The Closing Months of Cinema for 2014

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It seems as though everyone’s eyes at the moment are turned to the big summer films that are to be released. We’ve just had Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as well as the latest installment to the Transformers franchise, and obviously just recently we’ve had Guardians of the Galaxy from Marvel, so it’s clear we’ve got quite a full on summer ahead of us. Personally, I’m looking past all of these films and looking ahead to the second half of 2014 to see what’s heading our way.

I’m not saying all of the action films of the summer aren’t important, I’m still a bit of a geek at heart so I’m always excited by the prospect of whatever DC or Marvel Comics release. Just recently in fact I rather enjoyed the new X-Men flick; it wasn’t brilliant but my inner film nerd was pretty darn excited to see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender on screen with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. So it’s not that I’m a film snob who turns their nose up at every blockbuster the summer has in store, it’s just from looking ahead to the end of the year it’s clear that Bradley Cooper voicing a Raccoon that jumps through space and shoots everything has nothing on what’s heading our way.

There’s an interesting collection heading towards our screens, with quite a few films that have caught my eye. I remember this time last year incidentally in which I was writing about films I was excited about. There was quite a range last year as well, from The Fifth Estate which managed to disappoint, right up to Saving Mr Banks which as my blog post from a couple of weeks ago showed, I absolutely loved. So if anything that just shows how there is everything still to play for at this point in the year.

As it stands my film of the year so far is still The Grand Budapest Hotel from back in march, with Richard Ayoade’s The Double still a close second. Nothing has beaten it so far, Wes Anderson has made an artistic masterpiece that is superbly written and directed in a way that maintains the complexity and keeps the film running like a clockwork mechanism. Much like other Wes Anderson films there’s a knock out cast, outstanding wit, beautiful cinematography, and of course the use of colour schemes, making it a really outstanding cinematic experience. At the moment for me it is the unchallenged champion of 2014’s cinema, but there is of course still time, and with some of the films that are yet to be released it could all change.

So what I’ve done is I’ve gone through various lists online of the films that are coming out in the next couple of months and I’ve selected the ones I’m looking forward to. I’ve tried to find as much information as I can on each of the films that are listed below. The dates that are attached to them are their release dates in the UK so it may vary depending on where you are reading this from. I am aware that I have broken this rule at times and spilled over the edges in to 2015, but with early releases at film festivals for some titles it is arguable that they can still be considered films of 2014. Regardless of the technicalities, my list is as follows:

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (August 22nd) – now this one I may live to regret because I’m not overly fond of sequels being made of good films, but I still found myself intrigued by the trailers. I like the first film a lot and I think it was really well made to suit an impressive visual style. So with the addition of new actors and storylines I can only hope this second installment proves me wrong about sequels being bad.

Gone Girl – directed by David Fincher (October 3rd) – much like many other film fanatics I am a very big fan of David Fincher for obvious reasons (Fight Club, Seven, The Social Network) so to see him return to film after three years brings nothing but excitement. The film focuses on the disappearance of a woman and the impacts this has on her husband, and so it sounds like quite a delicate turn for Fincher. But with an impressive cast and Fincher himself at the helm I can only hope this will be another fantastic piece of film from a director who has proven himself to be a genius on a number of occasions. After his last film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this new film may see Fincher staying in a dark place but being more delicate, much like he did with Seven. 

The Judge – directed by David Dobkin (October 17th) – this is another one I’m hoping I won’t regret because looking at Dobkin’s history of bad comedy films I can only hope that this venture in to more serious territory is a step in the right direction. Based around lawyers and family connections I have to admit the premise of the film intrigues me. When films centred around court cases are done well then I absolutely love them; you cannot beat the tension created by fantastic screenplay. As I said before I can only hope this is a step in the right direction that is executed well. I’m also excited to see Robert Downey Jr stepping back in to more serious roles; he is a talented actor who is capable of doing more than just Tony Stark so I’m hoping he gets the chance to prove it here.

Fury – directed by David Ayer (October 19th) – there’s been a lot of talk about this film recently for obvious reasons, it has Brad Pitt leading the cast and it is going to be quite a heavy film so people are right to be excited about it. But the reason I’m excited about it is because it is set towards the end of the war. It’s all well and good making an action film based during World War II but I think by this point we’ve seen too many that focus just on all out war. I’m excited to see how Ayer manages to capture the struggle in the soldiers as they are working towards their final stand. I hope the film has that emotional connection that other films before it have failed to create. I really want this to be more than just an action film.

