Starting with the best, here are the films of July and August 2014. There are links to reviews included where applicable, and if we didn’t review it fully in time then there’s a bit of a write-up. For more on a few of these titles, check out our latest podcast.
Note: This list is by no means complete, we’re only rankin’ wot we seez.
Note 2: Where two films get the same rating they’re ranked alphabetically
Gillian Robespierre’s film about a woman who gets pregnant and decides she doesn’t want to keep the baby manages to balance humour with drama, romance and a message. To label it with the term “romantic comedy” is to do it a disservice, as it could teach Hollywood a thing or two about how to create both male and female characters that an audience can get behind.
There’s very little wrong with the film other than a few too many coincidences and well-rounded edges. But hey, you got to join up the pieces somehow.
The film will also hopefully go a long way to making a full-blown star of the incomparable Jenny Slate who manages to make the film her own.
Oh and it has enough pooh jokes to do you for a year.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The humans play second fiddle to the apes (as it should be perhaps) but are crucial none the less, propelling the action forward and enabling us to warm towards the chimps. When you compare the character development between the human boy Alexander and Caesar’s son Blue Eyes it’s clear to see where the writers spent their energy.
The Purge: Anarchy
So even though no one wanted the film, it seems that it has surprised everyone and has become the rare example of a sequel that betters the original. It’s got the same writer/director but manages to feel like a solid upgrade in all departments.
New York looks beautiful and the segment where Ruffalo and Knightley traverse the streets with no dialogue, mere music to set the scene is one of the best of the year.
Two Days, One Night
Gis a job – ★★★★ (NW)
The latest film from the Dardenne brothers came with high hopes, as these are the Belgian brothers who have won not one, but two (or four if they got one each) Palme d’Or awards for Rosetta (1999) and L’Enfant (2005). In their latest work Marion Cotillard plays a woman who has been out of work while suffering from depression, but finds out she is to lose her job following a staff vote which will see them getting a bonus instead. She manages to arrange a re-vote and has… wait for it…. two days and one night to connect with her co-workers to try and sell herself as a capable worker who deserves to hold her job while they lose a potential bonus.
It’s an incredibly simple concept, but says so much about the role work plays in defining us and giving us a purpose. Cotillard is fantastic and it’s a joy to see her working in a smaller, more constrained film than she is used to. It’s also no harm to see the Dardenne’s paying a bit of attention to a Hollywood star.
Ultimately if you’re looking to be critical, some people just won’t connect with the A, B, C narrative structure. We find out early on she has about 15 co-workers to try and get to over the weekend, and those one-by-one visits are how we spend the next hour and a bit.
But hey, isn’t sometimes the simplest way, the best?
Where the film excels is in the supporting roles. The most emotionally engaging being his mother played by Patricia Arquette who tries time and time again to provide the best for her children like all mothers only for them to leave the nest as all teenagers must.
Cage stays on-track for the most part and it’s a pleasure to see him forming a character like we know we can whenever he isn’t trying to save the world with the Declaration of Independence. There’s plenty of debauchery in bars and brothels but perhaps the most memorable scene features Joe and Gary driving around, having some beers, looking for a dog. Perhaps it’s so memorable because it’s one of the least miserable scenes in a pretty grim film.
Guardians of the Galaxy
You almost half expect the characters to turn and wink at the camera at various points, it really does think it’s that smart and knowing. Quill even gives us his own referential nod in a line about the orb… “It’s got an Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon kind of vibe.” It traverses the line of being too clever for its own good and being the smartest blockbuster of the year.
Whimsy Overload – ★★★½ (PMcG)
If you thought Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry’s offering from 10 years ago) or Be Kind Rewind from 2008 were odd they ain’t got nothing on Mood Indigo. It tells the story with animation, stop motion animation and live action of Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloe (Audrey Tautou) who fall in love. Chloe develops a rare illness caused by the presence of a flower in her lung which Colin tries vehemently to cure.
