Directed by Matthew Vaughm
Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth & Samuel L. Jackson
Those bored to tears by the utterly limp mainstream release of late will regard ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, as a blast of fresh air. The film is a high-octane, low-brow thrill ride of fantastic stunts, larger than life characters and, most importantly, a sense of fun that hasn’t graced our multiplexes in quite some time.
Newcomer Taron Egerton plays ‘Eggsy’, a working class London lad who appears to be getting himself into an inordinate amount of trouble. Enter Harry Hart (expertly played by Colin Firth), a clipped, suit-clad member of ‘Kingsman’ – a branch of the secret service run by Arthur (Michael Caine). After a brilliantly entertaining first meeting in a local London boozer (you’ll remember the phrase “Manners Maketh Man”), Harry offers Eggsy the chance to turn his life around and apply to become Kingman’s newest members.
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard
Kelly Reichardt has quietly made a name for herself in the American independent film scene with a series of carefully constructed, tense and slow-burning dramas, most famously the ‘anti-western’ Meek’s Cutoff. In Night Moves, Reichardt shifts her scope from the old West to contemporary political movements through three young radical activists and their mission to explode a hydroelectric dam.
Josh (Eisenberg) works in a co-operative farm, and meets with Dena (Fanning) in secret to plan their attack on the dam. They leave their town together and drive to the woods, where they meet Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), who Josh has met on previous ‘missions’. They fill a boat with fertilizer and homemade explosives, they proceed with their plan- but when something goes wrong, the group begins to fall apart. (more…)
Directed by David Zellner
Starring Rinko Kikuchi
Indie director David Zellner teams up with Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska) and Pacific Rim’s Rinko Kikuchi to tell the remarkable true story of a lonely Japanese woman who after seeing The Coen Brothers 1996 classic Fargo and believing it to be real, travels to the USA on a treasure hunt for the movies buried loot.
Kumiko lives a sad-sack life in a tiny, messy Tokyo apartment she shares with her pet rabbit ‘Bunzo’. She works a soulless, unfulfilling job as an “OL” (Office Lady) for a Japanese businessman, hounded by her mother and society’s expectations for her, she yearns for something deeper in her life. Kumiko’s wish comes true in a map which leads her to a cave by the beach where she finds an old VHS tape. She plays it to discover that the film is Fargo, and closely examines the scene in which Steve Buscemi buries a cash-stuffed briefcase in the snow alongside a fence in an open field. Suddenly obsessed, convinced that the money is still there for the taking, waiting beneath the Dakota snow for an enterprising treasure hunter to unearth the small fortune and wrest it into reality. What follows is a sort of road movie where Kumiko encounters the kind of quirky, salt of the earth characters you’d find in that famous Coen Brothers film. (more…)
Directed by Angelina Jolie
Starring Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund
Based upon the Laura Hillebrand book of the same name and the true story of war hero Louis Zamperini’s plane crash and subsequent capture by the Japanese in the Second World War – it’s certainly a big task. Unfortunately for Ms Jolie, the enormity of the pressure has perhaps slightly hindered her overall direction. Sure, she has made a valiant effort here, but unfortunately, she isn’t quite able to succeed in pulling the subject matter off.
It’s not entirely her fault - the real weakness here lies in the limp script (somewhat surprising given the involvement of the Coen Brothers) and sheer ‘glossiness’ of it all.
Here we are, at the end of another year of high calibre cinema. It’s time for our writers to reflect on 2014 and choose their favourite UK releases. See you next year… (more…)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone & Edward Norton
It’s a brave move, you know. I don’t mean having almost the entire film take place in one shot (although that’s the brave move you’ll hear about), or having major Hollywood actors play nasty, self-critical versions of themselves (you might hear a little about that too). These are brave decisions as well, but not the ones I’m referring to- I mean having a subtitle. Subtitles haven’t been cool since Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Subtitles are so uncool JJ Abrams broke all the rules of grammar to include one without stigma for Star Trek Into Darkness (and good luck working out how to say that without sounding like an ass). So Birdman; Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, is a brave title, which is thankfully backed up by a very brave film. (more…)
Directed by Bryn Higgins
Starring Agyness Deyn, Lenora Crichlow & Christian Cooke
Electricity is the much talked about low-budget British drama film that impressed many at this year’s London Film Festival. One of the things that viewers found unique about the film was its dealing of a subject matter rarely portrayed in cinema, epilepsy. Marking his second film feature, director Bryn Higgins also casts many promising up-and-coming actors including model-turned actress Agyness Deyn in the lead role.
Directed by John Carney
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley &
In 2006 Irish writer/director John Carney made the breakout sleeper hit of the year in his indie musical Once which went on to win an Academy award and spawn a hit Broadway musical spin-off. In his latest film, Begin Again, Carney tries to make lightning strike twice and just about succeeds.
It tells the story of Gretta (Knightley), a rising Pop star’s girlfriend and a sometime songstress. A spiral of personal calamities finds her on stage at an open-mic night making her swansong performance before she flies back to England with her tail between her legs. This performance though catches the well-trained ear of Dan (Ruffalo), a self-destructive record producer on a downswing. He is bowled over by her song and raw talent and in one of the film’s few delightfully imaginative scenes, he mentally composes an arrangement around her bare vocals & acoustic guitar rendition, as scattered instruments come to life and begin playing themselves like broomsticks and buckets brought to life in the famous ‘Sorcerers’ Apprentice’ segment of Disney’s Fantasia.He tries to sign her on the spot, and the rest of the film centers on their efforts to produce an album as they also strive to pick up the pieces of their derailed careers and place them back on track.
Directed by John Maloof & Charlie Siskel
Finding Vivian Maier continues the recent trend of documentaries about inadvertently influential individuals. Similarities between this documentary and A Band Called Death, Beware of Mr. Baker and Seaching for Sugarman are ripe but whereas some retrieved about said artists, Vivian Maier was truly a mystery even to those that knew her.
Doing research for his book director John Maloof ends up winning a box of old negatives at a local auction. After going through all the contents, he realises how amazing the pictures are and searches for information on the artist but literally finds nothing online about the photographer. Maloof then decides to build a dark room and present the pictures in their best form to be exhibited at museums, but none respond successfully. After posting online and asking for any information on Maier eventually he was able to find family members, friends and associates. The audience gets to witness his journey in coming across an unknown innovative street photographer and explore her mysterious character.