Birdman – directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu – now I have broken my own rule here because the UK release for this film is in January, but it has release dates in other countries that date back to October, so in a sneaky manner I will count that as a film from 2014. The only reason I’m going to break that rule is because I am really excited about this film. A film that is based around someone attempting to recapture former glory is an idea that interests me as it is, but when it’s coming from a talented director who brought us films such as Babel and Biutiful I can only get even more excited. Almost a year ago in fact I wrote a script for a drama competition that was based around a screenplay writer trying to recapture his former glory whilst dealing with issues with his family, so seeing a film that is based around the same idea is an exciting experience. I feel bad for breaking my own rule with this film but I honestly think it is going to be good.

St. Vincent – directed by Theodore Melfi (presumed release date in October) – I couldn’t find a UK release date for this film but in other countries it is released in October so I’m guessing we’ll receive it around the same time. Now the director/ writer of this one is an unknown to me but I’m going to take a risk because they’re bringing Bill Murray back to making comedy films, with this one being based around a young boy being helped by his old neighbour who is a lazy war veteran. It looks funny and the trailer did manage to make me laugh but it also looks as though the film has a heart. I really like comedies that manage to be engaging and thought provoking at the same time so I’m anxious but excited to see how this film turns out.

Wild – directed by Jean-Marc Vallée – again I have broken my own rule here because this film is released in the UK early next year but in other countries it is this year, so I’m going to break that rule again but it is again with good intentions. This is another film I am excited about, from the director of Dallas Buyers Club and with the leading role filled by Reese Witherspoon I have very high hopes for this one. I really like Reese Witherspoon as an actress already and to see her take the lead role in a film based around someone embarking on a solo hike to recover from past events I get the feeling this could another films that exceeds expectations. I think Dallas Buyers Club was a fantastic piece of film so I can’t wait to see more work from the same director.

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – directed by Peter Jackson (December 12th) – I know up until this point I haven’t been the biggest fan of The Hobbit as a series of films but I have to see it through to the end. I love the book and so I am excited to see how Jackson approaches the conclusion of a literary treasure. He cares about the source material as much as the fans do so I can only hope he does the right thing and delivers a film that is satisfying.

Exodus: Gods and Kings – directed by Ridley Scott (December 26th) – I am a big fan of Ridley Scott and I have admired his work in the past, so I can only hope his venture back in to more of an epic styled film is one worth watching. He is obviously known as being a pioneer of science fiction with great works such as Alien and Blade Runner among his previous works, but when Scott makes historical films they can go one of two ways. In the case of Robin Hood we’re presented with a film we would rather forget, but then with Gladiator we’re given a film that is a fantastic piece of art that we hold close to us and recognise as a masterpiece. I am excited about this new film that has obvious biblical overtones and I can only hope that with a strong cast and a heavy premise that Scott has not made a mistake with this one.

So those are the films I am looking forward to that are yet to grace our screens. I’m hoping my choices will not leave me disappointed but of course only time will tell. All that is left to do is present the three films that I am most excited about this year. There are three that have not been mentioned yet that I believe will be the three to potentially challenge The Grand Budapest Hotel and the title it currently holds. So in no particular order, the three films I am most looking forward to at the end of this year:

1. The Imitation Game – directed by Morten Tyldum (November 14th) – now this is one that I really want to be good because it has such a powerful story behind it. It focuses on the life of Alan Turing who helped to break the enigma code during World War II. I don’t know if it will delve in to what happened to him afterwards but I am hoping that it does so with the utmost sincerity because as shocking as the aftermath to the war for Turing was it is a story that people need to hear. The story still makes me feel angry because of how badly he was treated, but it is a story that should be told because it shows how times have changed and how ugly our country can be at times. I think Benedict Cumberbatch will do a fantastic job playing Turing, and I can only hope the film approaches events from the right angle to deliver the story in an honest manner.

