Tag Archives: nightcrawler

Accidental Love

Accidental Love should have stayed unreleased.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

accidental loveAccidental Love has a long history behind it that I feel is worth mentioning before I attempt to impart coherent thoughts on the film itself.  See, the film was originally titled Nailed and its production first began in April of 2008 before being shut down once James Caan left over creative differences.  His role was recast and filming started again, before being shut down again.  Then it started up again, then was shut down again.  This happened 4 times over the course of two months, either via delays or just straight up shutting down production, leading to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to finally shut down production for good – supposedly on the final, crucial, plot-kicking-off-event day of shooting – in June 2008 as the crew weren’t getting paid.

The film then languished in purgatory for a full year and a half, before David O. Russell quit his directorial role, supposedly after clashing hard with the film’s producer, Ron Tutor, leading to 2010 re-shoots (no really) being done by somebody else.  An unfinished cut was screened in Los Angeles in March of 2011, supposedly without the knowledge of any of the cast or crew, in an attempt to find a distributor.  And now, four years after that screening and seven years after principal photography first begin, the film is finally seeing a release to the general public, albeit with an entirely different and hilariously generic title, and with O. Russell’s director and co-screenwriter credit changed to Stephen Greene because… well, I think you understand why he wanted his name removed from this regardless of how the film turned out.

So, it very much seems like the universe was out to get David O. Russell, that it was going out of its way to ensure that none of us had to bear witness to Accidental Love.  Unfortunately for us all, it didn’t go far enough.  Accidental Love got out and…  I honestly have no words.  I really don’t.  I got nothing here, folks.  I sat through all 100 minutes and I honestly could not tell you what happened, or what it was about, or what the point was, or why any part of this exists.  It’s one of those movies where quite literally every single thing is wrong, to such an extent that I have no idea what this film could have been even if it weren’t mired in production hell.  Could this has been a good movie at any stage?  I don’t know, I honestly do not know.

Here’s the gist of the set-up.  Jessica Biel plays a happy waitress at a throwback diner who is about to get married to pompous self-involved jackass James Marsden.  At the restaurant of the proposal, however, she suffers a freak accident and ends up with a three-inch nail in her head that can cause sudden mood-swings, unavoidable onsets of lust, and occasional lapses into Portuguese (for some reason).  Denied surgery because she doesn’t have healthcare, and with James bailing on her because he’s a self-involved jackass, she ends up inspired to travel to Washington D.C. when she sees an advert for a freshman congressman (Jake Gyllenhaal) in an attempt to coerce him into passing a bill providing free emergency health care for herself and her friends, a preacher with an inflamed penis (Kurt Fuller) and his charge’s prolapsed arse (Tracy Morgan).

Then, things get really weird.  There are a group of Girl Scouts who get involved for… some reason that I think is due to Shakira because that whole concept sounded funny to… someone.  Catherine Keener plays the Congresswoman who is opposed to this sort of thing because it might encourage child lesbianism, which she is also against, and she’s trying to push through a bill to build a military base on the moon because… reasons.  Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel fall in love because he could give her an orgasm whilst James Marsden couldn’t which is… something, alright.  There’s a moment late in the film where Gyllenhaal runs off to join a tribe in order to become a man and he either excessively bronzed up or just straight up blacked up (I honestly couldn’t tell, the lighting in this movie is abysmal) because… I honestly just do not know.

Look, I love me some absurdism.  Literally 18 hours prior to my typing these words, I just got done watching Wet Hot American Summer for the first time and I laughed harder at that than I had at anything else in months.  But the best absurdism, sort of contrary to the entire point of the concept but there you go, has a central point to it, a reason as to why, in a WHAS example, a man is dry-humping a fridge whilst a crowd of 10 year-old kids cheer him on.  But Accidental Love really doesn’t seem to have a point.  I think it purports to be a political satire?  Yet its satire is on the level of middle-schoolers who have watched a few episodes of The Daily Show but don’t at all get why that show is so good – Republicans oppose health care because they’re paranoid hate-filled lunatics, and it’s impossible to do good in politics because nobody’s got any principles.  Very insightful satire, folks.  Next you’ll blow my mind by telling me that Capitalism is a bad thing we should all rebel against.

Then there’s the fact that this is just shot and designed appallingly.  There’s this half-assed Tim Burton-y feel to the film’s pre-D.C. locations, where nothing feels quite real in this obvious stagey way, but is done with even less effort than Burton has in recent years (and which he did far better in last year’s sadly ignored Big Eyes, natch).  The camera spends much of its time tilted at 45-degree angles for no particular reason, everything seems to be underlit all the time (as I’ve already mentioned), and there is this dreadful Danny Elfman-esque score backing damn near everything.  The score is really irritating, I cannot stress that enough, so excessively quirky and blaring and zany and straining to communicate just how ka-RAAAYYYYZEEE the movie you are watching is and I hate it I hate it I hate I hate I hate I hate hate hate hate…

That score ends up indicative of the film in general.  It’s trying way, way too hard to be quirky and off-beat and Indie, yet doesn’t seem to have had any actual effort put into it anywhere.  It feels like a film that just had a whole bunch of the stupidest ideas thrown into it randomly and with no concerted effort to have the resulting concoction make any sense, have any actual point, or be any good.  It’s not funny, I’ll tell you that much, and everybody screaming their dialogue really fast at the top of their lungs does not disguise that fact.  I don’t know what this film is.  Are there supposed to be jokes?  Cos I didn’t find any.  Is this supposed to be a satire?  Are we supposed to laugh at Jessica Biel, since her condition keeps trying be played for laughs like the film believes that people who suffer mental damage from strange accidents is hilarious?  Are we supposed to like any of these frequently and outwardly horrible people?  I don’t know, I don’t know, I just do not know.

Just… I… It seriously just blows my mind that human beings made this.  Like, I’m used to good actors giving bad performances in bad movies – it’s like this was purposefully timed to remind us all that Jake Gyllenhaal can, in fact, give the polar opposite of the quality of his Nightcrawler performance when he really tries – and for (apparently, since I’m still yet to see a David O. Russell movie that I actually like) good directors to make terrible movies, but this…  Accidental Love goes beyond that.  This is so utterly inept, so totally incompetent, and so thoroughly and fundamentally wrongheaded and misguided that I see no universe in which this could have turned out to be any good.  Even if its production went off without a hitch, even if it weren’t so thoroughly outdated by now, I still cannot imagine this…  I…

I’m sorry, I just can’t believe that this was made by living functioning human beings.

Callum Petch, while you were sleeping, took over your town.  Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

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Half A Decade In Film – 2014

So here we are then. We are at the literal half way point in the decade, albeit the final point in our Half A Decade In Film spin-off mini-series. Yes, the fun ends here (well, about 2000+ words on from here) as Andrew, Paul, Liam, Mike and Owen each pick their favourite film of 2014.

Anybody who listened to our End of Year Awards podcast released not three months back will know just how much Failed Critics loved last year’s selection of movies. From the disturbing and eerie sci-fi Under The Skin, to the disturbing and eerie thriller Gone Girl and all the disturbing and eerie films in between, it was a hell of a year for disturbing and eerie movies, as voted for by you people.

Still, we’ve managed to find five more films to talk about, not all of them dark, violent, disturbing and / or eerie. Well, maybe one or two. Starting with…


Kundo: Age of the Rampant

kundoToday, those who serve the people, serve only their own interests, and neglect their sworn duty. Isn’t that shameful?

Directed and co-written by Yoon Jong-bin, of Nameless Gangster fame, Kundo is a Korean action packed drama set in the middle of the 19th Century.

I’m not a fan of Action films in general but I do love a good Western and thoroughly enjoy Martial Arts fight-fests. Kundo manages to combine the look, feel and sound of the former with the thrills and messy spills of the latter.

The basic story is not overly original in its theme. Jo Yoon, the illegitimate son of a nobleman, is knocked down a rung of the ladder when a fully legitimate heir is born. When he starts to show resentment toward to the new heir he is disciplined and eventually packed off to a life in the military. Many years later the nobleman’s son is killed and Jo Yoon returns to the family as a bitter, corrupt, evil and violent despot hell bent on claiming his birthright and milking his subjects for all he can get.

He hires a lowly butcher, Dol Moo Chi, to kill his dead brother’s pregnant widow to prevent the birth of a new legitimate heir that could challenge his claim as head of the dynasty. When the hitman fails in his mission, Jo Yoon’s vengeance is so brutal that Dol Moo Chi joins a secretive clan of mountain dwelling warriors and monks dedicated to righting the wrongs of despotic nobles and saving oppressed peasants from a life of slavery.

The story then follows the to-and-fro battles between the heartless Jo Yoon’s army of mercenaries and the altruistic mountain clan with Dol Moo Chi in the front line.

Although the basic plot cannot be said to be breaking new ground as a story, the way it is told is thoroughly enjoyable. The best analogy I can come up with is to imagine Quentin Tarantino (at his peak), Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone getting together and deciding to retell the Robin Hood story.

It is beautifully shot, the acting throughout is superb, there are some fantastic fight scenes and just the right number of humorous little interludes.

There are a few issues with it though. The quality of the CGI used is pretty poor. They are not pivotal to the story but are glaringly clunky. One horseback chase sequence, in particular, is terrible. It’s less convincing than those stock moving backgrounds you see out of the window of a car in old black and white movies. There are a few countryside scenes where flocks of birds have been overlaid. They make Hilda Ogden’s “Muriel” look a masterpiece. Even little touches as insignificant as glowing embers drifting away from a fire look like afterthoughts.

But, to be brutally honest, I’m a real grump when it comes to CGI and rarely miss a chance to moan about it, I seriously doubt these issues would bother the majority of normal people.

A genuinely enjoyable film, it may lack originality but is both beautiful to look at and fun to lose yourself in.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


Pride

prideI’ve had a lot of new experiences during this strike. Speaking in public, standing on a picket line. And now I’m in a gay bar.

Another late comer in the film year that I had little or no expectation for. Director Matthew Warchus hadn’t done a feature film for 15 years (his previous film, Simpatico, I’d never even heard of) but this managed to push all my buttons. The soundtrack was for me: Heaven 17, Dead or Alive, Tears for Fears, The Smiths; this was so absolutely in my wheelhouse. The period setting, the 80s, I grew up in the 80’s and it’s always portrayed poorly on film. All that miserable Shane Meadows stuff. I was born in 1970, that was a miserable shit decade, the 80’s were fucking awesome!

We get to meet two very different groups in Pride. Gay activists and striking miners. So we get a double dose of fish out of water, elderly working class Welsh ladies going to gay clubs and party boys going to a working men’s clubs for a spot of bingo. Joyous, absolutely joyous. There’s so many jokes to be had right there.

The cast are all first rate, and mainly unknown to me, though Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine & Bill Nighy all pop up and do a turn. There’s a decent coming of age story, the mad culture clash to explore, issues of bigotry and discrimination, and yet it all hangs together beautifully and made me laugh, a lot. Proper belly ache, tears down the face, laughter. Looks great, sounds amazing, and absolutely the best of British – oh and to quote Imelda Staunton….. ““We’re just off to Swansea now for a massive les-off!”

by Paul Field (@pafster)


Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America The Winter SoldierBefore we get started, does anyone want to get out?

As a series of films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was always just a bit of fun. I’m not denying the quality, not at all. What I’m saying is while they are all good films, I never saw any of them as “great”. Until Captain America: The Winter Soldier rocked up and smacked me around for making such stupid statements.

For the most part, the story of Steve Rogers teaming up with S.H.I.E.L.D and fighting the bad guys, all while trying to find himself in a world he doesn’t know or really fit in to, foregoes the fantastical elements of previous Marvel films and the universe they created. Instead choosing to ground itself in some kind of reality and weave us a tale of conspiracy rivaling that of most other espionage thrillers.

Make no mistake, this is an MCU film through and through. But this time around the Marvel universe feels more like a way to get some of the sillier ideas onto film. Ideas that haven’t really been acceptable since early 90’s James Bond. You know? Mechanical wing suits, hover-carrier thingies and, well, super soldiers!

Cap 2‘s greatness comes when you realise that you can take all those elements out and still be left with a top-notch spy film. A complex and engaging espionage film about shady little men trying to take over the world by using their own little terrorist army headed by a larger than life super-bad-ass bad guy. All of which can only be stopped by one man. Jason Bourne. No, James Bond? Nope. I got it, Ethan Hunt? Oh. Well, you get the idea.

My favourite part though? The fighting. I’ve said it a thousand times. A well choreographed and filmed fight can make a film great. Cap 2‘s fights hurt. Every hit is a bone crunching treat for fight fans that ramps up the stakes and forces you to feel every single punch. Captain America’s confrontation with UFC legend George St. Pierre and the first fight with the titular Winter Soldier are particularly great examples.

