Starting with the best, here are the new films we saw in September 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
Maps To The Stars
David Cronenberg’s last feature Cosmopolis back in 2012 is similar in tone to Maps to the Stars with its bleak outlook on life and the machine that is Hollywood, but his latest is much more accessible. Robert Pattinson has moved from being a limousine passenger to a driver and ferries Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) around as they search for an old house. She is unsuccessful in her endeavour but becomes Havana’s (Julianne Moore) personal assistant. Havana is trying to get a film project off the ground in which she would play the role that starred her mother. We also learn that said mother has sexually abused Havana while she was a child. Running parallel to this is the story of Benjie (Evan Bird), a child star who has already come out the other side of rehab and has an agent mother (Olivia Williams) and self-help guru father (John Cusack) who are only too willing to orchestrate his career. As the film progresses all becomes clear to a degree and we see how their paths converge as one.
Moore gives a fantastic performance as a narcissistic, needy, shallow actor constantly in a state of unease and in need of vindication. No one is redeemable which each character carrying out more despicable acts than the last. The interview John Cusack gave about the film for The Guardian newspaper makes for an interesting read proclaiming that “Hollywood is a whore house and people go mad”.
A savage indictment of Hollywood and celebrity culture Maps to the Stars is darkly funny as well as just plain dark. (PMcG)
A Most Wanted Man
A divisive film that director Mike Cahill seems to have made, safe in the knowledge that it will split his audiences. I saw it with eight other people in the cinema, half of whom left.
I Origins is a Sci-Fi film about a research scientist (Michael Pitt) who is working on bringing sight to organisms that couldn’t previously see, as his way to prove that there is no God. As eye experts his team (which includes Cahill ally Brit Marling) gain access to retinal scanning databases and realise that some people around the world share retina patterns, which in turn means they’re sharing memories and experiences, in effect proving that there is a God.
On board? Then see it. If you think it sounds like mumbo-jumbo then it’s best to avoid.
Whether you buy into the story or not, you can’t deny that Cahill and cinematographer Markus Förderer have crafted an absolutely gorgeous film. I really hated it at points, right until the end when I realised it had gotten under my skin enough to have won me over. Just like the other four croonies who hung around in our cinema. (NW)
Buckets of Pride – ★★★ (PMcG)
The Riot Club
It is very hard to recommend a film in which you despise all the main characters and where nobody redeems themselves. The Riot Club is one such film.
Taking its inspiration from the 2010 play “Posh” by Laura Wade, it concerns a private all male club at Oxford University and is based on the real life Bullingdon Club which boasts David Cameron and Boris Johnson as previous members. Two new first year students are in the running for membership but both hate each other. We have the good posh guy played by Max Irons and bad posh guy played by Sam Claflin. Each is successful and gets to attend a legendary Riot Club dinner where things all get a tad Lord of the Flies.
Director Lone Scherfig has done a fantastic job in ridiculing the club and illustrating how daft, entitled and horrible these bunch of foppish dandies really are. The collection of chins on show give good pout but it makes it hard to tell if they can act. A two-dimensional portrayal of a gay member coupled with a quick and unsatisfactory ending leaves you with an uneasy taste in your mouth and boiling blood. Far from the delights of Brideshead Revisited, The Riot Club is a punk, MTV take on entitlement that falls short of the mark. (PMcG)
A Nightingale Falling
Wish I Was Here
Welcome to the most disappointing film of the year.
Garden State is a decade old and was one of the defining films of the decade for a long list of people of a certain generation. Zach Braff’s follow-up was met with scepticism due to the crowd-sourcing model deployed by Braff to part-finance the production. Turns out the sceptics were dead right.
Wish I Was Here tells the story of Aidan Bloom, a man approaching 40 who is struggling with life. He’s a failed actor whose wife (Kate Hudson) is the main breadwinner for their two children. The two kids are in a strict Orthodox Jewish school but Aidan has to pull them out when their father (Mandy Patinkin) – who has been paying their fees – gets cancer and can’t afford to keep them in there.
The resulting film is self-indulgent, unfunny, cheesy and annoying – often at the same time. Braff’s trick of taking a great song and using it to manipulate us into forgetting how crap his dialogue and characters are gets old very quickly.
James Franco was also a breakout star from around the same time as Braff. “Freaks and Geeks” and “Scrubs” went on to have very different lifespans but take a minute to look at everything Franco has done and how little Braff has contributed to cinema.
The film’s two stars are for Kate Hudson (who is actually very good in it) and the soundtrack. (NW)