So join the I'm With Geek film team as they reminisce on their favourites and herald those that they are looking forward to.
Do you agree?
The Best So Far..
Wes Anderson has one of the most distinctive styles in contemporary cinema, awkward and dramatic, charismatic and elaborate. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fantastical story of the concierge and his trusted ally, the lobby boy.
The story follows Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) from perfectionist and loyal servant of hotel guests all the way to fugitive. He strives forward attempting to survive character assassination, imprisonment and even death, as he becomes the chief suspect in the murder of one of the hotel’s wealthiest and most loyal guests, Madame D. Gustave and his most trusted adversary, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori/ F. Murray Abraham), attempt to evade capture and put to rights the injustice and mystery surrounding her death. Willem Defoe plays the chief menace and brings the suspense to the movie as he stalks Gustave H through some gruesome and beautifully elaborate action sequences.
Ralph Fiennes is perfectly cast among glorious set designs, twisted villainy and some of the most original chase scenes in cinematic history. The Author (Jude Law) guides us, as narrator, through the murder, mystery, heartbreak and drama in what must be, for me, one of the best films this year.
The film delivers everything you would expect from Mr Anderson and more. And, it’s more polished and cohesive than some of his earlier work. Definitely, a career best.
Based on UK releases, it's hard to look past 12 Years a Slave. There is a resounding honesty that McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley inhabit. There are no tricks or gimmicks, no cheap takes on a side story or character that is put there for time filling or a life-lesson for Solomon to learn.
McQueen is a fearless filmmaker, continuing his streak of unfiltered brutality within human depths. He frames his actors' faces in extreme close-up, the eyes staring into despair, the nostrils fuming in aggression. Naked flesh are shown not because of erotic content, but rather because of desperation and futility.
Everything is genuine. Is the film heartbreaking? Oh my God yes. Did I cry for several minutes after the screening? Embarrassingly so. Have the images stayed with me ever since? Depressingly so. I was enamoured the entire time, head to toe, moment to moment.
In a year post-Frozen, it seemed unlikely that any animated feature would live up to its premise and be able to engage audiences in the ways in which the icy Disney adventure managed to do, at the end of 2013. However, The Lego Movie defied all odds, and proved that a film entirely about the LEGO brand of toys can, indeed, be fun. Focusing on a small-time construction worker named Emmet, the film followed the reluctant character as he accidently discovers The Piece of Resistance (which can allegedly stop the Kragle, a weapon that the evil Lord Business stole eight and a half years prior) and is quickly recruited by a team of ‘Master Builders’ who believe he is ‘the Special’ and destined to stop Lord Business from going through with his evil plans.
Visually electrifying and suitably smart, The Lego Movie offered more than just a imaginative adventure, it underlined its self with some rather witty social commentary, with nods to conformity and individualism, which made it a stand out film for me of the year so far. I was wary that a film based entirely on LEGO characters would struggle in the plot department, but the characters were cleverly designed and the storyline comprehensible and intriguing, with the script well written by Lord and Miller.
The tagline says it all, “A Spike Jonze Love Story”. A story about a man who falls in love with his operating system (OS) has Spike Jonze written all over. The weird nature of the idea is made plausible by the world that Jonze has created in his not too futuristic Los Angeles. The idea of an OS that is kind of alive doesn’t seem too far fetch and makes you think that in a few years Apple will reveal the “iPerson” or something like that. Talking of making you think, what I’ve loved about Her is Spike’s look at modern relationships. So many relationships now start online through dating sites or social media sites that it makes it very hard to actually go up to someone in a bar and start talking to them. The fact that nearly everyone in the film has an OS to talk to instead of an actual human person is kind of a scary concept, which is why it’s good to see that the film shows how important it is to have human interaction and not be stuck behind a computer or buried deep into your phones. Deeper meanings behind, what works for this film is… everything.
The acting is on point with no bad performances and Scarlett Johansson shows that she isn’t just a pretty face. Where she is never on screen, she is able to show her acting range and not have people distracted by her looks. The music by Arcade Fire is brilliant, the comedy is relatable and genius at times (talking about the swearing alien here) and creates a great emotional impact that stays with the audience (never have the numbers 8,316 and 641 made me feel so sad). It is the love story for our tech savvy generation and will take some beating to top this.