2. Inherent Vice – directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (January 2015) – again I am going to count this film as being part of 2014 because it is unveiled this year at various film festivals. Regular readers of this blog will know I admire PTA and the work he has done for cinema, so I cannot even express how excited I am to see him writing and directing a film based around a drug-fueled detective in the seventies investigating the disappearance of his ex-partner. PTA is very good at writing scripts that have incredible weight to them, for example There Will Be Blood and The Master so I intrigued to see if he has continued his legacy in a similar fashion or if the film will be completely different from previous works. Not much has been released in terms of first looks, all we have to go on is a picture recently of Joaquin Phoenix mid scene, but this only makes the film more intriguing. The cast looks incredible with Joaquin Phoenix once again leading the way so I know the film is going to be good, if not better. PTA’s previous work has impressed me a lot, and in fact four of his films currently hold a place in my favourite films of all time, so he has a lot to live up to but I know he is more than capable of exceeding my expectations, every time.

3. Interstellar – directed by Christopher Nolan (November 7th) – Christopher Nolan writing and directing a science fiction film based around a team exploring interstellar travel because the Earth is slowly dying. Nothing more needs to be said about the film because it sounds phenomenal as it is, and yet I could easily talk about it all day. To describe how excited I am for the film all I would need to say is that I have watched the trailer countless times since it was released, including an entire afternoon in which I kept revisiting it because I was so excited. The cast looks incredible, much like with all of Nolan’s work, but I think it’s the idea of it that excites me the most. Just to see Nolan directing a science fiction film based on exploring different universes and planets, it just makes me think that although it is a bold statement I think this could be a film that is on the same scale as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is a bold statement, but based on what we have seen so far of the film and how talented we already know Nolan is as a film maker, this could easily be his greatest film yet, and indeed his masterpiece.

So there it is, the completed list of the films I am most looking forward to in 2014(ish). I can only hope that they do not disappoint and that in the months to come I will not regret choosing them, however after last year’s results I think it would be safer to say it will be another mixed bag. Risks have indeed been taken but that’s what this process is all about. I would rather speak up and be proven as an idiot than not speak up and let people assume.

I am aware there will be some I have missed and that haven’t been addressed so if there is a film you would like to me to comment on then please leave a comment and I will get back to you. Equally if you would like to leave a comment on any of the films mentioned along with your thoughts then I welcome anything you have to say. This is a topic I am very open about so I’m interested to see what other people think. Any comments left will be responded to as soon as possible, and thank you for taking the time to read this post and possibly comment if you did so. I’ll hopefully follow up these choices with reviews in the future as they are released.

Films About Film

As someone who takes an active interest in a broad range of films I still find it bizarre how I am often over loaded with questions as to what my favourite genre of film is. Now I know that mentioning how interested in film I am suggests that I can make my mind up and I am direct about my opinions, but honestly I think narrowing down one specific type of film I enjoy sounds awfully boring. If I’m going to take an interest in an industry that is so vast and is teeming with such diversity in the pieces of art being produced, why would I want to limit myself to just one specific corner? That would be incredibly stupid of me and actually quite narrow minded. However that being said I do take pleasure in talking in depth about a film type that not many people take in to consideration, well at least people I come in contact with on a regular basis, and that is films that are about films. Literally films that are set within the film industry and focus their story around a film being made is both entertaining and educationally rich for someone like me.

In my previous post I briefly mentioned ‘The Artist’ a film which I consider to be near perfect. When I last talked of the film it was about the dance scene at the end, which is a fantastic piece of film, but when talking of the film in general the whole premise is very interesting. Set amongst the film industry in the 1920s the film shows the movement from silent film to films that use sound, it’s interesting to see the effects that the movement had on people involved in the industry and society as a whole. Showing a true insight in to how films were shot, with the use of cameras and then additional recording equipment shed a new light on the technical advancements that have taken place and the benefits (or hindrances) they have on the film making process. The gender politics linked quite nicely to the film industry depicted in the film, with women being selected for acting roles based on their physical appearance and dancing but then becoming more important as sound was added to the equation. The film manages to show a world that is similar to ours, in the sense that the value of entertainment is very strong, and yet differs from ours because of the attitudes towards film and the people involved in film. Seeing how the audience of the screening would applaud a female actor compared to the thunderous applause for the male actor is quite shocking and really makes you think about how far gender equality has come. The film is an artistic masterpiece that I know some people didn’t enjoy, but personally I feel that it is an entertaining experience that has deeper meanings to it if you go looking for them.