It’s Bourne with extra toys. Old school Bond with the ability to still have old school fun. Most importantly, it’s a brilliantly built thriller that’s grounded itself in the real world and, at least as far as I am concerned, is the best MCU film yet.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Nightcrawler

NIGHTCRAWLERYou can’t win the lottery unless you make the money to buy a ticket.

Some of you may have already read my review on the main site about Dan Gilroy’s atmospheric thriller. There’s not too much point in me running through the film with a fine tooth comb again, except to say that it is still my favourite movie of 2014. I had a blast watching Guardians of the Galaxy on the big screen, big tub of popcorn in hand. I loved Kundo for all the reasons Liam has stated above. Under The Skin, The Attorney, The Raid 2, Inside Llewyn Davis, Moebius; it was just a fantastic year for film. But none of those that I saw during the year, none of those that I’ve caught up with since the turn of 2015, seriously, none have bettered this expertly made, tense, psychological dark masterpiece.

Brooker touched on Jake Gyllenhaal’s resurgence in our 2011 article, yet as good as he’s been in films like End of Watch, Prisoners, Zodiac and Source Code (and that crazy violent slightly NSFW music video thing he was in), it’s definitely with Nightcrawler that he reached his apex as an actor. The sheer ludicrousness of his omission from the Academy Awards list last month was bafflingly moronic. How he could’ve been overlooked for a Best Actor award is quite frankly beyond my understanding. As the crime-scene videographer Lou Bloom, living out his twisted version of the American dream, it was arguably the best performance of the entire year.

It managed to tread that very thin line of being both sickeningly realistic and uncomfortably amusing. Not just Gyllenhaal’s performance, although that obviously is the central piece in the jigsaw, but the film as a whole. He has a suitably talented cast of actors around him including Bill Paxton, Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed; a director/writer who appears to have hit the ground running with his debut feature as a director; and some excellent cinematography courtesy of the very experienced Robert Elswit. It’s a film that has gotten even better the longer time has passed since I last watched it and I can’t wait to see it again.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


Guardians of the Galaxy

gotgHe said that he may be an… “a-hole”. But he’s not, and I quote, “100% a dick”.

Over the last few years I’ve watched quite a lot of films at the cinema, and the ones I’ve enjoyed I’ve gone back to see again, sometimes more than just twice. When 2014 came along, there was a film which I was looking forward to seeing. Another entry in the Marvel universe. As usual I had avoided seeing any trailers or even any footage for this film. On my first viewing I was blown away at how much I enjoyed it. Even on a 2nd and 3rd viewing I was enjoying it more each time, my kids loved it, and so I embarked on what turned into a marathon number of watches of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Oh go on then, I saw it 23 times in the end! “Why” I hear you cry? Mainly because (I have a Cineworld card and 3 kids who loved it as well) I just enjoyed the hell out of it. Everything about it entertained me, from the characters to the score and the soundtrack which was rather cool. It had action, it was lots of fun and had some fantastic looking spacecraft and it was just 2 hours long, a decent run time for once. I missed – or rather never got on board as Star Wars changed the world of films, and while I’ve seen films that have blown me away, they have disappeared into my collection only to see the light of day once in a blue moon. Maybe Guardians is my Star Wars, or even my kids Star Wars..? I’m not sure, I just know I really wasn’t expecting to like it so much.

James Gunn has produced a Marvel film like no other. While the other films tend to return to earth for some or most of the film, Gunn left Earth way behind. Taking his hero Peter Quill as a child into space and with some back story to give Quill a little character, just enough for us to like him, Gunn just lets the film fly. With a great opening sequence, the film powers along, and soon we are introduced to the full team, though they don’t know it yet. Rocket, a talking Racoon; Groot, a tree, who doesn’t talk much, Gamora a green assassin and Drax a beast of man looking for revenge. Really with that line up of characters this should fall flat on it’s face or at best just about hold together. Yet Gunn and his cast breathe so much life into the film that it soars. Chris Pratt is superb as Quill, he might be a rogue be he is extremely likable. Zoe Saldana is also great as Gamora, while Rocket and Groot and both voiced well by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. It is Drax played by Dave Bautista who really steals the show; his deadpan delivery is wonderful and nothing goes over his head (his reactions are too fast!) As for the rest, Karen Gillan gives a solid performance as Nebula and Michael Rooker (a constant in Gunn’s films) is also excellent. Lee Pace continues to impress as Ronan and his one of Marvel’s better villains.

The design of this film is also superb; the look of the space crafts, the clothes, the outer space sequences are all stunning to look at. The chase sequences are exhilarating and the final battle is superb leading to a one of the best moments of the film, the dance off! Yet while the plot is rather weak it does add some weight to Thanos and may give some clues to wear Marvel are taking the films. Even so it’s still a pretty strong origins film, as it relies on its energy and the energy of the cast to get us through it. Gunn’s trick is to continue this with the sequel, it’s a big ask, but I think Gunn and his cast might just pull it off again.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


And there we go, we’re done, no more new Half A Decade In Film articles to go (until perhaps five year’s time when we attempt the same thing again perhaps?) You can catch all of our prior entries here, or even click this link to view the entire back catalogue of features for the Decade In Film series. As always, let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve crucially overlooked or overrated any films so far.

The 2015 BAFTA Nominees Rundown

With the 2015 BAFTAs coming up, Callum Petch guides you through the likely winners and losers of all of the major categories.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

We have one final stop on the awards train before we reach The 2015 Oscars in almost exactly one month’s time, and that’s The 2015 British Academy Film Awards.  The BAFTAs, for those who don’t know, celebrate the best in the past year of film with an added British tinge due their being a British awards body and all.  Although their main purpose for people like us is to get one last indicator as to how The Academy will be voting come February 22nd, since all of their nominations and eventual awards typically line up with one another.

So, that’s what we’re here to do.  With the awards themselves in just over two weeks, and my having seen just about every single one of the major nominees, I am here to guide you through the major categories, tell you who I feel deserves to win, who you should probably put your money on if you’re a betting kinda person, and any snubs, rule-flaking inclusions or just plain weird things that caught my fancy.  We’re not covering all of them, because we’ll be here all day – although other members of the site may fill in those blanks later if they wish – but we’re doing most of them.  So, without further delay, GRAPPLING HOOK!


lefoBest Animated Film

Nominees: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, The Lego Movie

Who Should Win: Soooo…  I know that I’m supposed to say The Lego Movie, and I do really, really like The Lego Movie, but…  Big Hero 6 is currently playing to my heart way more.  I’m sorry, but it is!  I was actually sat writing about Kung Fu Panda 2 the other day when this quietly devastating yet heart-warming scene from Big Hero 6 popped up into my head and now I just want to go and spend more time with that cast again.  I’m sure whenever I eventually get around to watching The Lego Movie again, I’ll put that back on top but, yeah, I guess I’m switching teams and rooting for Disney.  Sorry, folks.

Who Will Win: Time was that I would say that this was The Lego Movie’s to lose, but with How To Train Your Dragon 2 upsetting it at the Golden Globes and not even being considered in the Oscar category – although I still find that a mostly strong list, so I’m not going to complain much – I really don’t think this is a safe bet anymore.  Big Hero 6 is Disney, so that will always be in the running, and awards bodies are really loving The Boxtrolls it just racked up 13 nominations at this year’s Annie Awards (which, incidentally, is a very lazy set of nominees this year, but this is not the place to talk about that) – so that has a good shot.  My money’s still on The Lego Movie leaving with the award, but don’t be surprised if either of the other two take it instead.

Other Notes: The BAFTAs have always only had three nominees for this category, so that makes snubs more obvious but also, sometimes, more understandable.  Although I was lukewarm on it, I am glad to see Laika rack up another nomination with The Boxtrolls and it deserves that spot more than How To Train Your Dragon 2.  That being said, colour me disappointed that there’s no room for The Book Of Life, which sadly seems destined for cult status rather than mainstream acceptance.  Also, even though there was clearly no chance in hell of it ever happening, I would like to have seen the genuinely excellent My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks get a look-in.


71Outstanding British Film

Nominees: ’71, Paddington, Pride, The Imitation Game, The Theory Of Everything, Under The Skin

Who Should Win: Under The Skin is a film that deserved far more love and attention from awards bodies than it has gotten, although the fact that it’s slipped away with barely any recognition outside of the BAFTAs – Mica Levi’s excellently unsettling score is also up for an award – is kinda fitting really.  It is really not a film for everyone, but its quiet study of gender, sexuality, and gender performance – as well as its quietly furious screed about how casually, and occasionally outwardly hateful, sexist society views and treats women – is utterly gripping and compelling viewing for those willing to work for their films, and Scarlett Johannson puts in the single best performance of all of last year in it, too.  It’s my no. 5 film of 2014, and it deserves this award.

Who Will Win: It won’t, though.  Not by a long shot.  Nor will Paddingtonwhich I did like but don’t get the intense passionate love that critics and audiences are throwing its way – nor will ’71, and most certainly nor will Pride.  See, The Imitation Game and The Theory Of Everything are up for Best Film and it looks real bad if the films that are up for Best Film don’t win Outstanding British Film.  The Weinsteins have been campaigning hard for Imitation Game, but this is the home turf of Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, which may sway voters towards The Theory Of Everything.  I’m leaning more towards the former, though, so those of you looking for a definite bet should put money on The Imitation Game.

Other Notes: Starred Up should really be in contention.  One of the best British dramas in years and it’s kept out by two slops of porridge?  Ugh.  Ditto for Richard Ayoade’s The Double, which everybody seems to have let undeservedly slide into the background since last April.  I can’t really complain too much, though, 2014 was a very good year for British film and I’m just glad we’ve gotten actual British films filling up the list this year.  You know, unlike last year.


GHB_9907 20130130.CR2Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and Nicholás Giacobone and Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo for Birdman, Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Who Should Win: Nice strong list here.  As much as I like Whiplash and Birdman, though, I feel that they are great scripts that are elevated to excellent scripts by everything else from the movie – performances, direction, editing, etc. – so I’m not particularly rooting for them.  The script for The Grand Budapest Hotel is excellent, managing to balance whimsy and light-hearted farcical caper antics with this constant undercurrent of sadness and melancholy, a tale of men born out of time and a nostalgic longing that is admirable but foolhardy.  Meanwhile, Nightcrawler’s script has a tonne of things to say about capitalism, the media, classism, business, and the kind of sociopathic monster that one can be yet still win in our broken society.  I’m good with either of those taking it, leaning more towards Nightcrawler.

Who Will Win: This will be The Grand Budapest Hotel’s consolation prize.  Sure, it received 13 nominations overall, but most of those were in the technical categories that, although deserved, most people, and especially headline writers, don’t care about.  This is where it gets its due in the major categories, to apologise for it having no chance in anything else.  Whiplash has garnered enormous traction as of late, but I still don’t see it going over Grand Budapest here; this one’s basically set in stone.

Other Notes: You will notice that I left out Boyhood whilst I was going through complimenting the nominees.  We’ll come back to that.


gone girlBest Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Jason Hall for American Sniper, Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl, Paul King & Hamish McCall for Paddington, Anthony McCarten for The Theory Of Everything, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game

Who Should Win: Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl.  Duh.  I really don’t have to say any more than that, do I?  Considering the rest of this field, I really don’t think I do.

Who Will Win: This field is suspiciously weak, full of films that have nothing to say or actively steer themselves away from having anything to say about their subjects or themes (although I do find that a plus in surprise nominee Paddington’s case), almost like it’s been designed with the express purpose of making sure that Gillian Flynn will win.  Hmm, funny that.

Other Notes: Something that became immediately clear to me when this season’s awards films were lined up like this: this was very much a year of films, and especially biopics, about men that spectacularly failed to have anything to say about the men that they’re about.  I mean, this is often a problem with awards bait films – failing to have any thematic arc or insight into their subjects but superficially arranging the beats of a feel-good story to create the illusion that something is being said – but it’s especially true this year.  Maybe that’s a sign that we should diversify who we tell our stories about?


Film Review FoxcatcherBest Supporting Actor

Nominees: Steve Carell as Jon du Pont (Foxcatcher), Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans, Sr. (Boyhood), Edward Norton as Mark Shiner (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz (Foxcatcher), J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher (Whiplash)

Who Should Win: J. K. Simmons, hands down, no contest.  If you disagree then, quite frankly, you just haven’t seen Whiplash.  Simmons takes the two registers that he typically operates on – hammy shouting fury, and warm paternal comfort – and weaponises them to stunning effect, adding nuance to the character of Fletcher whilst still frequently keeping him at the level of a complete monster.  He is utterly sensational as this utterly inhuman force of nature and rage and he deserves this award far more than anyone else.