And if you’re an American reading this, yes I know it was released in the US last year, but we got it late. Blame the scheduling Gods.
Dallas Buyers Club, to me, is nothing short of a modern masterpiece. Matthew McConaughey’s career seemed anything other than fantastic a few years ago, but a few roles later as a male stripper, stranded island dweller, and sadistic police assassin, he turned it all around. This year Dallas Buyers Club confirmed his title as one of the best actors working today, as he turns in a stunning Oscar winning performance, as does his co star Jared Leto as a HIV Positive Transgender woman.
It’s a fascinating true story (despite being quite fabricated), filled with drama, humour, and raw emotion. The term “Must see film” gets thrown around a lot these days, and I’d never use it unless I genuinely thought it was true. But Dallas Buyers Club is a must see film. It honestly would’ve been my choice for Best Picture, because I simply cannot sing this film’s praises enough.
Screening at the recent East End Film Festival, Cambodian director Hong Khaou’s first feature length film is a beautiful and moving portrait of love and loss. Starring the inimitable Ben Whishaw and Pei-pei Cheng, it explores the themes of parental attachment, cultural barriers and sexuality to tell an incredibly honest and human tale of two opposing forces united by grief.
Whishaw gives a characteristically moving performance, but it is Cheng who is the true star and who instantly captures your heart. With subtle, understated mise-en-scene that heightens the atmosphere, and a non-linear narrative structure, Khaou’s film is expertly crafted. Also the script writer, Khaou’s story is personal, and yet relatable, tapping into every human’s desire for belonging and escape from loneliness. The sexuality aspect of the storyline also stands in place of a child’s fear of disappointing their parents, while much is also implicitly revealed about how culture, society, and generational differences can impact on our attitudes and beliefs.
Lilting is as much about barriers as it is about grief, with Cheng’s Junn clinging to the only connection she has to the world, her son Kai (Andrew Leung) long before the tragic events that brings her character and Whishaw’s together. Lilting doesn’t receive wide release until August, but it is one of the most stunning films I have seen this year so far.
There have been few movies this year that have dragged me to the edge of my seat and kept me there. Jonathan Glazer, more attuned to Sexy Beast, created such a unforgettable independent feature in the country of Scotland that has been heralded by critics as one of the masterpieces of this year. Stirring and poignant, the horrors of humanity are unearthed in this impeccable piece of drama.
Under The Skin starred Scarlett Johansson as an unnamed alien who comes down to Scotland in order to prey on young males. She picks them up in a white van, takes them to an unknown location and they disappear. But when she picks up a young man with neurofibromatosis, she takes pity on him and lets him go. However, the entire encounter leaves her with an identity crisis that she must solve before another alien, in the form of a man on a bicycle, comes to clean up her mess.
The strength behind Under The Skin comes from the intense and evocative imagery. Transcending the usual alien romp that pumps up the action movie, Glazer strips back the essence of extra-terrestrial and humanity. Combining stirring visuals that are unique and full of depth, Under The Skin teams with this visceral heart pumping themes around its body. Alongside the most incredible score by Micachu, Under The Skin is an unforgettable masterpiece.
July already? Where does the time go? Well they do say that time flies when you watch too many good films and we certainly haven’t been short of them this year already. With the obvious winning over audiences and critics alike – 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyer Club alike and Gravity it is a pretty tough choice to pin point that one film that has stood out above all. Locke? American Hustle? The Two Faces of January, ah Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street what a film? Or indeed Frozen or The Lego Movie, yet something rather special was given to us this year that many shan’t forget.
It came in the form of beautiful Japanese animation by no other than Studio Ghibli’s, The Wind Rises. Miyazaki’s final film was a picturesque and breathtaking as always with a storyline to match. The magic of Miyazaki is something that will always stay with me. His films have true meaning and shape and The Wind Rises is no exception. This film has adventure, romance, action and humour. What more could you want in a film? Unlike the majority of Ghibli’s that plod along happily with cute fantastical creatures, this film is very much in touch with reality and that sadly all good things must come to an end. Yet even though Miyazaki has now put the sketching pencil down for good (so he says) the film also never gives up hope and states we should all live life to the fullest whatever circumstances are thrown our way. It may not have an A-lister fronting it or the best CGI since The Lord of the Rings, yet The Wind Rises is simply too perfect to over look.
