Category Archives: Top 10s

Top 20 Films of 2016 (10-1)

(This list is based on UK release dates.)

To read my Top 20 Films of 2016 (20-11), click here.

10. THE WITCH

“What went we out into this wilderness to find?” And so begins The Witch, a film that from its very first few moments makes it clear how committed it is to portraying New England folktales of witchcraft in all its grotesque detail. The film uses these notions of evil magic as means to threaten a disgraced family cast into exile. After losing their youngest child, the madness and paranoia of the family escalates, leading to a crazed, unpredictable final act full of disturbing scenes. This is a film intended to be watched with one eye hidden behind the covers: there’s an unbearable sense of unease present throughout the film, created by the dulled palette of the cinematography, the droning score and  some magnificently creepy shots of animals. Accompanied by some magnificent portrayals of characters each complex, sympathetic and deranged, The Witch is 2016’s greatest horror film, a simmering exercise in losing control that’s packed with lasting imagery.

9. HIGH-RISE

One of the year’s most divisive films, High-Rise is an unapologetically blunt and brash satirical thriller, adapted from J.G.Ballard’s novella. Unsurprisingly, director Ben Wheatley is a perfect match for the material, crafting a dangerous and delirious film with the off-kilter mania he’s known for, and in turn producing his best work yet. The film uses a high-concept building as both its setting and its main character: it’s the symbol of progression into regression the film bases its sparse plot around. Within it, the screen is bloated with bold colours and flashy editing, a cacophony of noise and violence. Luke Evans’ Wilder embodies this spirit, giving a wild and menacing performance that has to go down as one of the year’s best. The film belongs to him, despite it following Hiddlestone’s Dr. Robert Laing instead, a more quietly dangerous figure without the sensibilities we would assume of him at first glance. As he and each other character loosens their grip on perception and judgement, the film tightens its grip on its audience, and we can only watch on, and, fascinatingly, enjoy the absence of morality put forth on screen. High-Rise is a film that deserves high praise.

8. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

It’s very difficult to pin down a genre for Nocturnal Animals. In one instance, it’s a satire, and then it’s a thriller, and then it’s a romance, and then it’s a western, and then… you get the idea. It’s an ever-changing, twisting film, laced with an unpredictable danger, with one key theme at its core: revenge. Amy Adams’ Susan is the target, and the delivery of a typescript to her from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a damning review of Susan’s actions disguised as an irresistible gift. The film then digresses into a wonderful tonal boiling pot of guns and decor, shaped exactly as you’d expect from a fashion designer-turned director, Tom Ford. It’s an uneasy and treacherous traversal through the mind of a man who feels betrayed, his emotions discerned through powerful imagery and unmissable parallels: the close-up of Susan’s piercing eyes, the naked bodies strewn across a couch. These ideas aren’t repressed by Ford but allowed to burst at the seams, getting the message across in a magnificently melodramatic manner, and crescendoing towards a brutal finale that’s every bit as brutal as it is inevitable.

To read my review on Nocturnal Animals, click here.

7. ARRIVAL

2016 may not have been sci-fi’s strongest year (Arrival is the only film of the genre that appears on this list), but it did have its seemingly-annual groundbreaker in the form of Arrival. An alien flick but not really, the film is a powerful cry for humanity’s togetherness, conveyed via an intellectually stimulating and thoughtful character piece. The character in question is Amy Adam’s Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist challenged with interpreting and understanding alien dialect before the threat of war against the extra-terrestrial creatures is realised. It’s intense and tinged with uncertainty, the film appearing as a standard, if interesting and absorbing, fare, before pulling the rug from under you and laying bare its central themes. This is a film directed by Villeneuve without his usual flair, instead sensibly allowing the script to unfold. And what an astonishing script it is! It’s imaginative and heartfelt and bubbling with ideas and sociopolitical statements. As far as sci-fi goes, Arrival is a welcome, er, arrival in a genre that’s continuously evolving and changing with each passing year.

To read my review on Arrival, click here.

6. THE HATEFUL EIGHT

I’m hardly Tarantino’s biggest fan, and I struggle to enjoy Westerns (Hell or High Water and Westworld both falling victim to that preference), so The Hateful Eight had the makings of a film that I’d find easy to hate. What a welcome surprise, then, to find a film as downright enjoyable as this. The film is a largely contained western thriller set in one shack, where eight characters have to stay the night and try to get along. Obviously, this all goes pear-shaped, and despite the restrained setting, what follows is an unbridled showdown of guns and mayhem. It’s a first and second act of palpable tension, magnificently constructed by Tarantino, and a third act of balls-to-the-wall violence. Using segments voiced over tongue-in-cheek by narrator Tarantino, there’s a distinct sense of fun cast over the narrative, managing to make the most despicable crimes incredibly enjoyable to watch unfold. That’s not mentioning how technically astounding The Hateful Eight is. Ennio Morricone’s score is a sweeping melody deserving of its Oscar, packing a sinister tone and helping the film maintain its tension. The visuals are stark and cold when focusing on the shack’s surroundings, and warm and cosy on the inside, cleverly juxtaposing the gunslinging brutality on screen. And the camerawork is kinetic and alive, intent on capturing each character’s demise in all their gory detail. It may have been released in January, but The Hateful Eight is still vivid in my mind.

5. ANOMALISA

Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, is my favourite film of all time. We’ve had to wait 8 years for his sophomoric effort, and it doesn’t disappoint. The film is a stop-motion animation that follows David Thewlis’ Michael Stone, a customer service expert who finds it much easier to tell other people how to talk to humans than do it himself. Like every one of Kaufman’s central protagonists, he’s a flawed character, insecure, cynical and controlling, but also deeply sympathetic. The choice of stop-motion isn’t a gimmick but integral to the plot, conveying the film’s themes of loneliness, human connection, and the Fregoli delusion in interesting, wholly unique ways. Despite its obvious animated appearance, Anomalisa is one of the most realistically human films of the year, precisely capturing conversations and mannerisms in a beautifully relatable way. It’s stop-motion like you’ve never seen it before: the camera moves in and out of rooms as if it were live action, focusing on a rainy window pane or the butt of a cigarette. It’s much less grand than Synecdoche, and much more personal, managing to carry a substantial amount of emotional heft in its short runtime; there’s no film-maker out there able to capture the human condition as deftly as Kaufman can.

4. NOTES ON BLINDNESS

Films are built around senses, and Notes on Blindness is no different. The smell of rain. The noise of a tape whirring. The image of a wave engulfing a supermarket aisle. It is the latter sense, sight, that has been taken away from John Hull, a theologian whose life is explored in this docu-drama. Over the course of his life after being diagnosed as blind, he taped several recordings talking about his affliction, how he was dealing with it, and what it meant to him. Notes on Blindness takes these soundbites and incorporates it into reenactments of certain scenes described, often metaphorically. It’s an unassuming film: there’s no grand, half-baked statements on philosophy and religion. They each play a part in Hull coming to terms with his loss of sight, but don’t overcrowd the film’s poignant simplicity. Funnily enough, despite focusing on the absence of images, the film’s cinematography is excellent, depicting powerful moments – the smile of a child, or a wife’s glance frozen in time – with significant attention, highlighting the gravitas of the accompanying narration. Make no mistake: Notes on Blindness may be small-scale at first glance, but it’s not slight. It’s an ambitious examination on what it means to be blind, demonstrated with irresistible emotional weight.