Who Will Win: Good thing that he’s guaranteed the win, then.  He’s basically been on a well-deserved awards tour which, on February 22nd, will culminate with the 60 year-old taking the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to collect his first ever Oscar.  For one of our best and most consistent character actors for the last 20 years, in a career-defining role, it will be incredibly satisfying to see.  We’ll get a taste of that feeling at the BAFTAs and it will be wonderful.

Other Notes: Two well-earned nominations for Foxcatcher, although Steve Carell’s appearance here reeks of canny studio awards gaming.  I mean, Best Actor has been a tight lock for months and the chance of anybody unexpected breaking in is slim, so why not position one of the leads of the film as a Supporting Actor in the hopes of at least scoring a nomination?  Of course, there is a case to be made for Ruffalo also being the main character in Foxcatcher, too, but I think this all says more about the clever protagonist shuffling nature of Foxcatcher than anything else.


imitation gameBest Supporting Actress

Nominees: Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans (Boyhood), Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke (The Imitation Game), Rene Russo as Nina Romina (Nightcrawler), Imelda Staunton as Hefina Headon (Pride), Emma Stone as Sam Thomson (Birdman)

Who Should Win: It takes a damn strong actress willing to put in the extra work to not have the film completely whisked away from them by Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, but Rene Russo was more than up to the task.  She excellently embodies a woman who has to fight every day for the power she wields, who hates having to rely on Lou Bloom but recognises his value, and seizes on every possible advantage and opportunity in a desire to raise her stature and influence.  She’s a more socially acceptable version of Lou Bloom, basically, only with some inherent sympathy ingrained in her due to the institutionalised sexism of her line of work, and Russo nails it all totally.  So, yeah, I’m on the Russo train.

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette has been the front-runner since the second Boyhood had its festival premieres, she has been sweeping practically every awards body that nominates her, and if she doesn’t win the Oscar I will be utterly floored.  She’s going over here.  I am fine with that, she is quite literally the only thing I actually liked about Boyhood, but I’m still going to be a little bitter regardless.

Other Notes: Nice to see Pride get a non-Britain-specific nod!  Really annoyed that it’s not for any of the cast members who played a homosexual – who were the actual goddamn protagonists for that film which, lest we forget, is the reason why Pride works – but at least it’s being recognised for something; that film was a very nice surprise for me.  In terms of snubs, four words, to be repeated for Best Actress: where is Emily Blunt?  Seriously, between Edge Of Tomorrow, Into The Woods, and even her voice work in the dub of The Wind Rises, she’s spent the last year reminding us all that she’s one of the best actresses in film today, but we’ll snub her totally come awards time?  I don’t get that.


TTOE_D17_ 05356.NEFBest Actor

Nominees: Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing (The Imitation Game), Ralph Fiennes as Gustav H. (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom (Nightcrawler), Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything)

Who Should Win: My heart wants Keaton to win, because it’s Michael Keaton, he is great in Birdman, and I want nice things to happen to the guy.  However, my head has to admit that Gyllenhaal put in the better performance this year – the much better performance – and so I’m backing him to take home the statue.  Plus, based on how The 2014 Failed Critics Awards went, you all would probably tear me shreds if I didn’t.

Who Will Win: All signs point to Eddie Redmayne taking this one with very little effort.  This category has been a constant fight between Redmayne and Keaton since awards season started up in earnest, but the splitting of their performances into separate “Drama/Comedy” categories has made it harder to gauge which is taking the biggest prize home with them.  Keaton has the comeback and long-overdue narrative ingrained in a victory that awards bodies love, but Redmayne has the exact kind of showy, yet empty and trying-way-too-hard performance that awards bodies love.  I think Redmayne is going to take it here, also because he’s on home turf, and then he’ll also pick it up at the Oscars.  Dammit.  Maybe he’ll at least be good in Jupiter Ascending.

Other Notes: Very nice to see Ralph Fiennes get a nomination for Grand Budapest.  This does make me wonder why, mind, Tony Revolori has been totally skipped over for any Best Supporting Actor nominations.  He is very much the heart of the film, arguably more so than Gustave, and Revolori puts in a quietly strong and personal performance that has curiously gone uncelebrated.  Also, we’ll nominate Benedict Cumberbatch but not Ben Affleck for Gone Girl?  Fine, sure, whatever.


la_ca_1202_still_aliceBest Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams as Margaret Keane (Big Eyes), Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore as Dr. Alice Howland (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed (Wild)

Who Should Win: We all saw Gone Girl, yeah?  We all saw Rosamund Pike with her captivating note-perfect Lauren Bacall-referencing performance?  Good, then I don’t have to explain myself further.

Who Will Win: Julianne Moore has been due for decades, she’s finally going over here.  The problem is that she shouldn’t.  I don’t mean this in a subjective opinion way, either, I mean that the BAFTA Eligibility Rules should disqualify her from contention.  As you can check on their own website, only films released in UK cinemas to the general public between January 1st and December 31st of any given year are eligible.  However, if you are a film released in UK cinemas for the general public between January 1st and February 14th of the year in which the awards take place, then you are still eligible for awards contention as long as you screen the film to BAFTA members by December 19th.

Yes, this does all sound more than a little shady and cop-out-y.  It gets worse.  See, even with that very generous window, Still Alice still doesn’t qualify – it doesn’t receive a UK cinema release until March 6th, well past the closing eligibility date – and, therefore, shouldn’t be here!  Selma meanwhile, which does qualify – UK cinema release: February 6th – and which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard is great, is shut out completely.  So, yeah, I am against all of this.  Julianne Moore could put in the single most outstanding performance I have ever seen, and I will still be against her winning.  I’m sorry, but it’s against the rules and am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?

Other Notes: Scarlett Johannson.  Emily Blunt.  That is all.


Whiplash-6606.cr2Best Director

Nominees: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), James Marsh (The Theory of Everything)

Who Should Win: Look, I really dislike Boyhood, but I cannot deny the commitment, the energy, the time, and the skill that Richard Linklater put into making the thing.  To shoot one film over 12 years, the logistical and financial nightmare of organising and lining up everyone’s schedules to get this thing to happen, the hard work put in to keeping everyone’s character consistent, and to keep the film looking and remaining visually consistent despite progressing as a director significantly in the space of a decade…  Yeah, I have to respect that and admit that this is an award he should walk away with.

Who Will Win: Like hell is this not going to Linklater.  Maker, from the second this film was in the can, every Best Director gong going today was pre-packaged and all set to be FedExed to his front doorstep.  If he doesn’t win, then I quite frankly have no idea what to believe any more.

Other Notes: No Ava DuVarney for Selma, which is the sole thing that I am saying on the subject until I finally get to see the thing.  More egregiously, no David Fincher – the man who BAFTA quite rightly acknowledged as a superior filmmaker to Tom Hooper 4 years ago, and who put out quite possibly his best work ever, or at least his best directing work ever, this year, is apparently just no match for James Marsh’s directing for The Theory of Everything, a film that I fell asleep during for about five minutes.  Sure, of course he isn’t.


boyhoodBest Film

Nominees: Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything

Who Should Win: Despite this sudden backlash that has collectively greeted the thing – because apparently we don’t even wait two months now before we try and backpedal on our opinions – I still think Birdman is brilliant and maybe even quietly genius in the way that it’s able to walk so many tightropes without ever properly falling over into un-self-aware “Artist Rants About Mainstream Film, Critics, The Internet and Clouds”.  However, I find The Grand Budapest Hotel to be the best of all of these nominees by a country mile, so I am flying that flag all the way.

Who Will Win: I know that the current narrative is that this is a straight fight between Birdman and Boyhood, with The Imitation Game sneaking its way into contention thanks to the usual Weinstein efforts, but those people are just trying to spice up a narrative to which the ending has been pre-ordained since June.  Boyhood will win with no contest and Richard Linklater will finally pick up a Best Film award, along with finally getting the Oscar equivalent a few weeks’ later.  Shame the film in question sucks.  I broke down here why I strongly dislike Boyhood and why it is objectively a bad film beyond its central gimmick, so I won’t waste time repeating myself.  Just know that I am against this disappointingly inevitable outcome.

Other Notes: 2014 Awards Season.  Otherwise known as “Yay, White Men: Hooray for White Men”.  In fairness, it’s been a pretty poor awards season and Grand Budapest absolutely deserves its spot up there – and I don’t object to Birdman showing up, either.  But it’s also such a safe and blindingly obvious list with little of interest and few of the genuinely interesting or exciting films from this past year.  Where’s NightcrawlerStarred UpWhiplashFoxcatcher?  If you’re gonna choose films about men, why snub the ones that actually have something to say about masculinity and men and challenge current societal notions?  How about Under The SkinGone Girl?  Films that look at the female gender, gender performance, and how society views them?  What happened to Pride, which had things to say about sexuality – far more so than The f*cking Imitation Game – or Belle and Selma, which said cogent things about race (and which I haven’t seen yet but heard excellent things about)?

Look, I and everybody else wouldn’t be getting so angry and worked up and vocal about this if you awards bodies didn’t keep shutting films like those out in favour of paint-by-numbers surface-level slop like The Imitation Game or The Theorzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  When you shut out genuinely original and diverse films in favour of interchangeable porridge like those, it’s a slap in the face to those films that try, that offer up a different perspective, and to those of us who demand and wish for diversity and greater representation in film.  You awards bodies carry way more power than you think you do in this day and age, so what you nominate and reward matters.  So when the awards end up as white and male as this, with many of them genuinely not being the best films released in the past 12 months, you’ll have to excuse us for getting upset and calling you out on it.


That’s the rundown.  The BAFTAs themselves occur on February 8th.  Feel free to throw your insights and predictions for the ceremony into the comments below!

Callum Petch is gonna kill yr boyfriend.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

Callum Petch’s Top 10 of 2014: #10 – #6

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

141.  That’s the number of films released in 2014 that I have seen. That is a lot of films.  To put that into perspective, I have been attempting to critique films on the Internet for five years now and that number is more than the combined total of films I had seen in all four of those prior years when it came time to do some list making.  Of those 141, 131 were eligible for appearances on my lists.  That is insane.  To tell you the truth, I have no idea how on earth I’ve managed it, especially since I spent much of this past year despairing at movies in various forms.

Except that, as the year has come closer to its end and I’ve reflected more and more upon what I have seen, the problem is not that films were worse in 2014 (although there have been some atrocious pieces of tripe, as we shall see in a few days’ time).  The problem is that I have seen more films in 2014.  Whereas in prior years I would have to pick and choose what films I could and could not see, therefore sticking with safer bets and actively avoiding crap, this past year I have been able to see damn near everything that came my way, which has meant flinging quality control out of the window and exposing myself to films I wouldn’t normally touch with a ten-foot pole.

In some cases, this has meant extended bouts of self-flagellation.  In others, this has allowed for major surprises that I would not have typically tried to burst through to the forefront.  In some cases, this has meant that the frequency of films that I was looking forward to disappointing me in some way this year would get me down somewhat.  In other cases, this has meant that I can see the films I love multiple times and allowed them to really stick out in my brain for days, weeks, even months on end.  It’s a double-edged sword is throwing out the personal quality control barrier and seeing whatever comes your way, but I honestly can’t think of my cinema-going lifestyle now in ways that don’t involve voluntarily seeing everything that I can.

It also means that constructing my Top 10 list this year was both incredibly easy and unbearably difficult.  I’ve had to do this three separate times over the past month for various different things and each time it’s gotten progressively easier and harder, as certain films remained steadfast in their appearance and placements whilst others jumped around and dropped out.  Seeing so many films has made the absolutely cream more apparent but has also made filling the bottom end of the list that much harder, as certain entries are way too close in quality to others.  The list is actually a Top 20, but it’s been abbreviated to Top 10 as I am pretty sure that Owen would like back his website at some point this week.  I am, however, incredibly satisfied with it, the most satisfied with any Top 10 Movies of [x] list I’ve so far had to make, so take that for what it’s worth.

Now, before we begin, a brief set of pointers.  This list is strictly limited to films that have seen a UK release in 2014, so the awards season films that have yet to cross the pond (Foxcatcher, Wild, Inherent Vice, Whiplash, Birdman) or just films that don’t have the common courtesy to turn up on time (Big Hero 6, Top Five) aren’t eligible.  I am also limiting the list to 2014 films, awards season films that saw an American release in 2013 (The Wolf Of Wall Street, Inside Llewyn Davis, 12 Years A Slave, The Wind Rises) aren’t eligible.  Finally, even though I have seen a ridiculous amount of films in 2014, I haven’t seen them all and, naturally, this list can only include films that I have seen.  Blue Ruin, Belle, Only Lovers Left Alive and Nymphomaniac may be outstanding, and I tried so hard to get around to seeing them, but I unfortunately ran out of time and so they can’t be featured.

