Sunday, 26 April 2015

Other Notable Films of 2014

As I previously stated; 2014 was a difficult year to watch the latest and "greatest" cinema releases. The following are a few others that I felt weren't necessarily my favourites of last year, but were notable in their own little ways:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: A surprisingly enjoyable sequel to the surprisingly enjoyable first film of this rebooted franchise. Great performances all round and a story that’s thankfully restrained in scale but retains an essence of grandeur. 

Guardians of the Galaxy: A slick and highly energetic first outing for this band of unusual and very likeable characters. Strong performances, great visuals, plenty of action and an underlying level of humour offers something fresh in this increasingly saturated and morbid genre. The villain’s a bit of a letdown though.

Interstellar: Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi epic was visually stunning and sounded amazing, Matthew McConaughey’s performance. But to be brutally honest was rather mediocre. It’s a notable addition to 2014 because of the spectacle.

Killers: Don’t be fooled into expecting balls-to-the-wall, martial arts action by the “producers of The Raid” marketing ploy. This is a slick thriller with a disturbing and uncompromising story of murder, torture and revenge. While it’s final act is too outlandish, this is an visceral and thoroughly engaging film.

The Lego Movie: While the insufferable theme song is still engraved in my brain, this was a captivating and very funny film about toy bricks. Let me reiterate; a captivating and very funny film about toy bricks. Fantastic animation, hilarious characters and a creative script provided laughs and endless smiles from my podgy face. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Noteworthy Films of 2014: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler proved to be another film that highlighted how one magnificent performance can elevate a fairly standard story into something memorable and thrilling. While the narrative’s themes of the TV news industry and the questions of morality and ethics are interesting, they’re never explored past the confines of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. But Gyllenhaal’s sleazy performance shines through the entire picture, becoming the film’s predominant strength. His overly confident and absolute willingness to do anything offers an interesting perspective to both the “cutthroat” nature of TV news and Los Angeles as a city. His gaunt face with slick back hair along with his uneasy, twitchy personality create an utterly detestable being whose sole intention is to gain recognition and wealth without any morale compass. Yet it’s his lack of morality and absence of restraint that makes Nightcrawler’s progressive nature engrossing. There’s an unpredictability to his actions that blurs our preconceptions of his character and the film as a whole.  

Riz Ahmed puts in a firm shift as Lou’s desperate sidekick, while Rene Russo is superb in a volatile performance as a news director with similarly no moral compass. Meanwhile, Robert Elswit’s cinematography is well-executed as always with some slick camerawork. Street lighting, the glow from neon signs and the flashing blues and reds of patrol cars give Los Angeles a seedy and squalid look that suits the overall tone of the film. The editing department also deserve praise for matching the film’s fluctuating pace and mood consistently. 

Nightcrawler is a strong directorial debut from Dan Gilroy, and showcases his ability to get the best out of his cast and crew. By itself, the film isn’t necessarily a culmination of tightly written and composed elements and I was slightly disappointed by its reserved attempts to explore its distinct premise. But some clever dialogue, skilled cinematography and Gyllenhaal’s striking performance propels this from the depths of mediocrity and into something genuinely engaging and noteworthy.