3. SWISS ARMY MAN

Swiss Army Man may very well be the greatest farting corpse movie I’ve ever seen. Director duo Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), best known for their crazed, surrealist music videos, give themselves a challenging task for their first effort at making a feature film: they hate acapella, survival storylines and fart jokes, and Swiss Army Man contains all that and more. It’s a film that caused walkouts at Sundance and spurred The Guardian to award it one star and five stars in separate reviews. The film is a philosophical adventure following Paul Dano’s Hank as he’s stranded on an island, and Daniel Radcliffe’s Manny as his Rigor Mortis-rescuer. As the title suggests, Manny is a dead body seemingly possessed with supernatural powers, able to talk, or use his boner as a compass, or to fart across water like a jetski. These crude and objectively weird moments is one of the messages the movie is trying to make: why is there such stigma against the weird and wacky? Instead of looking down on the quirks of others, we should embrace each person for who they are. This message, along with themes of isolation and yearning to be cared for, are portrayed with the Sundance-y flair of someone who knows their craft without being conditioned to adhere to strict filmmaking practice. As the film industry becomes increasingly saturated with schlocky flicks barely worth paying attention to, amid the guff, it’s refreshing to see a completely original, hilarious and heartfelt drama with not a bone in its body borrowed from another director’s methods. Like Manny, Swiss Army Man has a voice of its own.

2. EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT

Embrace of the Serpent plays out like a fever dream. Taking two narratives, 30 years apart, both following an explorer looking for a rare plant with the aid of an Amazonian tribesman, and intertwining them to a satisfying whole, the film is a ferocious, pioneering exploration of contrasting ideologies. There’s no absolute truth the film presents, leaving us to decide for ourselves who’s in the right, if there even is indeed a ‘right’ in the first place. It’s a maddening expedition in both narratives, depicting child abuse, sickness and false Messiahs in interesting and often heart-breaking ways. There is a definite sadness to the story, and a political undercurrent too. We grow to understand tribesman Karamakate’s way of thinking, and empathise with his loss of connection with the surrounding jungle later in his life. He’s played in his youth with wonderful angry petulance by Nilbio Torres, an actual Amazon native, and his interactions with German explorer Theo von Martius (Jan Bijvoet) form the heart of the movie’s statements on colonialism and materialism. Meanwhile, the narrative of the movie that takes place 30 years later functions moreso as an aching for the past, and as an understanding and acceptance of change. Much like Swiss Army ManEmbrace of the Serpent is a film unlike anything you’ve seen before; a psychedelic, searing portrayal of two cultures both clashing and attempting to understand one another.

1. A BIGGER SPLASH

To state what A Bigger Splash is about presents a demanding challenge. On its surface level, it’s a film about four rich figures living in a villa together on a holiday glittering with sunshine, two of whom are increasingly unwelcome. On its second level, it’s a contained drama about change, and refusal to accept change, leading to inescapable sexual tension that threatens to separate the foursome. And on its third level, it’s a subtle example of escapism, the sunny holiday setting and expensive, expansive villa a way to ignore fame, loneliness, and the more troublesome affairs of the modern world. Brilliantly, the villa is also their trapping. The four characters in question are Marianne (Tilda Swinton), a famous singer who’s impermanently lost her voice, both literally and metaphorically, her husband Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), a reserved, enigmatic figure, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), a restive and exotic old flame of Lane’s, and Penelope (Dakota Johnson), the troubled and troublesome (probable) daughter of Harry. Each of these four characters are wonderfully complex, despicable yet irresistible, pervaded with poignancy. There’s the obvious character interactions of Harry attempting to rekindle the flame with Marianne, but less explainable mannerisms, such as the tricky actions of Penelope throughout the film. Simply put, the film is so interesting, and not just because of the characters. Director Luca Guadagnino approaches A Bigger Splash as a scientific experiment, overflowing with quirky edits and jittering camerawork, using sensual zooms in on peeled fruit or shimmering water to transport the audience to the film’s location, while simultaneously using fourth-wall breaks that somehow work in context of how much fun the film is. But it’s fun laced with venom and melancholy, and as the credits roll, there is an unmistakable sadness that accompanies the overwhelming delight of watching 2016’s best film.

-Gus Edgar

Top 20 Films of 2016 (20-11)

(This list is based on UK release dates)

We’ve survived 2016. Amid celebrity deaths, Trump, Brexit and Toblerones, the year has hardly been a happy one. At least there’s a silver lining to be found in the wonderful array of films 2016 has to offer, right? Well, yes and no. Blockbusters and high-profile sequels haven’t given us much to cheer about: Star Trek Beyond, Finding Dory, Ghostbusters, Jason Bourne, The Magnificent Seven, and, from my own more personal viewpoint, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Rogue One were all met with a shrug. Batman v SupermanSuicide SquadIndependence Day: Resurgence and X-Men: Apocalypse fared even worse. But, if you scour the year’s filmography and dig deep, there’s some daring, exciting, extraordinary films worth watching amid the insufferable commercialised safety of big-brand blockbuster.

Inevitably, I didn’t manage to see every single film available this year. There are many films that may have made this list had I had the chance to see them. These films include Things to Come, The Childhood of a Leader, The Valley of Love, The Assassin, Son of Saul, Lemonade, Your Name and Julieta.

As always, a Top 20 doesn’t leave room for all of the great films on display this year. Some fell just short of making the list, but deserve a mention all the same. The Invitation is a thriller involving a gathering that’s, on the surface, a dinner party, managing to create more tension than any film this year despite a rather meagre payoff. 10 Cloverfield Lane is similar in the sense that it takes place in a contained area, the plot unwinding in a gripping, unpredictable fashion as we realise whether John Goodman’s character’s talk of aliens is true or a symptom of his obviously unhinged state. The Club is a drama that gives insight towards paedophilia and preisthood. It’s a disturbing, morally-muddied take on the subject, culminating in a brutal finale.

American Honey is an intentionally meandering mood-piece on America’s wistful youth, using first-time actors and improvising its scenes in order to emphasise its gorgeous, sun-soaked realism. Always Shine is a fierce, faux-horror study on jealousy between actors and the female role in an inherently sexist Hollywood, shimmering with style and brutality. And Hail, Caesar! is a delightful offering from the Coen Brothers, following Josh Brolin’s character as he deals with a selection of barmy, interlinking affairs in an atypical few days of 50s Hollywood.

And so begins the Top 20…

20. POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING

2016 has been a fantastic year for comedy. Sure, we’ve had the odd Bad Santa 2, but we also had Neighbours 2, and despite being savaged by critics, I thought both Grimsby and Zoolander 2 were hilarious. And another reason for this brilliant comedic year comes in the form of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, detailing the rise and inevitable fall of ‘Conner4Real’ (Andy Samberg) following his break-up from a previous boyband. It’s a satirical riff on celebrity culture and egotism, acted and directed by The Lonely Island, a trio of comedy-musicians that became internet sensations with such nuanced work as Jizz in My Pants. So the humour is vulgar and immature, right? Well, yes, while also being both clever and hilarious. Popstar‘s true feat is that, in the face of dick jokes and Seal getting attacked by a pack of wolves, it manages to craft an emotionally rewarding and satisfying tale of friendship. No, seriously.  Despite the laugh-a-minute approach of the film, there’s genuine heart to be found, the film finding an impressive balance between the crude, the cutting, and the charming.