It’s not just films that are based entirely on film however, I find myself interested when the film industry is a smaller element to a film as well. Quite recently ‘Argo’ was a film I found particularly interesting because of the depictions of 70s cinema. It contrasts quite nicely to that of the cinema in ‘The Artist’ because we see this radical shift from love stories and thrillers to lavish science fiction films with low budgets and reliance on make up and props. One of the best elements to the depiction of the film industry in ‘Argo’ is the constant mocking of the people in it and the idea that it was easy to make a film and a become a big shot. There were lines in the film that had me in stitches because of how relaxed they were towards film, lines like “it’s got horses in it, it’s a western” literally made me laugh out loud. It amusing to see how people with little knowledge of film were considered experts and given the responsibility of making big decisions for cinema productions. And one of my favourite lines from the film by far comes from the character of John Chambers played by John Goodman which was “so you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot without actually doing anything? You’ll fit right in” which is brilliant because it links quite nicely to film makers of today who appear to do a lot of work and yet actually do very little. It was also of interest to see how easy they people in ‘Argo’ made the process of making a film look, saying that they needed a producer, a script and someone to do the makeup, along with a big push in the press with famous people involved. Sounds a little bit similar to some film makers of today doesn’t it really?

When talking of films that are centered around the film industry it it’s all too easy to talk about the mainstream films that scoop up awards as if they were sheets of paper, but I take joy in watching smaller films that are set in the same world but in a darker corner. One of the best films of 2012 was the Peter Strickland film ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ starring the incredibly talented Toby Jones who gives an absolutely stunning performance in the film. While the other films mentioned show all of the glitz and glamour present in the film industry, what this film manages to achieve was to show the grittier side to cinema that we don’t think about. Set in Italy in the 70s, Jones plays a nervous sound engineer who moves from England to Italy to help with an Italian horror film. Instead of showing a gleaming studio with an extensive soundboard and high tech equipment we would expect to see today, the film actually shows a cramped and darkened studio with young women trapped in sound booths and the sound team hacking at vegetables to record the sounds for bodies being dismembered. As the film delves deeper and deeper in to this dark corner of the art form Jones’ character becomes more and more immersed in to his job and the nature of the cinema starts to effect his thoughts. The film does owe a lot of credit to Giallo horror from the 70s and does somewhat play homage to it, allowing it to be a film that is based around cinema but then also explores territory such as the importance of a career in our lives, and what it means to be a human. It is honestly a very impressive piece of cinema that isn’t really for the faint hearted but I would recommend it to those who take an interest in film.

I realise that by this point it appears that I may have made it look like I am explaining what my favourite genre of film is, on the contrary I am merely showing respect towards films I hold close to me and ones that have made an impact on the way I feel about cinema. One of the best things about the film industry is that it is a business that can be used in an all manner of genres, such as comedy, action, drama and even horror, meaning you’re not restricting in what you watch. All of the films I have mentioned above are incredible and I recommend every one of them, just approach them with an open mind and you will get out of them what you bring to them.

For me showing the different sides to cinema in films is very important because it provides the audience with more information about an art form that is important in all our lives. Films that are based around the motion picture industry remind us of the importance of cinema and how much we value entertainment. Showing the film industry in a time period that is different from our own is of particular significance because it reminds us of what we enjoy about films in the first place; the sense of adventure and the journey outside of our own lives. Films like ‘The Artist’ show how you can make a big and bold film that is entertaining on a number of levels without needing lavish special effects or the use of 3D to be entertaining. The imagination of a human being, and the hard efforts of a team are what it takes to make a film successful and entertaining, not financial gestures or silly technological nonsense.

 

New To The Film, Late To The Party

As someone who takes an active interest in films I try to watch as many as I can in a week. Watching films I’ve seen before is all well and good because I’ll know how good or bad it is. The real fun however comes from watching films for the first time. Now I realised that there were certain films I should have seen by this age and it was high time that I got around to watching them. It was only recently that I started to do so and have realised I should have done a lot sooner. What with being older and having more distractions it does make it more difficult to find time to watch films, but after a short period of having little work I had time to make up for my sins so to speak. I was very pleasantly surprised.

