UK Release: March 28th 2014
‘THE BORDERLANDS’ is a British found footage horror film. Written and directed by Elliot Goldner, this finds two paranormal investigators of played by Gordon Kennedy and Robin Hill working out what is happening with the strange occurrences of a church in a small English village. The film is surprisingly slow burning, and it is a very male only affair, however thanks to a believable, easy going and often very funny, chemistry from Kennedy and Hill, and the film anchors along nicely. There are also some genuine attempts of refreshing the whole idea of a found footage film, with it coming off helmet camera the entire running time. While it might like some bite, it does leave with a interesting ending and more so something very refreshing, without needing to change too much from the very stale formula.
UK Release: January 1st 2014
The next instalment in the juggernaut franchise that is ‘Paranormal Activity’, from Paramount and Blumhouse, is ‘PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES’, a spin off from the main instalments which focus on more a dynamic, if yet conventional approach to the found footage horror genre.
Gone has all the CCTV actions of the four main instalments, and out comes something which takes the action to multiple locations and places. Also it adds diversity by setting this in a Mexican community. While acting away from the haunted house hijinks of the previous main instalments, this certainly has a template which could be attributed to 2012’s ‘Chronicle’, not because of the powers one of the main characters gets after being ‘’bitten’’ by a demon, but because it has some surprisingly well timed humour. It is a shame however (despite adding an interesting plot device which links it back to the main franchise), that there is no real memorable moments and the usual tropes do happen.
The ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise has always amazed me with how well it has done, practically coming off a film which was originally made in 2006, then released (thanks to Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks) in 2009 and got this unstoppable machine going. So in conclusion, it certainly going into places which might stop the franchise getting old and stall, with some mythological ideas and communal diversity. Also Jorge Diaz does indeed look like a young John Leguizamo
UK Release: October 31st 2014
Past the oil pumping and billboards, up through the hills and out in the suburbs, you’ll find this years major pop culture character of Lou Bloom, camera in hand filming LA’s dying for profit. Lou is the modern day success story. A TV newsman racing through the night to get the gore first. Come the morning his footage is on breakfast news. Pixelated, occasionally, for decency’s sake.
‘NIGHTCRAWLER’, screenwriter Dan Gilroy’s first film as director, is a scouring satire of the media and the state of the job market. Lou is played with terrifying precision by Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s a product of desperate times: a wild animal with an appetite. And his next meal – a car crash, a stabbing, a shooting – is never far away. There’s no morality in Lou’s world, just what’s to gain and what he needs to do it get it.
Gyllenhaal is a revelation as Lou Bloom, you can tell as a actor that he has more a talent and thrives in playing dark characters. As a character he inspires other in the guru culture we are part including station head Nina (a terrific Rene Russo), who when the station asks about if morally they should be showing this, she protests and sticks out on air against her superiors. The film recalls the best of the 70’s satires in that its political engagement never gets in the way of the ride. It’s disturbing, but funny. Provocative, but cool.
I also like how ‘Nightcrawler’ spices up its own story at the end (more hyper real) to hold it viewers, just like what TV news does. While some might think his pursuing of news is illegal, it is in Britain but not so much in the US. I also like cinematography of the film as well. LA is shot like the TV news set backdrop you see in the film, almost as if it on a VHS camera, giving a idea of the what Lou Bloom seems the city as to him. I also like how it ties voyeurism into the car chases as well, the idea that they places a static camera on the front and side of the vehicle bringing a sense of speed and the cars nearby feel incredibly close. This whole thing reminds me a lot of TMZ as well. Alongside Patrick Bateman and the Driver, Lou Bloom is a new modern pop culture figure.
UK Release:January 24th 2014
Based on an award winning stage play back in 2008, the Weinstein/Smokehouse co-production ‘AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY’ was one of this year’s most prominent appearing in Oscar category films. Directed by John Wells (‘The Company Men’), the film has one of the better assembled casts of recent times of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson and Sam Shephard. Tracy Letts adapted her own stage play for this film.
What ‘August: Osage County’ does very well is that it doesn’t feel like a stage play, but with a larger set and cameras. Many adaptations of stage plays in the past can fall into the trap off feeling very un-occupying on screen, this is thanks to the fact that stage writing and screen writing are two very different forms. The issue you have here though, is that the director of John Wells doesn’t seem to go and look into the deep ideas about religion and methodology which the film discuses several times, evening opening with a sequence lead by Sam Shephard. This is a shame as it is evident you certainly see metaphors in the set design, and Mise-en-Sans, but it doesn’t seem to amount to anything, which was probably something which held the film back from winning any real awards.