19. THE NEON DEMON

Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous two films, Drive and Only God Forgives, are two of my favourite films of this decade. The Neon Demon may not reach those heights, but it certainly maintains Refn’s penchant for bloody violence and stylish set-pieces. Following model-in-training Jesse as she rises up the ranks of the fashion industry, the film explores beauty standards, vanity and jealousy, the shelf-life of models and their bloodthirsty pursuit of obtaining youth, and, er, occults. It’s a hodgepodge of venomous and surreal ideas gloriously realised by Natasha Braier’s glitzy cinematography and Cliff Martinez’s electrifying score. The film glides along with an underlying sense of dread before veering off in a totally unexpected manner that ramps up the shock factor – unexpected even when considering Refn’s track record. And the shock factor has a place rather than used just for the sake of it, propelling and fleshing out Refn’s deranged method of symbolism and meaning. The Neon Demon makes it very clear, in gloriously polished fashion, that beauty is ugly.

18. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

Animation company Laika have found a niche in making grotesque and unsettling flicks palatable for a younger audience. Each of their films – from Coraline to Paranorman deal with mature themes in a careful and inspiring manner, often integrating creepy set-production and character design that would give even an older audience the jitters, and Kubo and the Two Strings is no different. Kubo focuses on loss and how it provokes the titular character to fulfil a quest very similar to a story he tells the village-folk as a way of busking. It’s a sweet, sentimental story that’s involving enough. But in truth, the story only serves as a vehicle for the film’s greatest strength: it’s wonderful animation. Astonishingly hand-crafted rather than digital, there hasn’t been a more beautiful stop-motion animation in the history of cinema (though a film appearing higher up on this list does run it close). As Kubo and his oddball sidekicks journey through caves and deep in the ocean, we are introduced to a wide variety of eye-popping visuals. Elevated by an impressive, suitably-strumming score, Kubo is an absolute joy to watch.

17. PATERSON

Paterson is a story about a man called Paterson who lives in Paterson, who’s a bus driver played by Adam Driver. This is fitting – the film takes on a subtly surreal tone where everything Paterson does seems to fit in place with a prior event: A painting of a waterfall, the name of a poet. A more appropriate way of describing Paterson would be that it’s less of a story and more an ordinary segment of his life, following Driver’s character for a week, fixating on his routine. He’s an aspiring poet, an affectionate boyfriend, an inquisitive bus-driver. There’s nothing much more to the film; much like Boyhood, the film revels in its delightful simplicity, rather than opting to manufacture drama. The film’s not heart-pulsing or action-packed, nor does it have to be – the camera lingering on a matchbox or eavesdropping on a conversation between two passengers is riveting enough. The film is simply a lovely two hours of cinema that functions as an ode to the creative mind.

16. SPOTLIGHT

Last year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight, crept up on us. With The Revenant expected to be awarded the prize, Spotlight began picking up awards at an increasing pace, until it was thrust into the, er, spotlight (sorry), and received the attention that it deserves. Likewise, the film itself is an unassuming investigative piece that creeps up on you, shedding light on paedophilia in the church and how knowledge of it was hushed and swept under the rug rather than condemned. Unlike this year’s The ClubSpotlight takes a less personal approach and a more objective viewpoint, allowing the audience to develop their own sentiments of rage and indignation. Aside from fumbling a fleeting moment of outburst from Mark Ruffalo’s journalist, the film isn’t showy or heavy-handed. While its nearest competitor, The Revenant, was praised for sweeping camera movements and sumptuous visual effects, there’s nothing of the sort on display here. Rather, Spotlight adopts a minimalist approach, the camera held steady and the score barely noticeable. In that sense, it’s technically perfect: it allows a potent script and believable acting to flourish, leaving the audience with a devastating ending without drawing attention to itself.

15. VICTORIA

Victoria is a 140-minute thriller in which its central protagonist, played wonderfully by Laia Costa, inadvertently involves herself in a robbery after a harmless night of clubbing, drinking, and smoking. The snag? It’s a single take. This obstacle doesn’t prevent Victoria from managing high ambitions, however. We follow the titular character as she joins a group of four men, talks philosophy, plays the piano, takes part in a robbery and outruns the police, all in one take. The method of filming doesn’t mask the grittiness of the situation, and provides realism and panic to stakes that we as an audience are engaged by. The film is deeply emotional, impressively action-packed, daring, unpredictable you name it. Its cinematography leads us to believe that these are real people, stuck in a real situation, and their plight is one we should be interested in, and, inevitably, devastated by.

14. THE BIG SHORT

On paper, a movie about banks is tricky business. The problem is that nobody in their right minds should care: it’s all adjustable-rate mortgages and collateralised debt organisations. However, Adam McKay, director of Anchorman, makes it look easy, birthing a film about the housing market collapse of the mid 2000s that’s not only interesting and informative, tinged with McKay’s impressive knack for eking out humour, but also ferocious in its criticism of the banking industry. Make no mistake, the slick self-aware explanations of financial jargon and the knowingly-cheesy fourth wall breaks are all bells and whistles for a serious, cutting film imbued with a political current. There’s no mistaking the fact that the final few moments of the film provide anger rather than relief, solemnity rather than celebration. It’s a study on morally grey characters: their profit is a huge amount of people’s loss, and McKay’s greatest trick is to stir the audience into celebrating along with them before realising the significance of the situation.

13. UNDER THE SHADOW

2016’s most downright terrifying film of the year goes to Under the Shadow, an Iranian-language horror with a disturbing threat that may or may not exist in the form of a Djinn. There’s a sociopolitical undercurrent to the events taking place: Narges Rashidi’s Shadeh, the central character to the film, is seen fleeing from her apartment with her daughter. Rather than being consoled, she is arrested for not covering herself up. It is made clear that Shadeh not only has to face the horrors haunting her apartment, but the horrors of the outside world. Yet these themes of sexism and intolerance in religion don’t overcrowd the simple, calculated story at the heart of Under the Shadow. Supernatural happenings occur, and with the introduction of a few marvellously unsettling dream sequences, the camera swaying with Shadeh’s movement, it’s not made immediately apparent whether the Djinn is tangible or simply a fiction created by Shadeh’s insomniac-ridden mind. Under the Shadow functions beautifully on many levels: as a statement on Iran’s sociopolitical climate, as an ode to their mythology, and as an intensely frightening horror story.

12. THE NICE GUYS

Shane Black is gradually becoming one of my go-to directors for comedy. 2013’s Iron Man 3 is my favourite movie from the Marvel Universe, and that’s because it was a comedy begging to not being taken seriously, with a comedic twist worth the ticket price alone. The Nice Guys maintains its director’s sense of riotous fun with a 70s detective caper, lead by the duo of Russell Crowe’s straight-faced Jackson and Ryan Gosling’s endearingly clueless Holland. It’s a supremely enjoyable and stylish pastiche of the 70s, complete with cheesy afros and funky house parties. There’s little discernible substance, and the film acknowledges the lack of harm the two characters go through, Gosling stating his own invincibility amid a flurry of gunfire, but there’s enormous amusement to be had listening to the protagonist’s Ritchie-esque banter and watching as they faff their way through a rather serious investigation. It’s the year’s best definitive comedy, in a year full of great comedy.

11. THE REVENANT

While The Neon Demon argues that there’s ugliness in beauty, The Revenant argues that there’s beauty to be found in ugliness. At least, that’s what the film’s cinematography suggests, often giving the appearance of a nature documentary rather than one man’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) cold-blooded tale of survival and revenge. It’s brutal film-making, realised in high definition, orchestrated with panoramic camera movements that capture blood, dirt and snow in all its gritty detail. Interspersed with floaty dream sequences, the film is elevated beyond a simple revenge tale to a study on the concept of revenge itself, the morality behind the actions you take in order to pursue it, and the marvels of human endurance. The Revenant is a visceral, spiritual journey supported by stirring performances, an unsparing tone and its juxtaposing, visually arresting imagery.