‘Blade Runner’ was the first on my list, knowing that it was known for being one of the greatest sci fi films to have been made. Watching it with an open mind definitely paid off; in short I found it to be brilliant. The story and the characters were strong, with the actors giving performances that were very well suited to the subject matter. The special effects were impressive as well, looking both artistic and realistic throughout and never feeling like they were badly designed. It was good to see a big bold science fiction film that was dark and gritty but then also had layers to it. The underlying theme of wanting to meet your maker was really quite special and had a big impact on how I viewed the film. It added a level of thought that other films fail to capture, giving it an edge on other science fiction films. It was definitely worth watching and strengthened by respect for Ridley Scott.

The second film, which I must admit I really should have watched sooner and I’m disappointed that I didn’t, is Spielberg’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’ from 2002. It made it better for me in a sense to know that the story behind the film was true, because it made the sequences even more impressive. I was hooked for start to finish, impressed deeply by the intelligence of young Frank Abagnale jr and his actions over the years. The casting was absolutely spot on, Amy Adams was brilliant as the young doctor that fell in love with Abagnale and Tom Hanks was fantastic as the police detective pursuing the leading character. But the star performance for me was undoubtedly Leonardo DiCaprio who masterfully played a young conman who was confident and intelligent, and had the charm of a man twice his age. I really like the use of soundtrack, it suited the sequences that Spielberg shot to make the film visually appealing with a straight edged soundtrack to back it up. A cat and mouse story had never been so enjoyable and so intriguing, becoming more interesting as the story developed. It may be simple but I think Spielberg did a terrific job and it’s a film he deserves a lot more credit for.

For regular readers of my blog it won’t come as a surprise to hear that I’m a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, I’ve written many times about his work and how much I admire it. However it wasn’t until recently I finally around to watching some of his older working, starting of with his 2002 film ‘Punch-Drunk Love’. It’s safe to say that after watching it my respect for PTA went through the roof, it is an incredible piece of film. It’s a small, delicate art house film that manages to be straight edged and tight at the same time. Telling an obscure story based around a rather odd main character, it was a film that was so simple which added to the genius. PTA’s writing for the film was superb, with an oddly brilliant story and excellent screenplay that was witty and intelligent and added more layers to the characters. He is clearly a writer that is talented and understands his audience well, allowing him to write films that are artistic genius. I have to commend PTA also because he managed to make a film with Adam Sandler in that was brilliant. Sander’s acting isn’t something I’ve been a fan of in the past, but this film is his best work by far. His acting is very good indeed, presenting someone who is clearly emotionally unstable and yet hopelessly in love. PTA’s artistic directing style made the film visually outstanding and one of the best films I have ever had the pleasure to watch; a near flawless work of art.

Following the interest I have in PTA I moved swiftly on to his 1997 drama ‘Boogie Nights’ which was a completely different kettle of fish. It was a film that I can only describe as being gritty and dirty but in a good way. Making a film that is centered around the porn industry was always going to be a risky move, but with the brilliant writing and artistic directing style of PTA it was never going to be bad. Detailing the rise and fall of a young actor in the adult film industry ‘Boogie Nights’ manages to be both engaging and hilarious as it jumps straight into the disco era of the seventies and then moves on to the hard hitting eighties. The cast is brilliant, with everyone giving top notch performances, featuring older faces as well as big stars in their younger years. It was a gritty look in to an industry full of controversy and arrogance, and watching some of the scenes you do feel quite dirty but you realise that it’s not in a bad way. I was completely immersed into the world of sex, drugs and violence whilst being intrigued by the themes based around fame and greed. In no way is this film a one sided film, there are artistic elements and deeper underlying themes that require a second viewing to be appreciated fully, which for me shows the true extent of PTA’s genius as a film maker.

I consider it an act of stupidity having not seen these films before, but I would like to think it was an act of redemption by seeking these films out as soon as I could. I urge anyone who has an active interest in films to watch any and all of the films mentioned in this post. They are all brilliant and whatever I have said about them doesn’t give them nearly enough credit. They all impressed me greatly and exceeded by high expectations. Even if you are not massively interested in films I would recommend them any way, you might find something in them that you didn’t expect.

There’s a commonly used expression that says “it’s things you don’t do in life you regret” and I think the same can be said for films. I’ll never regret watching a film, but I will regret the rather idiotic decision of not watching a film.