Lastly, I mentioned that I did arrange a Top 20 so I might as well share 20 to 11 with you before we get started on part one.  In reverse order (starting at 20, ending at 11): St. Vincent, Locke, Pride (which was my favourite surprise of 2014 and would have taken the #10 slot by default if this were any other year), Mistaken For Strangers, Lucy, 22 Jump Street, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks, The Lego Movie, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier/Guardians Of The Galaxy which was pushed out of the Top 10 at the very last minute.  It’s a testament to the Top 10 that these films, all of which I love, are the ones that just missed out.

So, no more pre-amble faffing.  Today, we go through entries 10 to 6.  Are we all ready?  In that case, TITANS, GO!

There may be spoilers.  Proceed with caution.


edge of tomorrow10] Edge Of Tomorrow

Dir: Doug Liman

Star: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

Edge Of Tomorrow is something that 2014 surprisingly lacked: a damn fun, pure blockbuster.  Much of this past Summer consisted of films that either took themselves way too seriously, were majorly flawed in some way, or severely underwhelmed and disappointed.  That’s not including those films that were desperately trying to force a franchise out of thin air, or were so busy trying to set-up pays-offs in practically guaranteed later films that they did nothing and told no stories in their current films.  Blockbuster filmmaking nowadays frequently consists of nothing but po-faced seriousness, loud noises and delayed gratification.

Then in swaggers Edge Of Tomorrow, wide-eyed with optimism, confident in what it wants to do, aviator sunglasses proclaiming it to be the coolest motherf*cker in the room at that moment in time, and looking for some fun.  It takes one look at the dreary and dull way that everybody else is doing things, sees how the general public is lapping up that crap, then swiftly turns around and marches back out that door.  Edge Of Tomorrow wants nothing to do with the modern blockbuster.  It wants to be fun, it wants to smarter than just loud noises, it wants to tell a full and complete story, the kind that only a $178 million budget can provide, and it does not give one f*ck if anybody else cares or not.

By the time that Edge Of Tomorrow had arrived in cinemas, I was in rather low spirits for 2014 film.  I had come off a string of disappointments and was all prepared for this film that I had heard good things about and seen advertised majorly to similarly underwhelm me.  Instead, over the course of 113 brilliant minutes, I was rejuvenated and reminded of why I love the movies.  Sometimes you want to sit down and be challenged, be pushed, be confronted and to experience something very serious.  But sometimes you just want to sit down and watch something fun, and Edge Of Tomorrow delivers that in spades.  It takes its central premise – the day resetting every time that Tom Cruise’s Major William Cage dies – and goes for broke, exploiting it for drama, comedy, black comedy, character work, and a tonne of incredibly awesome action moments.

But it’s also smart, it has a brain going on up in its head.  Edge Of Tomorrow is fun and spectacle, but grounds that fun and spectacle in excellent character work and committed performances.  Tom Cruise sheds his usual charm and movie star charisma to play a slimy cowardly ass and he is equally as strong at that as he is when Cage slowly becomes braver, more in control, more heroic; his excellent performance adding onto the extremely well written character.  Emily Blunt, meanwhile, is a goddamn revelation as Sgt. Rita Vrataski, absolutely commanding the screen in a performance of such intensity and skill and quiet emotion that, in a decent and deserving world, would catapult her to A-list superstardom.  Vrataski, too, is one hell of a character, a strong capable woman who has been hardened by trauma but is not emotionless or humourless or relegated and degraded by the film.  In other words, the kind of female character that blockbusters almost never bother to create.

It’s not perfect, it’s not thematically heavy, and I do wish that it ended about two minutes earlier, before the bittersweet ending is turned into a completely happy ending, but those flaws only serve to raise Edge Of Tomorrow as a whole.  They are the flaws and rough edges of a scrappy individualistic film, a film that does its own thing and remains steadfast against studio interference and focus grouping as much as possible.  They throw what Edge Of Tomorrow does right into sharper relief and Edge Of Tomorrow gets so much right.  It’s a reminder of what blockbuster filmmaking is capable of if it would get its head out from its ass, stop purely focussing on profit margins, quit focus-testing everything, and stopped sucking the teat of serialisation and franchising.

In a decade or so’s time, we as a film-going audience, along with a generation of filmmakers with studio budgets, are going to look back at Edge Of Tomorrow and go, “Yep, we should have done more of that.  We should be doing more of that.”


09] Starred Upstarred up

Dir: David Mackenzie

Star: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend

Forget the trailer.  Ignore the trailer.  That is not Starred UpStarred Up is not a dark, gritty, lads’ “C’MON, YOU SLAAAAAGS!!” prison flick with nothing going on aimed solely at the lowest common male denominator.  Starred Up is actually a bleak, unflinching, realist melodrama about masculinity, fathers, and the self-perpetuation of the modern prison system.  It is not a film that asks you to like any of its characters, it is not a film that revels in its bursts of violence or nastiness, it is not a film that is interested in fulfilling anybody’s fantasies of how cool prison is.  Starred Up is an angry film and you are damn well going to pay attention to what it wants to say.

Much of the plaudits thrown Starred Up’s way are for Jack O’Connell’s central performance as Eric Love, and it’s hard to argue against that.  O’Connell – in the first of what turned out to be three outstanding performances from this past year, I really hope that this momentum keeps up because he deserves to be a star – plays Love with such barely restrained intensity that perfectly fits his livewire tendencies without going overboard into ham and cheese.  He’s also able to reach down and find the sadness, the wounded nature at the heart of Eric that powers his angry violent lashings out at the world and which makes them hurt that much more.  Eric Love could have been a cartoon character in the wrong hands, but O’Connell mixes that intensity, that vulnerability, an air of mystery and his own natural likeability as an actor to create a profoundly complex lead.  It really is a powerhouse performance.

But to focus solely on O’Connell would be to do the rest of Starred Up a disservice.  The script, for example, by newcomer Jonathan Asser, grounds its more melodramatic tendencies in a low-key rather realist way.  The tropes that you expect to show up in a prison drama – corrupt officers, shankings, prisoners running the show, lots of swearing – turn up here, but they’re executed in a low-key way.  Big deals aren’t made of them, they’re just everyday facts of prison life and their appearances tie back into character work, with Eric’s crazed alpha-male desire to make a name for himself both disrupting the delicate nature of this broken system and re-enforcing his worst impulses, and the film’s bleak overall message of the self-perpetuating cycle of prison.

Nobody in Starred Up is clean or fully good.  There are only shades of grey and even darker shades of grey.  Even the closest thing the film gets to a fully sympathetic character, in Rupert Friend’s tired and ceaselessly loyal prison therapist, is still strongly hinted to have some kind of superiority complex powering his actions – his adamant claim of “I need to be here” can be taken so many ways.  Eric’s been raised with the belief that self-destructiveness and violence is the only acceptable form of masculinity, and he can’t realise that all it has done is destroy his life.  It’s also so deep-seated that all of that hard therapy work can be instantly discarded the second his dad turns up and tries to make up for lost time by steering him the wrong way and completely misreading his son.  Not to mention the fact that the actual prison staff view the people they are assigned to look after with nothing but contempt; deep-seated beliefs that all of their charges are irredeemable and not worth even trying to reform.

The film’s more melodramatic moments – shower attacks, the final 10 to 15 minutes – benefit from that realist nihilism and strong character work.  Such effort has gone into fashioning a portrait of our broken prison system that the moments where more blatantly fictional touches break through still fit within the previously established world and nature of the film, acting like cappers to its overall point.  Couple that foundation with extremely well-handled themes, great supporting performances (Friend’s increasing desperation in protecting his little group is especially well-conveyed), an excellent script, and a thunderous central Jack O’Connell performance and you get a film as commanding and fiercely memorable as Starred Up.  It is bleak viewing, but it is vital viewing and it is so much better than the trailer suggests.


grand budapest hotel08] The Grand Budapest Hotel

Dir: Wes Anderson

Star: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, a lot of others

My first viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel underwhelmed me somewhat and I am willing to chalk that up to two things.  The first was trailer overexposure – this thing was relentlessly trailed before films for months on end, a lot of its best laughs were featured in it, and most everything stops being funny when you’ve seen it for the 20th time – the second was personal overhyping – I really liked that trailer when it dropped and was really bloody excited for the finished film.  I still thought it was a very good movie, but overexposure (the catalyst in getting me to just walk out during trailers now) and my weird belief that I was going to get a more monumental film than what I ended up getting lead to my questioning of whether this was it, as it were.

A second viewing later in the year proved me to be majorly and totally wrong on every negative account.  See, Grand Budapest is my first proper Wes Anderson film – I had seen Fantastic Mr. Fox in late 2012, but that was it – and so I wasn’t properly prepared for what was in store, expecting something different than what I got (I don’t know what it was I was expecting, but there you go).  I think the rather low-key nature of Grand Budapest caught me off guard.  It’s a film whose scale is large – encompassing tonnes of characters in a wide range of locations across multiple time periods and several different aspect ratios – yet whose stakes are rather small and its central character relationships tight knit.

And it’s that closeness that actually makes The Grand Budapest Hotel resonate and stick.  This is a very funny film – good lord, is it ever a very funny film, especially pretty much anything that comes out the mouth of an absolutely dynamite Ralph Fiennes – but what sticks with me after watching this film, both in the immediate aftermath and in the days and weeks after, is the sadness that runs throughout the entire film due to that closeness.  This is a sad film, a melancholy film, a film that never lets that sadness get buried under too many layers of whimsy or raucous jokes.  It is a film that is sad for days long since passed, both in terms of humanity – with barbarism and self-interest corroding decency and respectability – and filmmaking – there’s genuine love coming from Anderson’s insistence on using virtually every aspect ratio ever used in a commercial cinema release.

Yet the irony is that none of its characters are from the time it’s so wistfully nostalgic for.  Gustave H. is a man of some level of respectability and civility stuck in a time that slides further into greed and fascism the longer he sticks around.  Zero is a man who is clearly wounded and saddened by a world that would reject the actions and principles of a man like Gustave, and whose life is marked by constant loss and the encroachment of old age.  The Author is fascinated by the stories of Zero and Gustave H. but remains removed and emotionally distant due to both his profession and the fact that he doesn’t get the true feeling of that time due to having experienced nothing close to it.  The Young Girl who reads the book that starts off our film similarly can only paint a picture in her head of those times, to escape the miserable looking world that she is currently a part of, and it’s unlikely to resemble anything close to reality.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is very much about people trapped out of time, even Inspector Henckles who tries to deal with proceedings in a civil manner despite the force that he is a part of being of the barbaric type.  That wistful nostalgia does not really exist for many of its characters, as the time they are nostalgic for frequently ended long before they were born.  Yet, it’s what bonds them, it’s what brings Zero and Agatha together, it’s what makes Gustav and Zero such fire-forged friends, and it’s what ultimately proves their downfalls; their inability to let go.  Yet, they are respected and admired by the film and by Anderson for that commitment to their nostalgia – why should holding onto a time when people weren’t being violent fascist pigs be considered a bad thing? – and that’s why the film’s gradual reveal of its incredibly bittersweet ending feels so poignant.

It’s a film that is sold on its laughs and its quirkiness, but stays with me thanks to its deep-rooted sadness and melancholy heart.  It’s an incredibly clever and impeccably well-balanced film and pulls off that tightrope walk – sentimental without being sappy, riotously funny without drowning out the melancholy or becoming too bawdy – with aplomb.  I should really make the time to watch more Wes Anderson films, already.


07] NightcrawlerNIGHTCRAWLER

Dir: Dan Gilroy

Star: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed

First things first, Nightcrawler contains my single favourite film scene in all of 2014.  I am referring to “Horror House”.  Not the bit where Lou Bloom is filming the sequence, nor the bit where he utterly unnervingly shreds Morning News Director Nina over negotiations for the tape (although that is close), the bit where it goes to air and the film makes you sit through every last agonising second as a whole studio full of ratings hungry opportunists exploit the misery and suffering of others for profit.  It’s the way that it twists the knife and turns the screws and keeps going, and going, and going, forcing you to sit through the whole segment, making you complicit in their work, and being written and presented in such a way that the scene stopped being a sequence from a movie for me and became something uncomfortably close to our reality.

It’s a magnificent scene and it also hides the true target of Nightcrawler’s venomous anger in plain sight.  Nightcrawler is a takedown of sensationalist 24-hour cable news networks, but it’s also a blisteringly angry screed against Capitalism, encapsulated in “Horror House” by having the news crew exploit the suffering of others to further their own hunt for money and success, especially hammering home the idea that a wealthy white suburban family was murdered by lower-class possibly Hispanic (at the time it’s unclear, not that that stops any of the anchors from pushing down hard on this button) gang members.  After all, nothing’s more likely to keep the broken system of Capitalism in place than by terrifying those with the power and success that the unworthy lower classes are coming to take everything away from them, whilst simultaneously profiting off of that fear.