Join me next week for my Top 10 Films of 2016.

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2017

It’s very difficult to deny that 2016 has been a terrible year for blockbusters. After critical and commercial failures in the form of Suicide Squad, Batman vs Superman,  X-Men ApocalypseWarcraftAlice Through the Looking GlassThe Legend of Tarzan, you name it, it should be of no surprise that there are no big-budget superhero flicks or mindless action films on this list. As the year has developed, more people are noting the creeping sensation of superhero fatigue. So why not turn to films that show originality, inventiveness, passion? This list intends to highlight the very notion, and to celebrate independent filmmaking.

I’ve seen both Manchester by the Sea, It’s Only the End of the World and The Handmaiden at the 2016 London Film Festival, so they won’t feature in this list, but I certainly recommend checking them out: they’re each fantastic in their own individual ways.

A few films just miss out on this list, but deserve a mention. War for the Planet of the Apes may be a blockbuster, but its predecessors, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planets of the Apes, are interesting and thought-provoking films. and War should be no different. With a very promising trailer and Woody Harrelson joining the project, the third film in this franchise is one to look out for. The Death of Stalin is a political comedy detailing the dictator’s final few moments and the aftermath of his death. It’s directed by Armando Iannucci, writer of The Thick of ItIn the Loop and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, so expect plenty of sharp wit and foul-mouthed banter. Darkest Hour is Joe Wright’s follow-up to Pan. He’s, thankfully, on far more familiar ground, depicting WW2 through the eyes of Gary Oldman’s Churchill. With Ben Mendelsohn’s participation, superb acting and directorial flair may prove a winning combination.

Sci-Fi is making its mark in 2017, and a reason for that is Alex Garland’s Annihilation. His sophomoric effort after the intelligent and intriguing Ex Machina, not much is known about the project. It does, however, possess a terrific cast of Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Oscar Isaac. The final honourable mention goes to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. It’s been noted that all great directors have a war film in their filmography, and Nolan may add himself to the list with his take on the infamous battle. Nolan hasn’t disappointed, so this film has the potential for greatness, even if its trailer doesn’t escape generic war-genre fare.  Now, on to the list.

10. MUTE

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Release Date: Unknown

Duncan Jones didn’t have a very good 2016. His father, David Bowie, passed away, and his Warcraft film was critically panned. His 2017, however, looks far more promising – returning to his sci-fi roots, he’s directing Mute, a film that would have been his directorial debut if not for complications leading him to direct Moon instead, an excellent sci-fi critical darling. Described as its ‘spiritual sequel’, the film takes place in Berlin forty years in the future, following a bartender on a hunt for a missing girl. There’s a caveat – as the title would suggest, he’s mute. It’s an intriguing, original premise, bolstered by Clint Mansell (High-Rise) as the composer and the inclusion of Paul Rudd in its cast.

9. MOTHER

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Release Date: Unknown

Darren Aronofsky is one of the great working directors today, and his new film will no doubt look to reach the heights of Black Swan and The Fountain after the mild shrug of Noah. Taking an interesting if familiar premise of a couple’s relationship threatened by unwanted visitors, there is almost certainly information being kept from us; Aronofsky is not one to direct small-scale. If his directorial prowess, along with the cast of Jennifer Lawrence, Domnhall Gleeson, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer is anything to go by, Mother looks like it’ll be a cracking, crackling drama.

8. UNDER THE SILVER LAKE

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Release Date: Unknown

It Follows may not have received the attention of a mainstream audience, but it certainly turned the heads of many critics, including mine. Heavily stylised and superbly tense, it also convinced a more starry cast, including Andrew Garfield and Dakota Johnson to join board with its director, David Robert Mitchell. Under the Silver Lake is a neo-noir crime thriller… and that’s all we know. However, with studio A24’s backing, there’s high hopes that the film will continue Mitchell’s critical success.

7. BABY DRIVER

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Release Date: 18th August

Has Edgar Wright ever disappointed? His Cornetto trilogy, along with Scott Pilgrim are all beloved, and the director has garnered recognition for his snappy editing style and impressive combination of slapstick and wit. Baby Driver is his latest, a film more action than comedy, but judging by the fight sequences in Scott Pilgrim and Hot Fuzz’s final act, that won’t be too much of a problem. Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Lily James and Ansel Elgort all star, Elgort taking the titular role and bearing a condition that means he has to listen to music constantly. With a soundtrack reportedly containing over 35 songs, no-one’s complaining.

6. WILDLIFE

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Release Date: Unknown

Paul Dano has shown his acting chops, and now takes after Ryan Gosling by experimenting with a directorial debut. Unlike Gosling, however, his ambitions are a little more grounded: Wildlife has the simplistic plot of a boy witnessing his parent’s divorce. It’s a premise that has the potential for tears, and with the knowledge Dano has gained over the years in tear-jerking roles, the film may be 2017’s most emotional. The parents in question are, promisingly, Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan, so even if Dano flounders his directorial attempt, at least we can admire some fine acting.

5. T2: Trainspotting

Release Date: 27th January

The gang returns, along with Danny Boyle, for another drug-fueled melancholic go at choosing life. With a very, very promising trailer, fans of its predecessor will be hoping for the cutting sociopolitical commentary, crazed direction, shocking scenes, hilarious dialogue and complex characters that made Trainspotting so successful. With a release date of January, they won’t have to wait long to find out.

4. MOONLIGHT

Release Date: 17th February

One of the Oscar frontrunners, Moonlight is a film that gives insight into homosexuality in the black community, following a young man as he grows and develops into a mature adult, the plot split in a triad a la The Place Beyond the Pines. It’s touted as an affecting, miraculous piece of filmmaking, boasting incredible cinematography and superb acting. After sweeping a variety of award ceremonies, it’s difficult to anticipate this film without overly-high expectations.

3. BLADE RUNNER 2049

Release Date: 6th October

The announcement of a Blade Runner sequel was met with many groans; we’ve been disappointed with remakes or sequels long after the original before (Total RecallRobocop, to name a couple). There were also doubts surrounding whether a continuation of the original story was necessary or warranted. However, when it was revealed that Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Incendies) would helm the project, all doubts dissipated. Add to that Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, the return of Harrison Ford, Ridley Scott as producer, Roger Deakins as cinematographer and Jóhann Jóhannsson scoring, Blade Runner 2049 has all the ingredients for success, despite not knowing anything about the sequel’s plot.

2. LA LA LAND

Release Date: 13th January

Another major Oscar contender, La La Land is Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to the acclaimed Whiplash. First a romance about Hollywood, and then a Hollywood film about romance, the film features Ryan Gosling as Emma Stone as they sing and dance their way through a glittering romance. It’s a feel-good film without being over-sentimental, and one that’s also been picking up awards continuously.

1. UNTITLED PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON FASHION PROJECT

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1640119a) There Will Be Blood (Onset) Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Day-Lewis Film and Television

Release Date: Unknown

Catchy title, huh? My most anticipated film of 2017 goes to PTA’s follow-up to Inherent Vice, which was my favourite film of 2015. He re-teams with Daniel Day-Lewis to give us a film about the fashion industry in the 1950s, no doubt complete with style, funk and spunk. Each of his films have a melancholic, yearning quality, and hopefully this film will be no different. PTA is one of the best working directors we have, and so every film of his should be met with eager anticipation. Bring on 2017.