Along the way there is much to feast the eyes and brain on, from extended bendy leg dances, men dressed as mice, and humans producing guns by lying on mounds of dirt. Irish viewers have been subjected to the shorter 90 minute version as opposed to the original 131 minute cut and one can only begin to imagine what was contained within the cut forty minutes. With Gondry you have a fair idea what you’re letting yourself in for, so should know if this film is for you but oddness aside there is a sweet, touching and heartfelt love story at the core of Mood Indigo.
Norte, the End of History
Roddy Doyle once said of James Joyce’s Ulysses that it was “in need of a good editor”, and you can’t help but feel the same for Lav Diaz’s new work. The run time for Norte, the End of History is four hours and ten minutes. After those four hours and ten minutes nothing is resolved, there is no conclusion, the good are punished and the bad march on unimpeded.
A tad too much like real life, there is no escapism to be found between these frames as we see an innocent man pay for the crimes of another all the while his family must eek out a living never losing hope. The acting is faultless and there are no doubt some stunning shots but there is a more palatable 2 hour film contained within this four hour endurance test.
Finding Vivian Maher
There is the question of whether this documentary should even be made given the lengths Maier went to protect her privacy. A flimsy defence is offered up by Maloof with the discovery of a letter to a post card maker in France which he feels means she knew how good she was and wanted her work displayed. This doesn’t quite sit right and there is no mention of how much Maloof is profiting by creating prints of her work.
The film is incredibly daft. And incredibly stupid, shamelessly so. But for the most part, it manages to be a whole lot of fun.
Million Dollar Arm
The film that should be pitched as Moneyball meets Slumdog Millionaire, or at least that’s what the marketeers would like you to think. The film tells the story of baseball pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who were discovered by sports agent J.B. Bernstein after winning a reality show competition. Jon Hamm plays the lead and is pretty good in a rare lead role for the man who will be packing away his Don Draper suit in a few months time.
Million Dollar Arm is perfectly fine and has a nice story, and it’s great to see Lake Bell (she of In a World fame) playing a romantic lead in a Hollywood film.
The Inbetweeners 2
The creators have confirmed there will be no more movies and, while the sequel has flashes of brilliance and hilarious set pieces, after six years it’s time we let these lads get on with their lives and thank them for the memories.
What If isn’t as good as the greats, but could be a stepping stone for people to fall in love for the first time or all over again with the classics.
What saves the film is Pattinson who expertly evokes our sympathy in his dim-witted, yet good-natured character. The film is adequate at creating suspense and tension but due to obvious directing and shot-framing it becomes repetitive and predictable. Too much knee-jerk violence leaves you numbed and empty.
Tammy tried to do things a little differently at least. Directed by Melissa McCarthy’s husband Bel Falcone, it cast three brilliant actresses as three generations of a troubled family. In reality McCarthy is 44, her screen mother Allison Janney is 54 and her screen grand-mother Susan Sarandon is actually 67. Fun.
The film boasts an impressive supporting cast which also features Toni Colette, Kathy Bates and Mark Duplass. But all this goodwill can’t really save a pretty forgettable 96 minutes. One for a sick day on the couch I think.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Things go for too long with the clock approaching the two hour mark by the time Allan starts wrapping up his story. This rambling narrative style may have worked wonders in the best-selling novel but here it starts to grate. Still, if you’re looking for a light-hearted caper to sit down and watch with your Dad, it’s certainly a whole lot more enticing than any Transformers-related options.
The Expendables 3
While fans of the genre will get more from the in-jokes and have a fondness for familiar faces the film devolves into a mixture between Transformers-like fighting and the body count scene from Hot Shots Part Deux.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Ireland’s Jack Reynor is perfectly fine, it’s just that he has nothing to do in the film. At most he has 15 lines of dialogue and Mark Wahlberg has about twenty, in a two hour and forty minute film.