The film’s thoughts and views on Capitalism can be best summed up by the character of Lou Bloom himself, a walking encapsulation of everything that is wrong with the system.  Lou is a complete sociopath purely interested in his own self-gain.  He is somebody who has been told time and time again that he deserves success and that he can win at The American Dream if he just works hard enough, and when that doesn’t happen he resorts to crime and petty theft to claw his way up.  He speaks near-exclusively in sound-bites ripped from corporate handbooks, justifies everything he ever does in cold, calculated business terms and is incapable of treating people like humans – later revealed to be down to his contempt for them.

Then, he stumbles into a field where his sociopathy, lack of morals and complete disregard for social decency and the law are rewarded.  His desire to stay one step ahead, by any means necessary, in the Nightcrawling business gets him the money, the car, the recognition and the in to start climbing up the corporate ladder.  And when he doesn’t get what he wants, he manipulates, blackmails, threatens, sexually exploits, and even near-outright murders to get his way.  But not once is Lou punished.  Not once does he truly hit a setback, because Capitalism is broken and those who are willing to cross the moral line are the ones who will successfully make it, whilst the rest will be left in the dust to be exploited by those who go too far.  [BRIEF SPOILER BIT, SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU’VE YET TO SEE THE FILM] That’s why Lou gets off scott-free in the end.  Sure, the police technically have enough evidence to put him away, but to do that would be to undermine the message: Lou has won Capitalism because of his complete sociopathy and lack of a moral code.  Even his new company logo is ripped straight from that of the rival he killed earlier!

Jake Gyllenhaal puts in the performance of his career as Lou Bloom, always keeping the viewer at a distance yet forcefully commanding their attention at all times.  He’s clearly relishing the opportunity to sink his teeth into such a detestable yet complex role, and his total commitment to making Lou this utterly abhorrent and frightening monster is a major reason of why the film works.  Rene Russo also puts in her best performance in years as a similarly repulsive but slightly more socially acceptable female counterpart to Lou, Dan Gilroy’s direction for his debut feature is confident and assured, I have already talked about James Newton Howard’s quietly genius score, and the film is also tightly paced and expertly structured.  Nightcrawler is an outstandingly relevant and captivating film that features a villain protagonist for the ages, and satire and venom that deserves way more analysis and conversation than it has sparked.  A film for 2014 if there ever was one.


the guest06] The Guest

Dir: Adam Wingard

Star: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Lance Reddick

Holy hell, is this one ever fun!  Dumped into the beginning of September with precious little fanfare and left to fend for itself, The Guest is one of the biggest gems I have stumbled across all year.  Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s, previous of You’re Next, demented genre hybrid thriller is just pure good old fashioned fun.  That’s it.  There is nothing deeper to The Guest, no giant thematic core or major emotional centre, and no huge twist to it.  The Guest is just pure, undiluted fun and, as mentioned back in my entry on Edge Of Tomorrow, fun is something that I put a very big price on due to its growing rarity in the modern filmmaking landscape.

So, what is The Guest?  After all, I spent pretty much all of September doing nothing but praise the ever-loving crap out of it and despairing when, unsurprisingly, nobody saw it.  Well, The Guest is hard to categorise for people who haven’t seen it, partially because it hops around between genres like an indecisive driver coming up on a line of toll booths, but mainly because the fun of The Guest is watching it slowly reveal its true colours.  In the most general terms, it’s a throwback to trashy 80s B-Movies, mashing together elements of psychological thrillers, gory low-budget action films, the works of John Carpenter, and a nice sprinkling of camp.  It sounds like a mess, but Barrett’s script is airtight, Wingard’s direction is so confident, and the pair are so learned in what they are trying to emulate that it works perfectly.

It also helps that they have an outstanding central performance to hang proceedings onto.  I’ve raved about Dan Stevens in my review of the film, so I’ll let you go back and re-read that to save me from repeating myself, but I cannot stress how absolutely note perfect he is here – switching between charming, terrifying, and utterly hilarious (in a deadpan way) effortlessly whilst keeping David a consistent character throughout.  He’s also matched beat for beat by Maika Monroe who expertly embodies the determined Final Girl archetype whilst making it her own.  The film visually is wonderfully stylish, the soundtrack is one of the very best of the entire year, and it is by far the coolest film of the year thanks to the way it completely owns and openly embraces its campy tendencies – the finale is absolutely hilarious and unbearably tense without one ever undermining the other.

Look, I want to write a giant (attempted) intellectual deep analysis of this film like I have everything else so far on this list, one that gets to the root of why this film works and why I love it so, but I just can’t because The Guest is not that kind of film.  The Guest actively resists that kind of analysis because, quite frankly, its start and its end can be summed up with “it is a hell of a lot of fun” which it very much is.  It is also damn near flawless at what it aims to do, it’s an immaculately constructed film that I can’t find a single wasted second, dropped pacing or glaring flaw in.  Sometimes, a film sticks out as excellent purely because of how much fun it is and The Guest is the single most amount of fun I have had in a cinema all year.

Or, to put it another way, I saw it opening day and went back for a second go-around seven days later.  I would likely have kept going every Friday if the film hadn’t been pulled from cinemas in near-record time.  Whilst you are reading this, I will be watching it again on the Blu-Ray that I picked up on the first day it was available, and my writing for this is being fuelled by the film’s soundtrack.  This is just a straight shot of pure smile-inducing fun, for me, and you are officially out of excuses to not give it a shot.


That’s the first half of the countdown done.  Tomorrow, we’ll tackle numbers 5 to 1.  In the meantime, let me know in the comments on whether you agree with my picks or not and what some of your favourite films of 2014 are!

Callum Petch’s letters are returned to sender.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 21/11/14 – 23/11/14

Mockingjay fails to catch Fire – a headline that literally every other writer has already used in a week where literally nothing else happened, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Well…  Er…  Hi.  … … …how are you all doing?  I am tired, I will tell you that much.  I’m currently running on less than six hours sleep, and that is currently the lowest reason on my list as to why I could faceplant this keyboard at any second today.  My life has just been non-stop these past few weeks, just one thing after another like “boom, boom, boom” without stopping.  So many commitments, films to see, articles to write, essays to prep and pen, lectures to attend, radio stuff to thing-that-you-do-to-stuff… is this what being a responsible adult is like?  I both hate and love it, I’ll tell you that much.  Anyways, I still have a written review to crank out and a radio show to do before I can collapse onto my bed, so let’s just get this blasted article done and over with, eh?

The good news for my slowly vacating sanity, and my long vacated energy, is that there was literally only one release this past weekend.  Seriously; just the one.  No other saturation releases, no wide, no limited, nothing.  Everything else vacated November the 21st of 2014 in order to avoid The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1.  For comparison’s sake, there will be two big saturation releases going up against The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies this December.  That should demonstrate just how commanding an amount of power that The Hunger Games currently has, as every other release possible went “f*ck that noise!” and upped sticks.  Mockingjay, Part 1, then, would prove just how much those fears were worth by underwhelming majorly opening weekend.

Now, of course, I need to specify that a $123 million opening weekend – the biggest that we have seen, and will see, all year – is not in itself underwhelming.  I mean, $123 million is a lot to the likes of you and I.  Unfortunately, though, we have to look at that opening through Hollywood Accounting in order to understand why people aren’t exactly rushing to break out the party poppers.  For one, there’s the fact that many people had predicted Mockingjay, Part 1 to open in the $150 million range, so seeing it come up short, and so thoroughly at that, is gonna sting.  For two, the previous Hunger Games both opened in the $150 mil range, and third instalments in popular franchises are supposed to not retreat so much opening weekend.  For three, it didn’t magically cure Hollywood’s haemorrhaging money problem that’s been plaguing it all year, so f*ck the film.

So, yes, unfortunately The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is a major financial failure.  That $123 million domestic and $152 million overseas – which combine to already make both this and Part 2 break even financially – means absolutely nothing.  Jennifer Lawrence’s box office clout has been majorly hit, Lionsgate stock is plummeting to an all-time low, Elizabeth Banks will never be involved in another movie ever again because this is all her fault somehow, and it seems that the search for the next true successor to the box office invincibility that Harry Potter held for a full decade goes on!

I mean, that’s what I’m supposed to write, yeah?  Because we can’t just congratulate the thing and realise that this dip only exists because it’s “Part 1 of 2”, can we?  We have to get out the Doom Parade and have a whinge and a moan, don’t we?  I mean, Christ, lighten up, would ya?  Sure, it’s been a bad year at the box office.  Let’s maybe temper the gloom with some positivity about the few films that are actually making money, eh?  Instead of crying about successful movies that make executives rich arseholes not being mega-successful movies that make executives even richer arseholes.


mocking jay 1

This Full List is locking up everyone that ever laid a finger on it.

Box Office Results: Friday 21st November 2014 – Sunday 23rd November 2014

1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$123,000,000 / NEW

Saw this Thursday, review will be up tomorrow at some point.  Short version: loved what I got, but its one flaw is major, near-fatal, and right there in the title.

2] Big Hero 6

$20,086,000 / $135,708,000

If you live in America and have seen this, know that I hate you.  Nothing personal, and I love the fact that you’re making Disney films mega-smashes again, but I am stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic being punished for something severe that I must’ve done in a past life, and so can’t see this until January as I will keep complaining about until somebody at Disney FIXES THE GODDAMN ISSUE!!

Also, turns out that The Wild, which wasn’t even made by them, is in the Disney Animated Classics canon in the UK.  I’ll have to tell you about that sometime.

3] Interstellar

$15,100,000 / $120,692,000

I wrote a piece last Thursday where I lamented the lack of notable scores from 2014, and somebody wrote back listing a good 4 more than the ones I put in my article.  Whilst I appreciate his disagreement and concede that none of the scores he listed jumped out at me during the viewing of those films in question, I think he may have missed the point.  It’s not that 2014 hasn’t had any good scores, it’s that the majority of cinema for a good while now hasn’t bothered to try to create scores with any distinct personality.  There are exceptions to the rule, but that’s what they are: exceptions, and I want those exceptions to become more frequent than they currently are.

That, or my article was terribly written and I was talking out of my arse.  …  …it’s probably the second one.

4] Dumb And Dumber To

$13,820,000 / $57,473,000

Mega-steep 62% drop between weekends signalling that everybody has wizened up to the fact that The Farrelly Brothers have been incapable of creating anything good for, ooh, 13 or 14 years now.  You know, in case the fact that Peter Farrelly was the diabolical monster responsible for helping Movie 43 come together hadn’t already given that away.

5] Gone Girl

$2,185,000 / $156,823,000

You know what’s amazing?  This is Gone Girl’s eighth straight week in the Top Five.  You know what’s pretty much unbelievable?  I think I’ve found a film from this year that I love more than it.  Stay tuned to the site this week, you’ll know when the relevant review goes up.

6] Beyond The Lights

$2,630,000 / $10,124,000

I got nuthin’.  Moving on…

7] St. Vincent

$2,354,000 / $36,613,000

I have no idea how this has managed to hang around in the Top 10 for so long.  I really, really don’t.  Hey!  Maybe it’ll stick around for another two weeks, when it actually comes out in the UK and I can therefore actually talk about it, instead of just spouting nonsense!  Wouldn’t that be something?

8] Fury

$1,900,000 / $79,150,000

In the most tenuous link possible – Fury, The Furious Five – allow me to use this space to ask you to check out this week’s entry into the DreamWorks Animation Retrospective, Kung Fu Panda!  In fact, if you have a spare afternoon or, more accurately, a spare day, why not get caught up on the series so far?  Seriously, I put a hell of a lot of effort into those and am really proud of how most of them have turned out – and I am never proud of anything I ever do, so this means a lot – so if you could take time out to give them a read and fling feedback or insults my way, it would be highly appreciated!

9] Birdman

$1,855,000 / $14,407,000

So, I guess this isn’t going to break out of the art scene, after all.  Figured as much.  More pertinent question, is Birdman in any way related to Dayman?  These are the questions that need answering, folks!

10] The Theory Of Everything

$1,500,000 / $2,796,000

This film is sh*t until it can prove itself otherwise.  Unfortunately for it, the UK release date is New Year’s Day, so I have plenty more time to rag on just how absolutely putrid this film looks until then!

Dropped Out: Nightcrawler, Ouija

Callum Petch is just a child whenever you show up.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

On Interstellar & Nightcrawler’s Scores

Callum Petch takes a look at the film scores of Interstellar and Nightcrawler and looks at the effect they have on their respective films.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

james newton howardQuestion: how many films can you name this year where the score was something that actually caught your attention as you were watching it?  And I don’t mean licensed music or songs written specifically for the film by the latest hot band (so exclude Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Guest and any musical so far), I mean the actual score that’s sat there helping drive events along.  I can count Under The Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Double, Gone Girl and the two films I’m talking about today.  That’s really about it.  Out of 113 films that I have seen from 2014, I can recall the score from only six.