-Gus Edgar

 

Top 20 Films of 2015 (10-1)

(This list is based on UK release dates.)

To read Top 20 Films of 2015 (20-11), click here.

10. CRIMSON PEAK

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Beware of Crimson Peak…“. Guillermo Del Toro’s follow-up to his explosive, terrible Pacific Rim is a more grounded, luscious tragic-romance disguised as a dramatic gothic horror. There may be brilliantly-designed ghouls terrorising the mansion in which the bulk of Crimson Peak is set, but the film’s priorities rest within the doomed romance between Mia Wasikowska’s Edith (fast making a name for herself) and the dubious baronet of whom she’s captivated by, Tom Hiddlestone’s Sir Thomas Sharpe. Whisked away to England after their marriage, she endures a torrid time at the hands of Jessica Chastain’s Lady Lucille, sister of Sharpe. The film’s suspense is sustained by the mystery involved within the manor Edith resides, and the film plays out in gloriously gory, melodramatic fashion, where sweeping thrums of piano-heavy scores and impeccable production design fuel the sombre, sinister atmosphere. The film’s pacing is effortless, culminating in a jealousy-fuelled showdown that’s incredibly involving. Critics have criticised Crimson Peak‘s sparse plot, but I couldn’t disagree more; it’s an intentional choice to allow the beauty of the film – and it really is beautiful – to flourish.

9. THE FORBIDDEN ROOM

Forbidden Room Maria de Medeiros Credit: Cecile Janvier Maria de Medeiros in a scene from The Forbidden Room.

Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room is a cinephile’s ecstasy, a delirious traversal through everything that niche-cinema has to offer. It’s visually incredible and persistent in pummeling your senses with startling imagery and thundering sound design; it’s not so much style over substance, but the film’s plot is deliberately incohesive and dreamlike, an underlying theme that proudly ignores formulative storytelling. It begins with a man giving a lecture on how to take a bath, quickly transitions to men trapped in a submarine who use the air pockets in potato-cakes to conserve oxygen, and follows unrelentingly in a similarly bizarre, engrossing fashion. We watch a song about a man’s addiction to bottoms unfold (entitled ‘The Final Derriere), the memories of a moustache in its dying moments, and a parable regarding the god Janus, told through the vivid dreams of a volcano. It’s all nonsensical, unintelligible stuff, but it works, and importantly, it’s extremely funny. With moments of wit and slapstick spread throughout, it rises from excellent to euphoric, the film containing incessant imagination and beauty – often profundity – that will either astound, like it did for me, or tire; as some critics purport, The Forbidden Room is ‘too much of a good thing’. Regardless, any film as daring and wild as Maddin’s latest is surely deserving of a watch – perhaps for the ‘Book of Climaxes’ scene alone.

8. BIRDMAN

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My most anticipated film of 2015, last year’s Best Picture winner is an eccentric meta-film that was a refreshing champion amid the abundance of precious biopics. Functioning as both a criticism of Hollywood cinema and critics, and a weighty odyssey of one man’s decision to risk everything for success, Birdman has a sharp script and some excellent performances to emphasise the themes of the film. It helps, too, that the film’s characters mirror their real-life counterparts – Keaton and his involvement with Batman, Norton and the tales of the notorious difficulty to work with him – affording Birdman some much-needed realism to contrast with the glorious segments of surrealist fantasy that are interspersed in the narrative. The film’s editing is admirable, where long-takes are spliced together to form a film that appears to be shot continuously without any cuts, accentuating the film’s structural spiral out of control. Keaton is fantastic as Birdman’s Riggan Thompson, the character uncertain and unhinged, hell-bent on proving his self-worth, surrounded by the doubt of Ed Norton and Emma Stone’s lively characters, each giving a performance deserving of their respective Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations. As a criticism of modern blockbusters, it stumbles slightly due to the fact that its reasoning isn’t fully fleshed out, but as a portrayal of a desperate man on the brink of success and on the cusp of defeat, Birdman soars.

7. INSIDE OUT

Inside Out

Pixar’s recent slump in form (for their standards, at least) led many to view Inside Out with a sense of apprehension. Following Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University, had we finally witnessed Pixar’s recession to mediocrity? As Inside Out demonstrates, the answer is: no. Following on from the animation studio’s fascination with ‘what if ___ had feelings?’, their 15th story elaborates on the concept, ‘what if feelings had feelings?’. And it achieves this with hilarious, inspiring, heartbreaking success. It’s one of Pixar’s saddest films to date – which is no small feat when you consider Up‘s 10-minute opener – but the poignancy doesn’t feel abrupt; instead earned. The plot’s structure allows for tragic reminiscing and -potential spoilers- a lack of a defined antagonist, while the plot’s concept allows for a devilish inventiveness that’s been sorely missing from Pixar’s recent films. And in the wake of this inventiveness arises the eloquent, powerful emotion that forces through a refreshingly non-padded moral message at the film’s core. Inside Out deals with depression and its effects in a unique, accurate manner, ridding the harmful myth that sadness is synonymous with the illness.  To expand on this theme any further would be heavily implying the crux of this film, and diminishing Inside Out‘s thoughtful potency. The animation is incredible (but that’s to be expected from Pixar), and the score is mesmerising and melodic, perfectly capturing the sense of wonder and creativity – and the idea of letting go of certain memories – that the film evokes. Inside Out manages to get inside your head as much as its central protagonist.

6. BEASTS OF NO NATION

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The first film I saw at 2015’s London Film Festival was also my favourite; Carey Fukunaga’s feature film directorial debut is an insight into West-African child soldiers and an urgent criticism of our reluctance to prevent the cause. Idris Elba is receiving all the Oscar buzz for his brutal, manipulative – yet fragile – portrayal of the group’s ‘Commandant’, but Abraham Attah is the star of Beasts of No Nation, conveying that otherworldly tragedy of war and the harrowing, weary effect it enforces on him. The film is shot beautifully, by Fukunaga himself, using similar techniques to his acclaimed True Detective camerawork, and flawlessly captures the bleak, sprawling chaos of war in Africa. Beasts of No Nation deals with sombre themes in a brave, sensitive manner, where Fukunaga is unafraid to highlight the bloodshed and horrific nature of it all when showing the film’s more upsetting scenes. It’s 2015’s feel-bad movie of the year, a film that’s even more disconcerting when you acknowledge that the events on screen are taking place abundantly in real life.

Read EdgarReviews’ Beasts of No Nation review here. 

5. WHIPLASH

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Another feature film directorial debut, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is exhilarating, adrenaline-fueled, and will keep you captivated from its opening scene to its final, bombastic moments. The film follows Miles Tellers’ Andrew Neiman, an aspring drummer who eventually feels the brunt of his drum instructor’s wrath, played in scintillating fashion by J.K. Simmons. The two actors’ chemistry is wonderful, where Teller’s tenacity and arrogance is combatted by Simmons’ bullish intensity, helped by a smart, punishing and often hilarious script. Even if you’re not a fan of jazz (but really, who isn’t a fan), the essence of this flick lies not on what’s being played, but how it’s being played. The film’s iconic scene, where Simmons rages at Teller in harsh spittle over whether he’s rushing or dragging, is exceptionally executed, in no small part due to Whiplash’s terrific editing. This editing allows the film to seamlessly build up tension and structure the struggle between Simmons and Teller, where weighty themes of how a student should be taught to reach their full potential are explored. Chazelle shows a real craftsmanship and love for his subject matter in Whiplash, and you only have to look to the flick’s incredibly exciting, powerful ending to realise the extent that the director will go to create one of the best films that focuses on music in cinematic history.

4. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - 2015 FILM STILL - CHARLIZE THERON as Furiosa and Photo Credit: Jasin Boland © 2015 WV FILMS IV LLC AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC - U.S., CANADA, BAHAMAS & BERMUDA © 2015 VILLAGE ROADSHOW FILMS (BVI) LIMITED - ALL OTHER TERRITORIES

From the year’s best thriller to the year’s best action, the hotly anticipated Mad Max: Fury Road exceeds all expectations, and has become a surprise Oscar contender, juxtaposing a flurry of hefty dramas. You can see why it’s received critical acclaim, too: the action is monumental, the choreography is stunning, the acting is impressive, the score is vigorous, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the world-building is Miller at his very best. The film takes place in a dystopian future, where water is scarce and the tyrannical Immortan Joe rules over the Citadel, the hub of the area’s prized commodities. Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron in a role of real venom and desperation, disagrees with Joe’s method of ruling and sparks a chain of events leading to a near-2-hour car chase akin to Road Warrior that’s thrilling throughout. The plot is kept refreshingly simple (though not non-existent or thin, as some people foolishly state), where universal themes of  survival and dictatorship are brought to the forefront, and allusions to the ‘Four Horsemen’ parable are integrated. Director George Miller’s decision to prioritise practical effects over digital (though digital cannot be avoided, and is embraced in a magnificent sandstorm scene) adds a strong physicality to the fights and chases that has been sorely missing in recent action flicks; watching Mad Max: Fury Road in IMAX was my best cinematic experience of the year, and a film that I look forward to watching time and time again.

3. THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY

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2015 may have given us 50 Shades of Grey, but The Duke of Burgundy reigns supreme as the BDSM flick to watch. Peter Strickland’s previous feature, Berberian Sound Studio, was an odd, atmospheric, quietly ingenious thriller, and Strickland builds on his acclaim with a lesbian romance that’s extremely touching, extensively daring and fantastically entrancing. The film, despite the functionalities of the romance, is an exploration of the dynamics of any relationship, of the lust for control, of each partner’s individual content. In The Duke of Burgundy, there’s no antagonist – the film’s conflict arises from unhappiness within the two character’s own relationship, and the effects it has on them. The characters, by the way, are played brilliantly by Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna, where Knudsen especially gives a frailty to her performance that she hides until the film’s final act, in a terrifically stirring manner. Yet it’s the film’s technical aspects that place it as my 3rd favourite film of 2015: the score, by band Cat’s Eyes’ is grand and minimal at the same time, its throes of vibraphone evoking a nostalgic, European atmosphere that alludes to Strickland’s intense love of pastiche 70s cinema. The film is continuously beautiful, the camera sprawling among the motif of moths (don’t ask) and focusing on the character’s aching faces, its use of angles literally portraying two sides to the character’s relationship: who’s truly in control? The film also flourishes when hiding the character’s interactions during their more sexual exploits; to delve more into that topic would be spoilers. From sitting on each other’s faces to constraining themselves in tight boxes, who says romance is dead? With The Duke of Burgundy,  Strickland makes a good case that it’s more alive than ever.

2. MOMMY

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Midway through French-Canadian drama Mommy, the previous 1:1 aspect ratio opens up slowly, portraying the full width of the screen for the first time in the film. It’s a euphoric moment, perfectly capturing the relief and jovial freedom felt by the film’s characters after a prior hour of claustrophobia and entrapment. The genius behind Mommy, and behind this scene? 26 year-old Xavier Dolan, achieving more at his age than most directors can in their entire career. The film focuses on a teenager inflicted with ADHD, and his mother’s struggles to deal with the intensity of this character. Antoine Pilon as the teenager Steve is exceptional, his goofy mannerisms and melodramatic, exaggerated anger heightening the tragedy of the story. He’s a character that does a lot of wrong, but you can’t help but love him. The mother, Diane (or ‘Die’ for short), performed with extreme talent by Anne Dorval, is a character that attempts to do a lot of right on the other hand, her endeavours engrossing and doomed. Their relationship forms the centerpoint of Mommy, and over the course of the run time it evolves from discontentment and admiration to hatred and love, the film increasingly evocative. Utilising that 1:1 aspect ratio, where the picture is box-shaped, the audience immediately knows where to follow, increasing the attachment to each character tenfold. It’s once again another fascinating film to look at, the beauty contrasting with the potent ugliness of the film’s content. Dealing with themes of maternal love and what the extent of that love is capable of, you’ll be sobbing uncontrollably by the time the end credits roll.

1. INHERENT VICE

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My favourite film of 2015 goes to Inherent Vice, acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest. Detailing the turn of the 70s and the end of hippie culture, the film follows – though perhaps ‘follows’ is too strong a word – Doc Sportello, played in a reliably humorous and confused fashion by Joaquin Phoenix, and his misguided attempts to traverse the murky criminal underworld and uncover the secrets regarding the enigmatic ‘Golden Fang’. The plot hardly matters, however – Inherent Vice is more intent on focusing on its moody, mesmerising atmosphere. It’s everything: a neo-noir, a 149-minute drug trip, a ballsy comedy, a misty romance, a sociopoltical statement on capitalism. It’s deeply funny, but also deeply sad, the sense of melancholy a prolific undercurrent that only rises to the forefront at the very end. And so with this conglomeration of themes and tones, it’s the best kind of film: a film that sets out to give the audience a rapturous, rhapsodic experience and achieves that aim impeccably. The acting is uniformly excellent, the soundtrack evokes that 70s atmosphere in faultless style, the grainy texture of the film used is palpable, and the journey is a superb microcosm for the yearning of the past. Inherent Vice may be impenetrable, but that’s not by coincidence: you’re experiencing the film from Doc Sportello’s point of view, and that experience is ecstatic, hilarious and bittersweet.

Read EdgarReviews’ Inherent Vice review here. 

-Gus Edgar

Top 20 Films of 2015 (20-11)

(This list is based on UK release dates.)

2015 is at an end, and what a year it’s been for films; perhaps no film arrives as daring and magnificent as last year’s Boyhood, but the year has been both consistent and generous in its steady thrum of excellent films. My top 20 of 2015 only scratches the surface of what this year has had to offer – it contains octane-fueled action flicks, melancholic romances and moody period pieces, but I can’t begin without mentioning a few films that barely missed out on a place in this list:

The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark comedy, boasted a hilarious script and some wonderful, quirky ideas, while Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a heavily energetic if somewhat familiar return to the beloved franchise. Another film high on energy was Chappie, unfairly criticised by many critics; I thought it was a wonderful return to form from Neill Blomkamp, depicting the birth of AI in a captivating and touching way.

Avengers: Age of Ultron was a well-handled, extremely entertaining superhero caper with some fantastic humor integrated in seamlessly. A more serious film came in the form of Ex Machina, a more cold and calculated look at AI that was shot and performed deftly, its themes mature and wonderfully explored. And the last of my honourable mentions goes to London Road, a mundane musical that was both poignant and hopeful.

And now, the Top 20.