It shall be hard to see such a talented director go – yet somehow I do not think he is going to be forgotten anytime soon. With that half of the year already over, the latter half seems to hold some pretty good films as well. Bring it on 2014, you have Miyazaki to beat.
...And Yet To Come
Luc Besson is a name with enough clout to cause more than a little excitement; famed for being behind the wheel of cold classics such as Leon, Angel-A and The Fifth Element. Add to the mix a certain starlet called Scarlett Johansson and you’ve got Lucy - Sci-Fi action thriller due to hit our screens this coming August.
After a night painting the town red, Lucy (Johansson) wakes up to find she is the victim of a dirty operation and now carrier of some pretty hard-core drugs. Disaster strikes - after a brutal beating at the hands of some shady looking criminals - the drugs slip into her bloodstream. Turns out, these aren’t just your average disco biscuits.
I say ‘disaster’…
The drugs in her system lead to enhanced brain activity giving her incredible learning capacity and later telekonisis. It looks like Johansson’s days training as a Black Widow haven’t been wasted either. Morgan Freeman also stars as Professor Norman, the man most likely to have a clue what is going on.
The clear focus here is on Scarlett Johansson who has become a Hollywood powerhouse and force to be reckoned with. Not just for her kung-fu chops, but for her incredible acting prowess. With a diverse range of roles behind her, she’s exactly the kind of femme fatale I can see kicking up a storm in a Besson movie.
Bennett Miller has made two feature films – Capote and Moneyball – and both have been absolutely gorgeous with a very strong lead performance. His next film, Foxcatcher, has already received rave reviews from everyone at Cannes and showcases two very different performances from Channing Tatum and Steve Carell. Tatum plays Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, and from clips I've seen he's looking impressive. He carries a high level of intensity and determination that looks like he's going to deliver a very strong, very powerful performance.
However, it's Steve Carell's John du Pon who stands out here as a genuine Oscar contender. He looks intense, uncomfortable and sadistic. And I'm putting it out there now, if he doesn't get the Oscar, I'd be very surprised.
If you asked me what film I was dying to see in 2014, it would be the hotly anticipated Mockingjay (Part 1 of course), from The Hunger Games series of films (based on the books by Suzanne Collins). With a new teaser released recently, I can barely contain my excitement as we gear up to see Katniss Everdeen once again face off against the Capitol as she (albeit reluctantly) battles to save her friends and family, not to mention a nation, after she had destroyed the games forever in the events of the previous film, by blowing up the arena.
With so many action-adventure movies out there that are all focused around main male protagonists, it’s refreshing to see a successful series with a female lead that isn’t concerned with trivialities, but instead with survival and those she cares about. Katniss is multi-dimensional character who is not afraid to play dirty when things don’t go her way, not to mention manipulate the system around her for her own means, when she is thrust into the limelight. With many likeable and dislikeable characteristics, Katniss is a real character and her role in the upcoming film will no doubt be expertly portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, as Panem gears up for full-out war. With the revelation that District 13 still exists, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 looks set to be one of the most adventurous and epic films of the year. Three cheers for November!
Who isn’t going to see the next Christopher Nolan film?
I was thinking of leaving this part there but I probably need to write more than that. There are a couple of reasons why I’m interested in Interstellar. One of them is the acting talent involved. Nolan is re-teaming with Michael Caine (Again!) and Anne Hathaway, but he is working with a lot of new actors too. The top one is Matthew McConaughey, who is at a high at the moment with the success of True Detective and winning the Oscar for Dallas Buyer’s Club. It seems that nothing could go for Matthew at the moment as he turns his career around so that he can be taken more seriously. The film also features Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley and Matt Damon. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know they were in the film, as so far they have been almost non-existent from the trailers.