See, the art of the film score is very much receding in general perception nowadays as they become more about mood setting than attention grabbing.  Now, admittedly, this is how it should be to a degree: a film’s score should get the audience into the mood of the film, compliment the visuals and the narrative, and be a cog in the machine that helps elevate the whole of the film.  The trouble comes from just how… unmemorable and interchangeable a lot of modern day film scores are.  There’s no personality there, no individual touch that makes Film A stand out from Film B aside from some half-assed attempt at a leitmotif.

The reason why, say, that distinctive theme from Jaws managed to break into popular culture is because there is personality.  You hear that slow, ominous build and you instantly think Jaws, it can’t be anything else.  It’s distinctive, but it also builds mood which is why a whole bunch of other media over the years have lifted it wholesale for their own ends.  It’s why hearing it come up in Jaws, despite it having broken into the popular culture and used as joke fodder for a lot of the last four decades, one doesn’t burst out into laughter or get dragged out of the film.  It fits the mood, it complements the film, but it’s also distinctive and has its own personality.

Too many films nowadays seem afraid to try and add personality to their scores.  They see them as just a cog that can be slapped together and forgotten about.  That, or they’re afraid that a big, showy, personality-filled score will detract from the experience.  And whilst that is true – as I will demonstrate with one example in a bit – it shouldn’t discourage composers and filmmakers from trying anyway, since a score doesn’t need to be big and showy to have personality or be memorable.  Although The Double’s soundtrack commands your attention with its loud, melodramatic and darkly hilarious violins played by what sounds like an orchestra held at gunpoint – which is distinctive and perfectly fits the mood of the film itself – Under The Skin manages to be just as memorable with barely anything more than an uneasy discordant drone – again, distinctive and fitting.

A dull interchangeable score blends into the background and neither helps nor hinders the film that it’s attached to.  A distinctive and memorable score grabs the attention and can either enhance a film’s positive attributes or highlight its glaring weaknesses.  Lots of filmmakers seem to be afraid of the second half of the latter option, and so opt to go for the former instead.  Whilst I understand why, I ultimately prefer the second option, because that shows some semblance of an effort, creativity, and personality in proceedings – the most memorable aspect of any Marvel Studios score that I’ve heard in the last six years has been the one that backs their frickin’ studio logo, for example.

So, in that respect, I’d like to briefly look at two recent film scores that are loud, distinctive, and personality-filled and explain how they embody all of the flaws and enhance the positive aspects of their films, respectively.  Specifically: Hans Zimmer’s overwrought and majorly distracting score for Interstellar, and James Newton Howard’s off-kilter and bizarrely brilliant score for Nightcrawler.

Let’s do Interstellar first.  Now, I seem to be in the minority on this one – yes, I know, you are bowled over in surprise by this twist – but I detest Zimmer’s score for the film.  I find it incredibly overwrought, desperate, and ultimately hollow and insincere.  His recurrent leitmotif of incredibly loud church organ notes whenever something “epic” is going down comes off like the keys are being manned by a narcoleptic who nobody can bother to remove from the instrument when he does inadvertently nod off.  The constant piling on of instruments when they’re not needed, the cacophonous nature that drowns out a lot of the dialogue (although that’s more of a problem with the sound mixing than anything else), the extreme self-consciousness of its attempts to call back to hard sci-fi, and the fake-ness of it all – at no point did I get the impression that anybody involved truly put emotion into this.  It’s like somebody who has never actually felt emotions trying to make other people to feel emotions; it doesn’t convince.

Consequently, this actually ends up being emblematic of Interstellar’s faults at large.  The film itself is so cold, so clinical, yet so desperately trying to stir up emotions within its audience that it comes off as phony and awkward.  The script lacks characters, but has plenty of time to over-explain every little bit of science that goes on in the film – like it’s worried that Neil deGrasse-Tyson is going to burst in through some nearby window and demand to see the Nolans’ science credentials.  Nolan’s filmmaking style, and I’d like to note that I don’t consider it a criticism as long as he’s working within that wheelhouse, is very removed, emotionally distant and intellectual.  Unfortunately, he took on a project that doesn’t play to those strengths at all and so spends a lot of the film failing miserably at emulating the style of Steven Spielberg (whom this project was originally meant for).  Nolan creates moments and images of wonder and beauty, but fails terribly at making those coalesce in a way that feels genuine or is even sustained for more than a minute or two at a time.

Therefore, since the film is so detached emotionally even though it is trying so hard to grasp that human concept, the job of getting the audience emotionally invested falls on the score.  Hence why it goes so all-out so frequently and so heavily.  Every second of the thing is trying desperately to pick up the ball that the film drops, trying to overwhelm the audience in the hopes that the kitchen sink will finally elicit some semblance of an appropriate emotional reaction.  Like the film itself, it does work in fits and starts, but it can’t keep it up for any longer than a minute or so at a time.  For every pretty little dancing synth in the background, there’s seven separate segments where the foregrounded strings and organ are noticeably straining under the weight of the task placed upon them.  Hence why the overall product feels thuddingly manipulative and insincere.

Again, I realise that I am in the minority about this.  I expressed my thoughts on Interstellar’s score in one of my Film Studies classes shortly after release and one of the guys I know on it looked at me like I just admitted to eating puppies.  He tried to counter by stating his belief that the score could tell the story of the film by itself, but I think that just bolsters my view even more.  The score has to do the hard work because Interstellar itself fails at its end of the deal, so the score ends up swinging for the fences in order to try and make up for that.  The score is certainly distinctive, but it just adds to the distractingly fake nature of a lot of the film and only ends up making its shortcomings more noticeable.

Contrast with James Newton Howard’s score for Nightcrawler.  Now, in theory, this thing really should not work – our own Owen Hughes certainly didn’t think it did – and should be one of those soundtracks where you just sit there and go, “just what in the blue hell were they thinking?”  Nightcrawler, after all, is a dark and occasionally darkly funny satire about capitalism hidden within a brutally angry takedown of 24 hour commercial news networks.  I think the very last thing anybody expected to be backing key scenes was a distractingly out-of-place reverb-soaked guitar that makes it seem like Louis Bloom’s adventure is one that is hopeful and worthy of success.  Or take the ending with its strangled Jimi-Hendrix-rendition-of-“Star Spangled Banner”-reminiscent overdriven guitar riff.  Or even the scene before that which is backed by something that belongs more in a light-hearted comedy drama than Nightcrawler.

This is not a score that one can tune out, either.  Its atypical and ill-fitting nature is constantly calling to the viewer’s attention.  Not blatantly, in the sense that it is screaming for your attention, but in the way that one is having a conversation but keeps noticing something abnormal in the background that just won’t stop distracting you.  And that, essentially, is the point.  Nightcrawler’s score is purposefully atypical and ill-fitting because it wants to be, because it reflects the state of mind of the person whose viewpoint we are experiencing the narrative through at that moment in time.

For example, Owen cites a section around the film’s midpoint where Lou makes a speech towards Nina about his goals in life.  It seems genuinely heartfelt and completely sincere – even though we the audience already know that Lou is pretty much incapable of sincerity due to his sociopathic nature – and is the kind of speech that, in a different film, would be a life-affirming inspirational moment as the scrappy underdog outlines their Big City ambitions and desire to win at the game of Capitalism.  So that is how the scene is scored.  Because the person we are experiencing this scene through is not a detached third party – it’s through Lou.  And for Lou, in the film of his life, this is that moment.

It’s why multiple sequences where he watches his footage back on TV are backed by jaunty, bouncy tunes.  To us, these are horrifying examples of a complete sociopath exploiting the trauma and fragility of those victimised by our morally bankrupt society in order to raise his own standing within it.  To him, these are moments of victory where the people involved are secondary to his own accomplishments, him having that little empathy for those whose tragedy he is filming.  It’s why the sequence where he screams into the mirror has this dark foreboding music; for Lou, this is his low point, where he is being unfairly kept from success by bigger people than him.  The whole film could have been backed like that, to help scream to the viewer that this is wrong and to keep us at a very comfortable observatory distance from the people and events on screen.  But that’s not what happens, and that in turn makes the deployment of those ominous synths carry that much weight.

Or, to case study real quick, there is a reason why the two segments of the sequence that make up “Horror House” are scored so differently.  The first, when Lou is shooting it, is given this rather urgent and tense synth rumble – something that combines with the purposeful lacking in focus on the bodies and the violence to show how Lou sees the sequence: a tense race-against-time to document this once-in-a-lifetime footage before the cops show up; the victims being incidental.  The second, as the footage hits the air, replaces the urgency with ominous darkness which, coupled with the focus on the bodies and the almost fetishizing of said violence, paints the scene as something from a movie.  Fitting seeing as we are experiencing this scene from Nina’s perspective and she’s trying to conduct the sequence into being Must See TV.

Again, the film could have stuck with that the whole way through.  It could have backed every scene with ominous synth bass rumbles, to add a few exclamation points to the idea that this is absolutely not something to idolise or aspire to.  But not only would the film have lost the impact of when those times do appear – such as just before the film’s action sequence where, coincidentally, we switch narrative perspectives to Rick for a short while – it would also have lost its character study angle.  Nightcrawler gets its messages across through its characters, showing how utterly warped their sense of morality and worldview has to be to win at their various games, and that idea would have been lost if the score were endlessly generic and repetitively ominous – much like my usage of that word.  Such a prominent and attention-calling score was undoubtedly a risk, because it is so off-beat, but it ends up working gangbusters and elevates the rest of the film as a result.

So, now that we’ve done that, allow me to ask and answer a question: what do the scores for Interstellar and Nightcrawler have in common besides being very noticeable and memorable?  Honestly, nothing.  One works, one doesn’t, one overcooks proceedings whilst the other seasons them just right, one has to make up for its attached film’s flaws and only ends up making them more glaring whilst the other compliments the excellent film it backs and highlights its strengths even more.  In the sense of their being scores, there’s really nothing linking them together, except one key thing…

I’m talking about them.  I may hate Hans Zimmer’s work on Interstellar, but I’m talking about it.  I’ll know it when some part of it inevitably breaks through into pop culture.  I love Nightcrawler’s score, and I find the score such an integral part of that film’s feel that I can’t picture the film without it.  Same with Interstellar.  Meanwhile, you could switch the soundtracks for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Transformers: Age Of Extinction and I honestly would likely be unable to tell the difference.  Too many films are afraid to try crafting a score with a legitimate personality nowadays, instead settling for a fun licensed soundtrack and Generic Blockbuster Score #264 to trundle proceedings along, and that disheartens me.

Just because you may fail, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t even bother to try.  I am of the firm belief that the worst thing a film can do is leave me with no reaction whatsoever.  A film can make me angry, offend me, upset me, repulse me, but at least it got a reaction and isn’t that what films are supposed to do?  To get a reaction out of us?  I prefer a vehemently negative reaction to a shrug of total indifference, because then I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time.  I’ve felt something, and way too few scores nowadays are willing to take that risk because they believe that the risk of a negative reaction far outweighs the reward of a good one.

I’d like to see more film scores try.  Try to have some personality, some noticeable thing and quality about it that lends the overall film a specific feel that it can’t get from any other score.  Something that does its part to help brand a film as That Film.  I want them to try.  I want a reaction, more than anything else.  Interstellar and Nightcrawler do this.  Under The Skin, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Double do this.  I’d like that list to be longer in today’s films.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Callum Petch is overqualified for the position.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 14/11/14 – 16/11/14

Dumb and Dumber audiences turn up in droves for Dumb And Dumber To, Beyond The Lights exists an imaginary pile of cash, Christmas is doomed, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Surprisingly, it turns out that the audience size for a sequel to Dumb & Dumber is about equal to that of the audience for a second week Disney film, which I genuinely did not see coming.  Dumb And Dumber To ended up taking the top spot this weekend with about $38 million in ticket sales, just $2 million more than what Big Hero 6 managed.  For those wondering, my surprise keeps alternating between “that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?” and “only that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?”  I dunno.  I’m in shock, I just don’t know what I’m in shock at.

In any case, unlike next week, there was more than one new release this weekend.  With regards to the wide releases, bottom of the pack was Beyond The Lights – a film whose trailer just caused me to vomit profusely in sickening anger – which could only manage a very mediocre $6.5 million from 1,800 screen for a distant fourth place.  Birdman continued its slow expansion nationwide and managed to crack the Top 10, albeit with about the same haul as last week but in more theatres.  Whiplash, meanwhile, continues to be punished for NOT BEING IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW DAMMIT by struggling to find a non-arthouse audience – its expansion to 441 theatres could only manage $801,000.

