, even in the UK but never has it been so forcefully brought to the screen. A free black man is mistakenly took from his home and family and put to work in the cotton fields and suffers at the whim of his captors. 
A shocking true story that was rediscovered by Steve McQueen (director of Hunger and Shame). I've been a fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor since his work on Serenity way back when but his portrayal of Solomon Northup is so intense that you forget you're watching a film. It's that feeling that tells you you're watching a great work and a great actor. 
It's hard to say such a powerful film is 'entertaining' as humour is light on the ground. You will feel quite drained after viewing it but trust me, it's a story that needs to be seen.

No 6 - Interstellar

Such dedication was my attempt to not see ANY of this film beforehand, the first time I saw the poster is when I just copied and pasted it to put on this blog. For the first 10-15 minutes of the film, I thought I had made the wrong call by holding a black-out as I wasn't in the zone of the film but once we left Earth, I was 'on board' in a big way.
To put such a complicated and scientific movie into simple terms, the earth is fucked and we need a new home so we send out a team of explorers to reconnect with astronauts we sent years prior to confirm as to if there is a sustainable planet for us to relocate to.
This is the kind of film where you walk out of it with a complete understanding of the  plot but skip ahead a month and you're struggling to connect the dots you once knew. But I'd rather live in a world of the occasional 'Smart' Blockbuster than one where a new Transformers is a summer highlight. I may not have described why I like loved this movie but it's down to the scope and the vision. Like last year's Gravity, this really is one you need to see on the biggest screen possible. The visuals are amazing and the production design (especially the robot TARS) is immense. I don't want to explain any more of why I loved this film but I would be very intrigued through hindsight if I would have loved it as much if I watched every single trailer out there. Probably not. 

Adam Yates

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

2014 Films of the Year No 8

No 8 - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The first of two films on the list that I specifically didn't watch trailers or TV spots of. To start, I'm not entirely sure I like this better than the previous installment however seeing as 'Rise' was my film of 2011, that doesn't mean this is  by any means a bad film. It's a good one.   This is a smart blockbuster, one that has beaten other films such as Interstellar, Amazing Spiderman 2 and Gone Girl at the box office. All this from a franchise that seemed dead from Marky Mark and the 2001 attempt. So back to this film and the apes have reached the forest and have built up a strong tribe with clear  rules. Meanwhile the world as we know it has been mostly wiped out by an synthetic disease and only small pockets of civilisation remain. Trust is a strong issue in the movie. Both camps require help from the other to survive. The acting is strongest from the motion capture apes notably Serkis (Caesar) and Kebbell (Koba). A few years ago, there was a decent campaign to get Serkis an Oscar nomination for his role in 'LOTR' but if justice existed, he should get it for this. He won't, but he should. The emotion that exists within complicated computer coding is miles ahead of whatever face feelings Russell Crowe or Hilary Swank could ever muster. The ending doesn't set up a third film as much as the first did but it's commericial and critical success won't make it a hard decision.

2014 Films of the Year 10-9

No 10 - Captain America - The Winter Soldier

Such an improvement over its predecessor can be attributed to two factors. The first is the post Avengers world it now resides in. A cinematic universe now exists which didn't in the first film and a clear outline is set between each film. So clear in fact, that Marvel didn't care as to how this would affect its Agents of Shield TV show's potential. The second factor is behind the camera. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have directed a smart and confident sequel which has tremendously creative action beats and a credible villain  that is a genuine threat to our hero. That being said it's still a Marvel film so a massive ship inevitably falls from the sky and its gets a bit standard near the end but this was ONE of the surprises of 2014. Well done Chris Evans. Speaking of which...

No 9 - Snowpiercer

ANOTHER film based on a Graphic
novel featuring Chris Evans as the hero? Have I gone crazy? This was the last film to sneak in the list (sorry Xmen:DOFP) but this was a joy to watch but also incredibly depressing. To sum up the plot, the world is frozen and the remnants  of humanity ride on a post apocalyptic train that houses the earths elite (first class) but also the dregs of civilisation (third class). The dregs, led by Chris Evans stages a revolution and the film is their attempt to make it to the front of the train and take back control of their lives.
Each carriage is expertly designed and given its own personality, getting more classy the further they get. Of course the front don't wish to have their lives ruined so they fight back with the aid of train spokeswoman, Tilda Swinton, who seems to be basing her character on Deidre Rachid. One scene where Evans explained his 'tasty' past nearly made me sick in my mouth it was that powerful. And with an ending that didn't have to succumb to Hollywood shmaltz (it's South Korean), this was a hidden gem of 2014.

