Note: This list is by no means complete, we’re only rankin’ wot we seez.
Under the Skin
The woman who fell to Earth – ★★★★★ (PMcG)
No doubt Under the Skin will divide audiences and spark debate but I can’t help but feel that if Stanley Kubrick was alive today this is the type of film he would be making.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Reborn in the USA – ★★★★½ (NW)
…right up until the 90 minute mark, you’re thoroughly engaged in one of the most thrilling blockbuster action movies of the last decade.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Monuments men and women – ★★★★½ (NW)
It’s fascinating to talk to non-Wes Anderson fans about his latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel. As a member of a generation that has been fed his films in college common rooms and arthouse cinemas his latest was a joy, managing to build a beautiful European road adventure that some said was like a Tintin live action movie for hipsters.
Whether a newcomer to his style could warm to the clinically composed production design and cinematography is another question, and the narrative within a narrative within a narrative may not have been to everyone’s taste.
The Past (Le Passé)
The characters all feel really spot on, and the intricacies of relationships where children from different parents are expected to live with each other are all explored well.
Stay in school – ★★★ (NW)
A final word for the Belfast prison where the film was shot. Mackenzie’s direction and Michael McDonough’s cinematography makes it look as grim, unappealing and dangerous as you could possibly hope for. Not sure there’ll be a better advertisement to keep teens in school this year.
300: Rise of an Empire
Stylised Spartans – ★★½ (NW)
Zack Snyder has vacated the director’s chair but has retained a screenwriting credit in the film based on Frank Miller’s Xerxes graphic novel. It’s a truly ridiculous piece of work which is very clearly made for teenage boys.
It lacks the fresh and origin feeling of the original but actually isn’t half as bad as you might fear with Eva Green’s Artemisia the finest sex-crazed psycho villain you will see on a cinema screen this year. Lead actor Sullivan Stapleton defines functionality. Worth noting is the film’s quite original narrative structure which takes place before, during and after the events in 300.
Muppets Most Wanted
Tina Fey steals every scene she’s in and there are some nice cameos from Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo and Jemaine Clement. Gervais seems like he had a blast making the film but this doesn’t quite translate onscreen.
Safety Guaranteed – ★★ (NW)
The film had so much potential to be a post-recessionary story about what it means to be an Irish male in your 30s or 40s, but really it doesn’t say anything. There’s throwaway nods to gay marriage, drug use, marriage woes and financial ruin but it briskly moves on before you can think too much about anything.
20 Feet From Stardom
Morgan Neville tells the story of backing singers in the winner of the Best Documentary Oscar. It certainly is one of the most hyped films of the year so far but as Public Enemy said “Don’t Believe the Hype”.
It’s a bog standard, talking heads documentary with many famous faces thrown in for good measure; Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger. They all regale us with how amazing the backing singers they had were and weren’t quite sure why they didn’t make it. Well I can give two reasons, firstly in the majority of cases they were black and in all instances they were women. This is barely addressed in the film only slightly when they mention “Sweet Home Alabama”. With a documentary the story has to be a knock out or it must look amazing, this sadly is neither.
There were many famous black female singers at the time, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Etta James, Nina Simone and the singers in 20 Feet From Stardom never quite made it to the stardom level of the people they sang with on stage. There is nothing new here as for every Bob Dylan there are a thousand amazing singers who never made it just like for every Nina Simone there were a thousand backing singers who never made it. This is the documentary version of Inside Llewyn Davis.
The Zero Theorem
We delve once again into the mind of Terry Gilliam – another grimy crumbling dystopian mess, a fable for how technology is ruining our lives and making us all distracted from the main goal in figuring out the meaning of life.
Christoph Waltz is great as the unhinged worker bee and the film looks fantastic at times but the manic tone grates and you can’t help but feel this is almost a “paint by numbers” Terry Gilliam film.
Whatever he is trying to say he said it better in Brazil.