In limited release land, we have a pair of successes, an OK performer, and a hilarious failure in more ways than one.  Most successful of the lot was the speculative fiction drama Foxcatcher which rode a near-literal wave of buzz and good press to a weekend total of $288,000 from six theatres – a ridiculous per-screen average of $48,000.  Performing much less great than that – but still great, it must be said – is the Tommy Lee Jones-directed western drama The Homesman which managed a very respectable $48,000 from 4 screens for a $12,000 per-screen average.  Whilst in expanding news, The Theory Of Everything infected another 36 theatres and raked in an average of $18,000 from each of them.  Yes, I do think that film looks insufferable, don’t act surprised.

Elsewhere, John Stewart of The Daily Show (as every mention of his name must be suffixed with by royal decree) released his directorial debut this past weekend and Rosewater did… OK.  It managed $1.2 million from 371 theatres for a per-screen average of $3,325, which is OK.  Not great, not poor, OK.  It’s fine, could’ve been better but still enough to crack the Top 15.  Much less OK, and more closer to straight up “bomb” territory, was Saving Christmas which could only manage $1,012,000 from 410 screens for a dismal $2,468 per-screen average.  This means that either Americans don’t give a sh*t about the threat that faces Christmas, or that stoners who want to laugh at inept entertainment with no redeemable value except MST3K sessions were too busy staying at home watching Adult Swim.  In either case, America is doomed.

Oh, and The Book Of Life collapsed out of the Top 10 because you people hate good movies.


dumb and dumber to

This Full List is Dumberer than the other box office reports you could be reading elsewhere.  Also, it just reminded you that Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd existed and now you hate life.

Box Office Results: Friday 14th November 2014 – Sunday 16th November 2014

1] Dumb And Dumber To

$38,053,000 / NEW

So the film that my Secondary School Physics teacher would throw on almost quite literally whenever he couldn’t be bothered to teach us finally got a sequel, eh?  Well, if it leads to a late-career resurgence for Jim Carrey then I won’t complain.  I still really like Jim Carrey and that streak he had in the mid-to-late 90s still predominately holds up!  I’d like to see him get one last run at the spotlight.

2] Big Hero 6

$36,010,000 / $111,653,000

There are people on this world that do not like The Emperor’s New Groove.  I do not know who these people are or why they are incapable of experiencing joy, but they exist and I want nothing to do with them.  I defy you to watch scenes like this, or this, or this without cracking a smile at least once – I think science has deemed doing so to be physically impossible.

3] Interstellar

$29,190,000 / $97,810,000

Not too bad a drop, quite frankly, especially considering the near-non-stop toxic word-of-mouth on this thing.  Look, folks, I am not Interstellar’s biggest fan either – I barely think it’s good, even if I did enjoy it – but maybe calm the vitriol somewhat, eh?  It’s not the worst film ever, it’s nowhere near the worst film this year!  It’s just a rather disappointing mess that tried to do too much and failed in its lofty ambitions.  Perspective, people!

Now, if you wanna talk Worst Film Of The Year candidates, let me talk to you about Nativity! 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!

4] Beyond The Lights

$6,500,000 / NEW

Will this be the next Ride Along or the next Obsessed?  Well, which do you think it’s going to be?  Come on.

5] Gone Girl

$4,625,000 / $152,699,000

Rosamund Pike is not going to get a Best Actress nomination, is she?  Let’s get real, we all know that the Academy are not going to go for Gone Girl, despite the fact that I still haven’t seen anything that comes even slightly close to its level so far this year.  Since we all know that Scarlett Johannson getting a Best Actress nomination – let alone deservedly running away with the statue before the nominees have even been announced – for Under The Skin isn’t happening, Pike would have been my backup “I approve” choice.  But, again, getting realistic, that probably isn’t going to happen.  Siiiigh…

6] St. Vincent

$4,025,000 / $33,258,000

You should really listen to St. Vincent’s self-titled album if you haven’t already.  It’s one of the best albums of the year.

7] Fury

$3,810,000 / $75,941,000

I… err… don’t really have anything to put here.  What can I say?  Not every film has an endless bountiful stream of material to mine on a week-by-week basis.  And so it goes.

8] Nightcrawler

$3,038,000 / $25,000,000

Going back to the cinema to see this again on Tuesday.  I’ve wanted to go and see it again for a good while now, but I have just been way too busy and way too swamped.  Bright side: cinema screen should basically be empty!  Woo!  In the meanwhile, and on a related note, Matt Lambourne has a short piece on why we are all to blame for his crappy movie choices up on the site if you have a spare five minutes.

9] Ouija

$3,025,000 / $48,105,000

Oh, just fuck off.

10] Birdman

$2,450,000 / $11,575,000

As I mentioned last week, this doesn’t hit the UK until January.  You know what else I found out doesn’t hit the UK until next year?  Chris Rock’s Top Five which looks brilliant and doesn’t get here until MarchMARCH.  I’ll tell you right now, Penguins Of Madagascar better be next-level amazing because it’s the sole thing making up for this incredibly dull-looking Rest Of 2014 Schedule for me.

Dropped Out: John Wick, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Book Of Life

Callum Petch is the only one in the only world.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

The Last Night of the Nightcrawler

Living on a craggy rock in the middle of the Irish Sea, resident contributor Matt Lambourne is always on a quest for a better cinema experience. In his latest article he explains his frustration with the current mainstream offering and why YOU are to blame!

By Matt Lambourne (@Matt_Lambourne)

It is fair to say that the general cinema going public aren’t always the brightest bunch. We regularly see dumbed down, CGI-laden bloat-reel adorning the top of the Box Office charts and that is fine. There is definitely room for braindead entertainment and we are all guilty of enjoying from time to time. However as a fan of cinema, I yearn to be intellectually stimulated as well as being taken to popcorn-pyro heaven.

This evening, I have enjoyed the immensely entertaining and dark thriller that is Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Without going into too much detail, the film is a throughly pleasantly uncomfortable romp with a unique premise that is brilliantly executed. Jake Gyllenhaal, shows yet further acting dexterity as the creepily cold and relentlessly ambitious night time news video shooter, who crawls the L.A streets at the midnight hour in search of grim footage of crime and human tragedy to sell to News stations.

Tonight was its opening night here at the Isle of Man’s Broadway cinema and I must admit I was quite surprised we even got it here at all! The Isle of Man has 2 cinemas, one has 2 screens and the other (Broadway) only one. This means we generally get only box-office heavyweight sure-fire sellout hits… something that leaves this movie critic extremely frustrated.

Alas, we receive the eagerly anticipated Nightcrawler and for it’s opening night it got a whopping 12 attendees for it’s only evening showing of 19:30 (this includes myself and my girlfriend). This is for a film with a decent Hollywood drawer lead in Jake Gyllenhaal and currently sits on a superb 8.3/10 on IMDB at the time of writing.

Empty cinema

This tells you everything you need to know about the current state of cinema and whilst the Isle of Man is a microcosm in the grand scheme of the cinema industry you can bet this is repeated often up and down UK & Irish cinemas. Yes, we demand entertainment, sometimes in the form of a heat seeking missile or a giant Robot fight that is happening so fast we can’t even process what is happening. Yet there is a core of cinema fans that yearn for more, yearn for that intellectually challenging, original and even adult orientated piece of cinema that gets you talking amongst friends, or writing about in social-media.

But unfortunately, when cinema takes a stab at doing the right thing, you don’t show up, like that unreliable friend who always cancels on you last minute. A cinema with a captive audience at only 80,000 people maximum and one screen can’t afford to take many stabs at high-brow entertainment and we’ve let ourselves down on this one.

We’ll continue to turn up in droves for the latest Transformers romp, or Tim Burton’s latest instalment of gothic Johnny Depp worshipping, but when when a director dares do something a little different, you stayed at home and let cinema lose.

The change starts with you folks, don’t cry foul when your local cinema isn’t showing the latest Oscar-bait because you didn’t turn up last time but gladly handed over your money for Marmaduke. You did it with Fight Club, you did it with Dredd and now you’ve done it with Nightcrawler.. a film that is likely to be spoken of for a long time to come, but sadly will disappear into the night as suddenly as it appeared.

Failed Critics Podcast: Hobbity tosh, Pottery hogwash & Intersellar oh-my-gosh

interstellarWelcome to this week’s super-professional well-researched spick-and-span highly-polished episode of the Failed Critics podcast!

The main release review this week is Christopher Nolan’s $165m space-time-travelling science fiction thriller Interstellar. A film so long, we extended our podcast an extra 15 minutes with the return of our Spoiler Alert section alongside our regular spoiler-free review.

Despite that, there was even time for Owen to take in the first two (well, one and a half) Lord of the Rings films this week; for Steve to reveal exactly why he’s watching through all seven Harry Potter movies; and for Carole to have a meta-meta experience with 90’s slasher sequel Scream 2.

Jon us again next week as we review the acclaimed wartime drama The Imitation Game.

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US Box Office Report: 7/11/14 – 9/11/14

Interstellar’s opening isn’t so stellar, Big Hero $56 million, The Theory Of Everything lacks an easy pun for this headline, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

A lot of people, myself included, felt that Disney were signing Big Hero 6’s death warrant when they chose to schedule it directly against Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  I mean, it’s Christopher Nolan!  You all have seen how much his last films made, right?  I get the idea of counter-programming, but Nolan films are events, and you, Disney, have only just solidified your second renaissance!  Are you insane?!  Those fears, however, conveniently forgot one key part of this equation: Disney always wins.  Disney.  Always.  Wins.  No matter how long it takes, no matter the force against them; Disney will always win.

And win they did, quite handily at that.  Big Hero 6 opened in first at an excellent $56 million estimated, the second biggest opening for an animated film in 2014 only behind The Lego MovieInterstellar had to settle for an estimated $50 million, one that more than likely will not hold when the actuals come in, which puts it below Inception, Gravity and even Prometheus – as Box Office Mojo notes, likely whilst applying salt liberally to the film’s various wounds.  If one were to include Wednesday and Thursday IMAX-only screenings, then the total would rise to $52 million, but we don’t include such cheat tactics around these here parts!  This is the weekend Box Office Report and, last I checked, the weekend doesn’t include Wednesday or Thursday!  Nice try, Nolan!  Thanks for playing!

Activity elsewhere on the chart is limited, as seemingly everybody else realised that they have better things to do than be crushed by Disney and Nolan and so got the hell out of dodge whilst they were still able to do so.  The one major release was the none-more-blatant piece of awards bait known as The Theory Of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne metaphorically gets down on his hands and knees and begs for awards by playing Stephen Hawking in a biopic about his life.  So, naturally, the film also did pretty great in limited release, as folks cued up to have an opinion to spout come Oscars time, taking $207,000 from 5 screens for a $41,400 per-screen average.

That just leaves a trio of documentaries that were likely dumped here because all the prime spots on the release schedule were taken.  Doing the best in terms of pure gross, primarily because it played in the most amount of theatres, was On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter, a pseudo-sequel to the 1971 Steve McQueen-fronted doc, which took $344,000 from 231 screens (for a per-screen average of $1,489) full of people with nothing better to do that given Sunday.  Next, and most successful in terms of per-screen gross, was National Gallery which made $9,700 from 1 theatre full of people who couldn’t be arsed to just book a plane ticket to London and see the place in person.  Finally, Death Metal Angola, about soft rock in the Maldives, made $2,500 from 1 screen populated with people who had a very strangely specific urge that needed scratching.


big hero 6

This Full List is really rather pissed that Big Hero 6 is giving the UK a miss.  Hey, that rhymed sorta!

Box Office Results: Friday 7th November 2014 – Sunday 9th November 2014

1] Big Hero 6

$56,200,000 / NEW

Yup, you heard that right!  Big Hero 6 doesn’t hit the UK until January of next year, adding to a pile that already includes Whiplash, John Wick, Inherent Vice, Birdman, Foxcatcher and a hell of a lot more.  That also means that the only film I’m really excited for from now until the end of the year is – and I kid you not here – Penguins Of Madagascar.  Look, American studio execs, I get that you want to capitalise on the inevitable awards hype that all of these films are going to get, and I get that we forcibly colonised your country one f*cking time, but come on!  There are giant empty gaps in our release schedules that are being plugged with dreck like a third goddamn Nativity movie!  You can do better, dammit!

2] Interstellar

$50,000,000 / $52,151,000 / NEW

Owen has reviewed it here because I am way too busy to crank out a review right now.  But also because, honestly, I’m still not quite sure what to think of it.  I did enjoy it, but the film is incredibly fatally flawed in ways that are too numerous and lengthy to explain here.  I’ll try and find time go into detail on it at some point, but for now I will say that Hans Zimmer’s score is absolutely atrocious, like a church orchestra that’s being disembowelled and expressing the feelings of said disembowelling via their instruments as they slowly bleed out.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that “overwrought” doesn’t even begin to cover it, and I’m pretty sure the guy in charge of the organ dropped dead at some point and nobody bothered to move his corpse from the keys he face-planted.

