Starting with the best, here are the new films we saw in November 2014. Ratings are only given by one of us, don’t assume consensus was reached!
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
The Case Against 8
When the Ship Comes In – ★★★★½ (PMcG)
The Imitation Game
Loner, Genius, Enigma – ★★★★½ (NW)
The Skeleton Twins
Growing Pains – ★★★★½ (PMcG)
What We Do In The Shadows
Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi have done a writing directing double act for their mockumentary tale of four vampires house sharing in Wellington, New Zealand. A crew has been given access to the house to document their daily strifes coping in their modern day environment. It’s clear to see the impact of Spinal Tap for films such as this, but none the less WWDITS is a very funny and sweet addition to the mockumentary canon.
Fans of “Flight of the Conchords” will recognise Rhys Darby who plays the alpha male of a pack of werewolves, stealing most of the scenes he’s in. The piece also has the signature innocence of Conchords, even though here they are dealing with bloodsucking murderers. The only quibble is that it becomes a tad predictable towards the end, but overall it’s one of the funniest films of the year.
The Bull Nikolay – ★★★★ (PMcG)
Mischief and Marmalade – ★★★★ (NW)
Looking at the calibre of people behind the film, it should be no surprise that it has turned out so well. Director Paul King (whose CV features TV comedy credits like “Come Fly With Me” and “The Mighty Boosh”) can obviously do quirky comedy, and when paired with Harry Potter producer David Heyman – who knows how to package up this kind of feel-good British family film – it all adds up nicely to a film which proudly embrace an outsider.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
War Games – ★★★½ (NW)
Director Francis Lawrence returns for his second Hunger Games film, Gary Ross having directed number one back in 2010 resulting in a film which now looks decidedly cheap. The latest in the series is a look at the methods and madness of war.
Katniss and Peeta are now done with the Hunger Games as we know them, and are now being used as tools of propaganda for separate sides – Peeta an unwitting pawn of the Capitol’s communications, and Katniss being cajoled into becoming the face of the revolution.
The film is dark and lacks any major action, and is mostly conversation in underground bunkers. It’s a vast improvement on the book which is by far the weakest of the series, but would have all been a much tighter experience if they’d dropped the need for two separate films.
Playing It Safe – ★★★ (NW)
Taking everything into consideration though, the whole thing is all just a bit dull. Perhaps Roskam felt he had to be completely faithful to Lehane’s perfunctionary script and so was wary of showing too much directorial flair, but after the promise of Bullhead, its hard to say he has really left his mark here.
Get On Up
Mr. Brown’s Bromance – ★★★ (NW)
Brown had three wives but his family life isn’t dealt with much here, other than showing the issues with his own parents and the death of his son Teddy. In place of showing much of his romantic troubles or the many domestic abuse stories that plagued him, the film instead settles on the Brown/Byrd relationship as a sort of centring force.
The Lost World – ★★★ (NW)
Dazed and Confused – ★★★ (PMcG)
Say When (known as “Laggies” internationally) is predictable and cliched at times, but it’s a novel enough idea for a romantic comedy and for once puts a different female point of view to the fore and for that it deserves to be seen and celebrated.
Written by Pierce Ryan and directed by Rob and Ronan Burke, Standby sees Alan (Brian Gleeson) randomly meeting Alice (Jessica Pare), an old flame he used to know from his time in Canada. Alan promised if she was ever in Dublin that he would show her a great time – thus beginning a whistle stop tour of Dublin over one magical night.
Believable performances from Gleeson and Pare make the film an enjoyable insight into the “what might have been” genre of romantic comedies and small supporting roles from Francesca Cherruault, Stanley Townsend and Ian Anderson round out the film.
A solid script from Ryan with some lovely shots of Dublin at night from the Burke brothers make Standby one of the more enjoyable Irish romantic comedies of late. Keep up the good work.