Adam Yates

Sunday, 7 December 2014

2014 - Films of the Year (the runners up)

Here are a selection of films that nearly made the top 10 but fell at the final hurdle.

X-Men Days of Future Past

Life After Beth

Indie horror in the ever growing Zom-Rom-Com genre. Lead actor Dane DeHaan is immensely watchable and the set up is intriguing but near the end it just loses the momentum.

The Lego Movie

They said it would be a terrible idea, I was probably one of them but this was arguably the Children's hit of the year. Inventive, expertly cast and half the reason why Chris Pratt is sooo hot right now.

The Babadook

The best horror I saw this year and honestly terrifying. Not just because of the scares but the presence of a child just sets it on a higher scale. An Australian production with minimal
CGI but the scares mostly come from the emotion portrayed by the mother.



Cold in July

Retro 80's feel not just in its setting but production and dialogue. Slow burning drama that ultimately gets a little too mainstream near the end but well worth a watch.

22 Jump Street

I'll admit now. I watched a naughty copy of this and the quality was poor so this may have made the grade if it had been watched legally. But even with colour saturation and dodgy sound, a jittery Channing Tatum is better than no Tatum at all.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Technically a 2013 film but who sees a film on Boxing Day? Beautifully shot and directed by Ben Stiller with warmth and heart. Probably the one I'm gutted didn't make the top 10.


The weirdest film of the year by far. Loosely based on Frank Sidebottom, Michael Fassbinder gives a great performance with his movement and voice while Domhnall Gleeson may be one of my favourite young actors of the last few years. The soundtrack is also worth a listen but watch the film first otherwise you won't have a clue what's happening.

Three Days to Kill

The guiltiest pleasure to make the list. A euro trash comedic version of Taken and The Transporter rolled into one with the ever dependable Kevin Costner. I know it's average but I wholly enjoyed it.

Adam Yates

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

2014 - Worst Films of the Year

I'm writing this so I can give myself one final week to binge through any potential masterpieces that may make my TOP 10 but there is no doubt as to what makes the five most disappointing entries of 2014. There are episodes of Dora the Explorer with a deeper plot than these examples of cinema. 

Let's begin with...

Transformers : Age of Extinction

This really has reached the bottom of the barrel. I will admit that I found the first movie extremely entertaining and I also didn't mind "Dark of the Moon" too much either. This is something else. It's too loud (something I never thought I'd ever say), it's got more pointless explosions than Gaza and the human characters are supposedly there for us, the viewer to relate to, but if that's what Michael Bay thinks we act and talk like, then no wonder he couldn't speak in front of an audience. 
I'm not gonna waste more time on this pile of semen so let's move on. 

The Expendables 3

Any film poster that resembles the credits to a movie isn't likely to excite a potential audience. Again, similar to "Transformers" this is just throwing more and more shit at the screen and hoping it sticks. It seems like Sly asked anyone he ever met at a Gym and said "Dya wanna be in my movie? What Part? I'll just make one up for you, man." The fact that the film includes an inside joke about whyBruce Willis is absent tells you all about the script priorities. I never thought I'd say this but Antonio Banderas is the best thing about this film.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

There are moments in this film that are funny however they are too hit and miss that you just feel like you're watching a bad Family Guy episode. The kinda one where they do a 2 minute continuous joke and you're sitting there with whoever you're watching it with and you feel the urge to chuckle just to break the tension. The concept of ole time West setting mixed with moderately modern dialogue and mannerisms is also very 50/50 but in the end you just don't care.

A Long Way Down

I don't know this for certain but if I had to guess, I wouldn't imagine this was a excellent book to begin with. Nick Hornby's books have resulted in some really good films (High Fidelity, About a Boy) but this is pretty non descript. 4 people about to commit suicide, don't. That's the plot. Boring. Next.


Johnny Depp movies fall into two columns - the kooky characters or the straight characters. The first column give us films such as Pirates, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow where the latter offers Secret Window and The Tourist. I think you see the difference. This is a movie consistent with column two. This is from the cinematographer who is responsible for the look of the Christopher Nolan films and the attempt at epicness is on show but without the substance needed to accompany it.

Other notable crud that came out this year -

Grudge Match
Amazing Spider-Man 2

Next week I start my countdown of my favourite films of this year. If you couldn't care less, just nod politely.

Adam Yates