3] Gone Girl

$6,100,000 / $145,428,000

I have a friend who works at a cinema and she managed to snag me a Gone Girl poster from work today.  I have good friends.

4] Ouija

$6,017,000 / $43,472,000

The fact that this hasn’t sunk like a stone since its release genuinely confuses the hell out of me.  Like, nobody liked this one, critics and audiences, so who’s still going to this?

5] St. Vincent

$5,707,000 / $27,356,000

Chris O’Dowd’s slow breakthrough into America is one of the more bewildering things that I have come across recently.  I mean this in a good way, for once, though.  I like Chris O’Dowd, I think he’s a funny actor – although Moone Boy did quite literally nothing for me – but I thought he’d be an exclusively British thing.  You know, like how Steve Coogan has never broken through into the US despite being STEVE F*CKING COOGAN?

6] Nightcrawler

$5,512,000 / $19,756,000

OUCH.  I mean, I really should’ve seen this coming, Nightcrawler is not exactly the kind of film that will sit well with general audiences, but still.  This really isn’t the fate that one of the year’s best films deserves.  It might survive next week, as Dumb And Dumber To is the only wide release that will make money, but this still deserves way more love.  If you’ve yet to see it, go now!

7] Fury

$5,500,000 / $69,268,000

This was pretty darn great.  Took a while to warm up and ultimately didn’t do much that many other war dramas haven’t already done better, but its cast is great, its individual scenes are really good, and the whole is the sum of its pretty good parts.  Glad to see that Sabotage appeared to be a fluke for David Ayer after all!

8] John Wick

$4,075,000 / $34,745,000

Wha…?  Huh…?  Wh…?  IT’S JOHN WICK, YOU GUYS!!  I don’t even know you people anymore.

9] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$3,495,000 / $59,208,000

Yes, I did end up seeing this.  No, it wasn’t awful.  I mean, it’s not that good, but it is pacey, incredibly earnest, and has committed performances from a game cast.  It’s that earnestness that keeps it from being an intolerable slog, because the film is that happy and sincere that it overwhelms any cynical boundaries.  It’s not a good film, we can’t forget that, but it’s not an awful one so I’m willing to chalk this up as the most minor win possible.

10] The Book Of Life

$2,800,000 / $45,215,000

This has yet to cross $80 million worldwide.  Why do you people hate nice things?

Dropped Out: The Judge, Dracula Untold

Callum Petch asked her for her number all the same.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Do you like scary movies?

gyllenhaalWelcome all to possibly the spookiest episode of the podcast we’ve ever recorded!

In a Halloween special, tying in with the recent Decade In Horror series on the main site, the trio pick their favourite three horror films from 2010-onwards. It’s not actually that spooky as the group inevitably debate what constitutes an actual horror film.

Between the lively discussion, Steve passes judgement on American Mary and briefly the new release The Babadook, Owen reviews Nightcrawler and Carole inflicts possibly the most cruel and unforgivable punishment on the team to date. All of this as well as a look at the Marvel Event this past week that revealed plans for their Phase 3 films.

Join us next week for a reviews of Horns and possibly Ouija too.

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Nightcrawler

Twisted, dark, intense and full of brilliant performances. Is Nightcrawler the best thriller released this year? Maybe.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

nightcrawler 2October seems to be the time of year when all the big-hitter films come out to play. They’ve had most of their international film festival runs by now, gearing up for Oscar season, and the summer blockbusters have all had their fun and dispersed for another 6 months. Fury and Gone Girl have started off this pre-Academy Award season, both of which were very promising beginnings for this period, but Nightcrawler quite possibly tops them both. The comparison may be unfair given the relatively modest budget of an estimated $8m, and the dark, sinister tone is probably more in keeping with the Failed Critics’ favourite suspense-thriller The Guest, but it is no less hard hitting than any of them.

It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a bit of a ne’er do well who is looking for his calling in life. Eventually, through a rather fortunate encounter, he finds his purpose – his defining moment, an epiphany – as a crime scene videographer. After being rejected from yet another job opportunity, Louis chances upon an encounter that will change his life. Pulling his car over at the scene of a very recent motor-accident whilst on an aimless drive through the street-light brightened roads of late-night L.A., a van suddenly pulls up behind him. Rushing out, film camera and assistant in tow, Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) videos everything going on around him; from the police pulling a bloodied woman from the wreckage, to the rising flames of the vehicles engine. Fascinated by this, and being something of a self-confessed fast learner, Louis watches, observes and questions what Joe is doing. Revealing that he sells the footage to news channels, Louis becomes obsessed with this idea and in his best top-knotted entrepreneurial spirit decides to pursue a line of work in the same field. The only thing is, he gets so caught up in it that he begins to get more and more involved in the crimes themselves as his drive for success, his ambition to be the absolute best, requires the generation of bigger and better news stories.

I’m sure to some people, rather understandably, that sounds like a rather ridiculous story. Think of it like the TV show Dexter; a forensics cop who is also a serial killer? Give me a break. Wait, actually, you know what, Dexter turned out pretty damn good (well, up to and including season four in any case). And just like Dexter, Nightcrawler takes a silly premise and turns it into something golden. It may very well be one of my favourite films of the year.

For a start, it’s a bizarrely funny film. In places, it induced full-on belly-laughs. However, those laughs are not entirely guilt free. A more dark and twisted story this year, that is actually better, you’re unlikely to see. Without the film explicitly stating as such, Louis appears to be basically a high-functioning autistic; he doesn’t really understand the way people interact with each other and ambiguity seems to confuse him. He also appears to have a touch of OCD too. If you’ve seen the trailer you’ll know his motto is “you can’t win the lottery unless you make the money to buy a ticket”. This gives you a very clear indicator of his self-driven personality and narrow vision of success.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is absolutely superb, by the way. He’s beginning to realise some of that early promise that suggested he could potentially become one of the finest and most versatile actors working in Hollywood. Think about it, just within this crime-thriller genre alone, the roles he plays are all so varied. Whether it’s the nerdy intelligent guy in Zodiac, or the rough somewhat renegade detective in Prisoners, or even just the hard as nails skinhead police officer in End of Watch; they’re very different characters but also consistently very good performances.

He’s supported by some quality performances as well in Nightcrawler. Paxton I’ve already mentioned as Louis’ inspiration and main professional rival, and he puts in another fine shift (as if you’d expect anything less). But Rene Russo as the TV news producer plays off Gyllenhaal very well. There’s some genuine chemistry between them. In fact, I’d say the same about his relationship with his intern, Rick; a man so desperate for a job he’ll do anything for a wage and is also played brilliantly by Riz Ahmed. Some of the interactions between Rick and Louis are darkly amusing. I assumed intentionally? I don’t want to say too much about their development over the course of the film, suffice to say it’s done in a not necessarily believable way, because it really does feel like a movie, if that makes sense, but it’s developed in a way that you genuinely are interested in them.

Away from the actual characters, Dan Gilroy (writer and director) apparently has a lot to say about the media. Particularly TV news. Not all of it complimentary! A phrase that’s used at one point by Bill Paxton’s character is “if it bleeds, it leads”. A message that is hammered home throughout the entire movie. Just why is ethical journalism given such short shrift, pushed to one side in favour of viewer ratings? Is it really because that’s what people what to see? Exploitation, gore, blood and guts on breakfast news whilst they munch down on their cornflakes? It appears to be a damning indictment of the pressures that are placed on them. Although, here in Britain, we don’t have quite as severe a problem as they have in the US. Just look at their coverage of the Ebola crisis for example to see how ridiculously overblown and scaremongering it can be. It’s also where similarities with David Fincher’s Gone Girl can be drawn as they both lay into television media reporting. Yet it’s still relevant to UK viewers because it talks about the constant need to have to have something, anything, to report on and compete with other news channels 24 hours a day to get higher ratings. Obviously not exactly the same as our news channels, but still has some commentary on that drive for big news stories at any expense that can be related to wherever you are in the world.

The most notorious scene from this film, and one that will probably help establish it as something of a classic for years to come, is the “horror house” section. For fear of giving anything away, I will not be discussing it in detail. However, later this week you can expect an article on this one particular scene from Callum. Yep, a whole article about one scene. That’s how good it is.

As much as I enjoyed the whole film, as intelligent as it can be at times and as biting as the satire is, there are a few negatives worth mentioning. It takes a teeny tiny dip in quality around a third of the way in. Virtually from the moment Gyllenhaal steps into the newsroom for the first time with Russo and gives a little speech. It’s not so much the dialogue that’s a problem; as it happens, I thought the dialogue and script throughout the film was one of its stronger aspects. What lets it down, and indeed many other scenes, is the choice of soundtrack. There are some completely weird and out of key choices here. Just when this ambitious but deceptively violent man is explaining what exactly drives him, in the background is a very distracting and cheesy 80’s-esque backing track. It’s honestly like something out of Big or The Mighty Ducks. A very odd sentimental choice that didn’t fit at all. It happened a few times with various other scenes. The only assumption to be made is the music is an artistic choice. What’s playing is how Louis would imagine it, and not what the actual tone of the film demands.

Also, I’m sorry to have to point it out as it shouldn’t matter at all, but some of the CGI used (which was sparse anyway) was very cheap looking. Think the aeroplane crash in Knowing. Yes, that bad. It’s not a huge problem as there weren’t really many scenes that called for the use of CGI. Most of the action scenes that we do see are actually incredibly sophisticated, complex and most of all, exciting. One fantastic car chase as the police hurtle through L.A. traffic lights is unreal. Best of all, it doesn’t have (as much as I could make out) any CGI! It’s just that, I can’t escape it, the CGI that is used on occasion is utter bollocks.

Despite all of this, as mentioned at the top of the review, Nightcrawler is incredibly enjoyable. The first half of the film that introduces Louis and his quirks was excellent, setting itself up well for the remaining 60 minutes. A slight dip in quality 45 minutes in is nothing to quibble about as it picks up again rapidly. By the end, I flat out loved it. If you’ve any interest in seeing a tense thriller that tells an intelligent story, that’s as darkly-comic as often as it is sickeningly disturbing, then I’m sure you will enjoy Nightcrawler as much as I did.

Nightcrawler hits UK cinemas this Friday, 31 October 2014.

The Week In Film – 12 September 2014: Farewell Jaws, hello Batmobile

Welcome to the Week In Film!  No Steve this week, as he’s holding epic house parties in his gran’s flat in Marbella.  No, really.  Instead, Carole Petts takes you through the week’s news.

by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)

270px-Jaws_(Richard_Kiel)_-_Profile

Richard Kiel Passes Away at 74

First up, some very sad news that one of the truly great Bond henchmen has left us.  Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, has died a few days before his 75th birthday.  The gargantuan actor was also famous for his role in Happy Gilmore, and was a regular on the convention circuit.  Even though he is turned into something approaching comedy relief in Moonraker, he was a genuinely menacing presence in The Spy Who Loved Me, and was an actor who used his imposing physicality to great effect.  He will be sadly missed.

nBZU3Ch

Guns? Where we’re going, we won’t need…oh

Zack Snyder revealed the new Batmobile in full this week.  It’s a slightly more evolved version of the Tumbler, and Batman purists won’t be pleased to learn it has a small arsenal on the grill.  But it’s a Snyder film – wanton destruction is guaranteed.  The issue of not being able to see a dammed thing out of that windscreen remained unaddressed at the time of publication.  Somewhat less staged was the reveal of an X-wing fighter and a partially-built Millennium Falcon on the set of Star Wars Episode VII by a flight school in Berkshire.

A feeling of Dredd

Owen will be particularly excited to hear that there is a possible second Dredd film on the way – but it will be a prequel.  Speaking at Chicago Comic-Con, Dredd himself (or Karl Urban, as is his civilian name) said: “Why yes, there is a definite possibility. But, it is more likely that we will do the origins story with Dredd trekking through the cursed earth to find the first Chief Judge Fargo.”  Sounds exciting, and let’s face it, it will be a refreshing change from the endless conveyor belt of sequels we are currently being subjected to.  It’s also really good to hear we are getting a second Dredd film at all, as the excellent reboot scored a respectable but not groundbreaking box-office total of $41m worldwide.

Mass Hysteria

And finally, disciples gathered in Toronto to celebrate the inaugural Bill Murray Day on September 6 (personally I feel every day should be Bill Murray Day, but there you go).  The great man held court on the subject of the recently-mooted all-female Ghostbusters 3, and gave the project his blessing.  Also in Toronto, there have been good reviews for Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything and Nightcrawler, middling reviews for Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater, and pretty bad reviews for Anna Kendrick musical The Last Five Years.  But altogether it seems to have been a decent year for the festival.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news.