Performance wise everyone is universally terrific, everyone has some sort of storyline (or more hidden past) to work with, even if it very melodrama, and could give soap writers a year worth of storylines. Meryl Streep is wonderful as the drugged up mother and so is Julia Roberts as her daughter (both of them work of one and other perfectly), the film (while takes a little time to get going) does have a wonder dinner set piece as well which does lass black comedy to the drama. It is also nice to see a film where the sisters (Roberts, Lewis and Nicholson) squabble among one and other, as well.
Does is surprise me this film didn’t win anything? No, not at all.
However this should not be taken away as this is a perfectly decent film. It is clear that the Weinstein brothers were probably putting their efforts into winning some Oscar’s for this (they are well documented in Hollywood in being the best to have campaign for you/or a project for Oscar contention), since this the only film from them this past awards season. What did make me laugh though is during the end credit sequence, it doesn’t just do the whole title-card-come-up-thing all award campaigning films do (so voters remember the name of the film), it also presents other major information highlighting not just the actors, but also the credits song from Kings of Leon (basically to say we want nominations in every category going, including ‘Best Original Song’).
UK Release: October 22nd 2014
David Ayer director of ‘End of Watch’ and rather amusingly this year’s ‘Sabotage’, brings a World War 2 action flick of ‘FURY’. Lead by tank commander played by Brad Pitt, he leads his team of new comer Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena and Shia LaBeouf (who is really good here) into action behind enemy lines. The film also includes appearances from Randy Couture and (in his usual exposition role) Jason Isaacs.
Ayer certainly shoots the film with a lot of grit and mud, and being shot in England he certainly uses the locations really well. It is a very macho film though, something which wouldn’t be too far distant from being a Sam Peckinpah film with its grit and gore.
What I did like thought is that it wasn’t ‘’all American gun-ho’’ which, despite being obsessed with Brad Pitt, could have gone down especially in the film’s final act, but it doesn’t. Lerman is very much the stand out of the group, he does well to be the vessel for audience into the horrors of this war and this team (Ayer follows this group aspect from ‘Sabotage’). This machismo does make it feel like Ayer doesn’t really know what he is doing in regards to writing female characters, as there is a bizarre dinner scene, which is unsure if it wants to make a joke at the women’s expense or feel sympathetic to them.
There is certainly a old fashioned practicality about it thought, the tank battles are very good, even if the visual filters for gun fire might want to be decreased a little. But this practicality and gore does lack isolation in these tanks and more so any real sense of transcending depth, which is weird considering it mentions a lot about religion and such.
UK Release: October 10th 2014
The Screen Yorkshire/Warp Films/Film 4 backed film from Yann Demange (TV’s ‘Dead Set’), ‘’71’, is a film about a young disoriented solder (Jack O’Connell), being accidently abandoned by his unit following a riot of the deadly streets of Belfast in 1971. He soon then finds himself on the run from killers from both Provisional IRA and the British Army’s Military Reaction Force. Shot in Blackburn, West Yorkshire, the film brings a incredible sense of isolation, which certainly emits a glow to genre films such as ‘Escape from New York’ and ‘The Warriors’.
What I like about this film is that it is more a horror film if anything. You have the fact that this was real life for people, let alone the nameless killers, torture porn, and dead bodies on the street. It is an intense portrayal of the action that happened, it does have the usual story tropes which go with films with this set up, but it’s that intense it barely registers. It also leaves audiences with a chilling after taste as well. It certainly doesn’t wave figures at any political context, and being directed by someone from outside of the UK certainly brings a refreshing prospect to the film. O’Connell (as to expect) is also exceptional, you can tell what he is thinking, without him having to say a word. So conclude one of the best British films I have seen this year. And it has been a very good year for British film as well.
UK Release: October 3rd 2014
‘’We don’t need heroes, we need monsters instead’’, is the line used frequently in ‘DRACULA UNTOLD’, the first film in Universal’s (Marvel like) shared monster’s universe*, you can see with a line like that being very vocally used as it does feel like a small gag at the expense of the Marvel cinematic universe. Saying this thought, this is less a horror film more a dark comic book fantasy, where Luke Evans’ Vlad (this was meant to be in development for years), literally might as well get bitten by a radioactive bat to become the ‘’Bat-Man’’. And this is strange as this does work as a comic book origins story, Vlad himself is a good man and he does have a cape as well.
Once he gets these silly powers the film becomes full of fairly awful CGI. This is all to battle Dominic Cooper evil warlord, who is that evil he hardly appears on screen. Charles Dance is the mystical dark figure giving Vlad his powers (but his role was changed in the edit it was believed, and was done to what I think will make him the Nick Fury of this world going forward). Sarah Gadon is also very much trying to be Emily Blunt in this film. The thing is there is room for old school gothic horror in the current market place, and from the opening title sequences I actually thought that it was going to be the case, however I was mistaken. While not as bad as 2004’s ‘Van Helsing’, the film feels like it’s been adapted from a treatment rather then a actual script.
*A new ‘Mummy’ film will be the next film, scheduled for a June 2016 release.