This does lead me onto a bigger reason why I’m excited about Interstellar, the mystery behind it all. The film comes out in four months, and we don’t know what to really expect and this raises a lot of questions. How much is based on Earth? How much is based in space? What happened to all the food? What will they find on the other side of the wormhole? What’s Matt Damon’s small role in the film? Can Topher Grace finally take Spider-Man 3 off his Show-reel? Why were they blowing up a spaceship in Iceland? Are Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy playing the same character? Will Cooper come back? Knowing Nolan, we won’t find out until we see the film and even then we might need to watch a few times to understand it. But for me that’s the best way. It’s very rare nowadays to go into a big budgeted film and not know what’s going to happen. There is a grand element of surprise to Interstellar and not having a clue of what I’m about to see is the best feeling when watching a film and that is the main reason I’m excited to see Interstellar.
Who isn’t going to see the next Christopher Nolan film?
It was an extremely tough choice between this and David Fincher’s Gone Girl (which also looks phenomenal), but Robert Rodriguez’s epic 2005 comic book adaption is a film that is very much underrated and (in my experience) never discussed as much as other modern comic book movies, despite the fact that it rivals them all. It’s upcoming sequel, A Dame to Kill For (such an epic title), looks to be one of the best comic book movie sequels ever made.
Some of the old cast are back, like Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, and the first film’s highlight Mickey Rourke, and new additions have been made, such as the supremely talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the rough, gruff Josh Brolin and the immensely sexy Eva Green. But the thing to get excited about is another chance to see the amazing visual style of the film. It’s so appealing, and it makes it hard to ever turn away from the screen. Unfortunately, it will probably be an 18 meaning I won’t be able to catch it in cinema, but you know I’ll be buying this first day it comes out.
I’m quite a big fan of Jeremy Renner, from his Oscar-nominated turns in The Hurt Locker and The Town, to his blockbuster fare like The Avengers, and even ridiculous campy nonsense like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (which was a terrible film, sure, but I enjoyed every second of it.) Kill the Messenger looks set to fall into the former catergory, a true story that looks just exhilarating as any conspiracy thriller. From director Michael Cuestra, Kill the Messenger is the story of journalist Gary Webb, who becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign when he discovers the CIA’s involvement in the South American drug trade, a campaign that eventually leads to threats on his life, and that of his family.
Surrounded by an incredible supporting cast, including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael K Williams, Michael Sheen and Ray Liotta, Renner shines already in a wonderfully crafted and attention-grabbing trailer, and judging from what has been revealed so far, this could be the film that grabs him his third Oscar nomination. After all, with the Best Film win for his The Hurt Locker, and director Kathryn Bigelow’s acclaimed follow-up Zero Dark Thirty presenting the death of Osama bin Laden without fist-pumping exaggeration, the Academy doesn’t seem to be one for extreme patriotism any more.
I have to be honest, I knew nothing of this project until the trailer came out a couple of weeks back. And instantaneously I was captivated. The minute the riff of Gnarls Barkley oozed over incredible imagery and a stirring storyline, I knew that this was the movie I was looking forward to most. Starring Michael Keaton, this black comedy from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu famed for Babel and 21 Grams. His ensnaring eye for visuals and evocative human drama combined with Keaton’s natural charisma has greeted this imaginative and unique tale.
Birdman centres on the lead actor who has become washed up after receiving fame, fortune and everything he can imagine. He was well known for portraying the superhero of the titular variety and struggles to get acclaim on the Broadway stage. Battling his own ego and those around him, Birdman must level himself up before opening night. Strange, illusive and full of astonishing imagery, the trailer pecks at you.
Also starring Edward Norton and Emma Stone, Birdman becomes this tantalising film that is filled with an outstanding ensembles that will tackle the Innarritu imagery with gusto. Talking about that, already the trailer is filled with astonishing visuals as Birdman struggles with his own imagination and ego. It is also billed as a black comedy, everyone knows those are my favourites, because while they aren’t necessary comedies, they always showcase a damaged mentality in an outrageous way that feels more attuned to those suffering from their breaking mind. A must see and it cannot fly into the cinemas any sooner.
What Do You Think?
Are these on your list of films to watch?
Let us know in the comments!