20. TOKYO TRIBE

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An exhilarating offering from Sion Sono, Tokyo Tribe is quite possibly the greatest battle-rap martial arts musical I’ve ever seen. It’s as all-over-the-place as it sounds, but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t extremely entertaining. This is partly due to the cinematography, production design and soundtrack that Tokyo Tribe uses – flourishing camera movements and unbridled neon add to Sono’s incredible knack for world-building, giving the film’s portrayal of an alternate Tokyo a dusky, neo-noir feel. The heavy drum beats and how the raps are structured into the film are all masterful in their execution, serving to maintain its adrenaline-fueled plotting that surprisingly never becomes tiresome. The ideas, too, are fresh and startling – from pale naked bodies used as furniture to a giant rotating vacuum-blade in the middle of a fight sequence, Tokyo Tribe feels new and exciting, a film that breaks conventional genre boundaries. And amid the stark emphasis on tone and atmosphere in comparison to plot, you genuinely care for Tokyo Tribe’s central protagonist – an accomplished feat when considering the flick’s stylised B-movie grandeur.

19. IT FOLLOWS

it follows

I admit I’m not one of the horror genre’s most adoring fans, but that fact only serves as testament to It Follows and its place on this list; as a horror flick, it may not be as intensely haunting as several critics have purported, but it’s most certainly thrilling and exceptionally well-crafted. Taking place during a non-era that’s fantastically retro, the film centers on a teenage girl (Maika Monroe, fast-becoming one of my favourite actresses) and the nameless creature that follows her relentlessly after she has unprotected sex. An unsubtle STD metaphor, sure, but the actions thereafter and the mechanics surrounding the creature all serve to heighten the suspense and overbearing sense of dread that’s created. And I can’t talk about It Follows without mentioning the John Carpenter-esque score that’s frightening and involving in equal measure, allowing the palpable tension to be maintained throughout the film’s running time, only diminishing during a bombastic climax that’s hugely enjoyable and edge-of-the-seat jittery, but contradictory to the flick’s previously secretive content. Still, It Follows is a film that will linger in your mind for days on end.

18. SICARIO

SICARIO Day 01

If there ever was a film that was hopelessness in cinematic form,  Sicario may very well be it. Dark and intensely disturbing, Denis Villenueve’s latest has won universal acclaim among a wide range of critics, and justifiably so. Centering on drug cartels across the Mexican border, the tense subject matter isn’t shied from; it’s allowed to flourish with a fantastically bleak score, Deakins’ polished cinematography and an array of hard-hitting performances – Emily Blunt as a helpless FBI agent and Benicio del Toro as a Mexican mission leader with dubious morals especially excel. The plodding script is overcome with terrific direction, a real sense of atmospheric urgency maintained throughout. This isn’t even mentioning one of 2015’s finest scenes in the form of a high-tension border crossing in Juarez, the intensity tangible; I don’t think I’ve recovered from it yet. It’s a simple story expertly portrayed, and deserves all the plaudits its currently receiving.

Read EdgarReviews’ Sicario review here.

17. FOXCATCHER

FOXCATCHER - 2014 FILM STILL - Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz and Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz - Photo by Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics © Fair Hill, LLC. All rights reserved.

When I first saw Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, I passed it off as a competent if underwhelming insight into dark subject matter surrounding wrestling, and its theme of masculinity. Since then, the film has stuck with me, and after dwelling on it, Foxcatcher is truly a great film. Each film I’ve mentioned beforehand in this list has generated mood and atmosphere with fantastic technical skills, and this film is no different; the ambience is less showy and more sombre, conveying a despairing tone with a droning, melancholic score and visually discoloured cinematography. It’s brooding, calculated, and perfectly matches the film’s content, at the expense of appearing distant. That could not be further from the truth, however; Tatum’s determined, sympathetic performance as wrestler in question creates the right amount of empathy towards the character that counteracts this coldness. Ruffalo, too, gives the stand-out performance as Tatum’s brother, his unease with Carell’s also-terrific wrestling team leader John du Pont intense, the chemistry building in an expertly-paced manner and climaxing in a perfectly disturbing, sorrowful way. It’s a powerful film that has remained vividly memorable since January.

16. SELMA

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Yet another early-2015 release, Selma, as opposed to the previously mentioned films on this list, focuses on its thematic content and politically-hefty plot instead of placing prominence on stylistic vigour. It’s fixating, highly-relevant subject matter that manages to feel crucial rather than preachy, a success managed due to director Ava DuVernay’s mature handling of the storytelling; the film surrounding MLK’s actions in Mississippi. The 2015 Oscars were swamped with controversy after Selma was snubbed, the attention directed at DuVernay’s non-presence in the Best Director category. Yet it’s David Oyelowo’s performance as the Civil Rights leader that features as Selma’s main attraction – he’s an empowering, flawed figure that stirs a sense of wonderful urgency; the tragedy and hopefulness surrounding the events he leads would not be evoked as strongly without Oyelowo’s performance, and Selma would be all the worse without it. The film, aside from expertly acted, is incredibly moving, emotionally involving and quietly inspiring. And best of all, it’s a biopic that shies away from melodramatic tendencies and pretentious directing.

15. LOST RIVER

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Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut is an entrancing, invigorating delve into a Grimms fairytale-like world, where buildings are either in ruins or being used as perverse gore-fetish facilities. Lost River is luridly beautiful and extravagantly arthouse, a film that neglects plot for a haunting, dreamlike mood – a choice that has proved to have many detractors, though I’m not one of them. This is exactly my type of film: vividly nonsensical, brilliantly imaginative and wonderfully rewatchable. Its sociopolitical parallels to the run-down Detroit is lost among Gosling’s fancy for visual storytelling, but my, it looks great and sounds great. Gosling has clearly taken inspiration from many of the directors he’s worked with (and, in turn, many of my favourite directors), where elements of Cianfrance and Winding-Refn’s styles are clearly visible. Lynch and Malick feature too, the concoction conveyed intensely gripping and surprisingly balanced. As a result, Lost River serves as Gosling’s homage to these directors, and a showcase of his potential as one himself. I gladly await his next film.

14. A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE

A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE - 2015 FILM STILL - Viktor Gyllenberg - Photo Credit: Magnolia Pictures Magnolia Pictures Release.

The third installment from the trilogy “about the human condition”, following on from Songs from the Second Floor and the superb You, the Living, Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch… is surreal black comedy at its finest, an exploration of loneliness, of guilt, of mourning and of greed. Its scenes are essentially disconnected, aside from the underlying theme of what makes humans human, and Roy Andersson depicts this theme in such a humorous way that it’s easy to forget how poignant the subject matter is – though a few juxtaposing scenes, such as a rotating torture chamber reminiscent of Auschwitz serves to jolt attention back to this deep sadness. In another scene, the 1800s’ King Karl XIII and his men roam through the modern streets of Sweden, stopping at a bar to demand a drink. It’s baffling and beguiling stuff, and creates a sense of generational interlinking that conveys the universality of such human emotion as entitlement. It’s shot uniquely and imaginatively, too: the camera remains at a fixed point until the scene ends, allowing the action to unfold from a position of helplessness; the human condition has never looked this beautiful.

13. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E

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In a year saturated with spy capers, (Spy, Kingsmen, The Bridge of Spies, MI5, Spectre), Guy Ritchie’s latest ascends to my definitive favourite over the course of its runtime. Like a few of the aforementioned spy flicks, it’s a hugely enjoyable romp, but unlike the rest, it maintains this bombastic sense of fun throughout, helped by a charming soundtrack, moments of hilarity and Ritchie’s signature showy style. Following Henry Cavill’s CIA agent Napoleon Solo through a significant era during the Cold War, we are thrust into the world of espionage as Solo smuggles Alicia Vikander’s Gaby Teller, daughter of an important missile-creator, out of Berlin with Arnie Hammer’s trained member of KGB Ilya Kuryakin in pursuit. The sequence is dizzyingly  fun, and leads to the reveal that Solo and Kuryakin must work together to recapture Teller’s father and prevent the Cold War transitioning from mere threats to action. It’s a fantastic premise with potential easily fulfilled, Hammer and Cavill’s chemistry a large reason behind this success. It may not have stunned other critics or set the box office alight, but it’s a highly rewatchable flick with an excellent 60s atmosphere and a terrific sense of fun. The torture scene alone is worth checking this film out.

12. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

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Free from the shackles of cynicism, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a mature and film-loving portrayal of the repercussions of being diagnosed with cancer at a young age. It breaks conventional stereotypes with every scene – for one, the film follows Thomas Mann’s Greg rather than the titular dying girl, and how her illness affects his life. The film’s plotting is formulaic and predictable, but director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon takes its familiar story and crafts it in a wholly unique and fulfilling way. Flashy camera movements and scenes of witty dialogue add a quirky, Sundance-esque tone to the proceedings; so much so it’s almost as if it won Sundance. The involving camerawork makes each character more accessible, but the bulk of the legwork for that feat is managed by Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke’s performances, their little facial movements and delivery of weighty lines of dialogue – a long take depicting an argument between the two a fine example of this – allowing key character development and an insight towards their self-loathing and despair in turn. It’s deeply funny, too, visual gags where classic films are riffed upon acting as a love letter to all things film, and giving Gregg and Earl’s characters substantial background. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl deals with its subject matter in an eccentric, endearing manner, without ever hindering the content’s potency.

11. TOMORROWLAND

Disney's TOMORROWLAND Casey (Britt Robertson) Ph: Film Frame ©Disney 2015

If there was a film on this list to spark a flurry of controversy and debate, then this is probably it. The marketing campaign may have been misleading – the titular world of invention and wonder barely features in the film – but that doesn’t prevent Tomorrowland from being another superb accolade in Brad  Bird’s filmography. Tomorrowland brought me back to my young childhood, to the days of Spy Kids or Indiana Jones, in a way no film has achieved this year. The reason for this isn’t the performances – though Clooney is reliably-charming, and Raffey Cassidy a rising star, but largely due to the imagination and hopeful yearning for a bright future on display. It’s a film that’s wholly optimistic and managed to put a smile on my face at the start that never dropped throughout its runtime. It’s a film with an overbearing moral message that has clearly put many viewers off, but which I commend; Hugh Laurie’s monologue putting into perspective how warped our views have become on the world we live in, how devoid of motivation we are to make a difference. Critics are forgetting that this is a story aimed at children, and a story that successfully inspires these children. If we can’t admire Tomorrowland for that, then we’re no better than the cynical, miserable figures that Laurie’s almost-villain depicts us as.

To see my Top 10, click here.

– Gus Edgar

My Ten Controversial Film Opinions of 2015

1. Kingsman: The Secret Service doesn’t deserve all its praise…

Director Matthew Vaughn has a very accomplished track record;Kick-Ass is a breath of fresh air amid the abundance of Marvel superhero flicks, X-Men: First Class is a hugely entertaining romp that serves as the franchise’s finest, and Stardust, despite being rarely mentioned, is a competent and non-formulaic addition to the fantasy genre. You can imagine my disappointment, then, at Kingsman: The Secret Service, a spy caper devoid of any heart or wit that we have come to expect of the director.

Read rest of review here.

2. Tomorrowland is one of the best films of the year…

Suffering from a poor marketing campaign, Tomorrowland represented one of Disney’s worse box-office flops. The trailers promised a world of wonder and excitement, but what we got instead was a 2-act buildup to that world – only to find out it was in ruins. Yet the wonder and excitement hadn’t diminished – Tomorrowland brought me back to my younger years, where I was caught up in the fascination of Spy Kids, or, heck, Star Wars – it’s a film that really tapped into my youthful core and I love it for that. It’s innocent, poignant, brilliantly acted (Raffey Cassidy is a revelation), expertly paced and at its centre is a strong, resonant moral message, wonderfully conveyed by Hugh Laurie’s not-quite-villain.

3. Amid an abundance of spy flicks, The Man From U.N.C.L.E reigns supreme…

2015 has been the year of spy films. Other than Kingsman, which I’ve already touched upon, there was MI5, Spectre, and The Man From UNCLE, a hugely entertaining romp helmed by the reliable Guy Ritchie. Mission Impossible 5 was enjoyable and contained some ridiculously impressive set pieces, but suffered from a third act lull. Spectre fared worse, much worse, and my sentiments can be found in my review here. The Man From UNCLE, however, held my interest all the way through, had a great script, and its soundtrack just asserted its position as this year’s best spy caper.

4. Jupiter Ascending is one of the most entertaining films of the year…

Moving from the six sprawling, genre-muddling stories of Cloud Atlas, to bees that sense royalty, planetary dynasties and wing-craving wolfmen of Jupiter Ascending, the film’s individual concepts are mind-boggling bonkers; as a whole, they combine to make a ludicrous, intense cinematic extravaganza that slightly crumbles under the weight of each idea floating around. But heck, it’s entertaining, and the Wachowski’s show real ambition.

5. Big Hero 6 is decent enough, but really shouldn’t be anywhere near its Best Animated Feature academy award…

There’s been talk of a Disney renaissance; hot off the heels of Frozen’s commercial – and critical – success, the studio released Big Hero 6, a charming flick that was met with a similarly superb response. So much so, it went on to beat the likes of The Lego Movie and The Tale of Princess Kaguya to the Best Animated Feature Oscar. The accolade was clearly indicative of the golden period Disney now finds itself in – away from the depths of the 2000s; the award was sweet, a success story, a signifier of great things to come. The award was undeserved.

Read rest of review here

6. The Martian is a step down from Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus’…

The return of exciting, hard-sci-fi flicks has been a refreshing occurrence in the film industry. Christopher Nolan got in on the act last year with Interstellar, and Ridley Scott now has his turn with The Martian, a film much more ‘sci’ than ‘fi’. The visuals are fascinating, the dialogue beforehand irritatingly artificial, and Scott’s film continues in this manner along the film’s lengthy 142 minute runtime. The Martian is amusing and relatively enjoyable, but nothing more than that. Scott goes for ‘feel-good’, and while he succeeds in doing so, it diminishes any emotional resonance that the film could have. Exodus was a brutally entertaining epic that had something The Martian was lacking – heart.

7. Minions is one of the best animations of the year…

Cynics beware, Minions is a bundle of joy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you shouldn’t either. The plot is generic but irrelevant – it’s used as a vehicle to display the titular characters in all their Minion-y glory. There’s been a lot of hate thrown towards these characters recently – due to their saturation in everyday life – but that shouldn’t detract from a wonderfully written animation that’s beautiful, charming, and – crucially – hilarious.

8. Jurassic World suffers from a lack of ambition…

Breaking a myriad of box-office records, Jurassic World arrived with a bang – but perhaps it should have stayed prehistoric. From the writing, the plot, the acting – everything is mundane and average and one-note, and there’s nothing that actually stands out about the film. It’s a very safe, well-marketed film that’s evidently designed for maximum profit; the flick is harmless enough to draw masses to its screenings, but I can hardly remember any of it as I’m typing this.

9. Gosling’s Lost River is right up there with the best of the year…

Lost River, Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, is sitting at a measly 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. Thankfully, it’s right up my street – artsy fartsy, perplexing, and stunning to look at, it’s an admirable effort that captivated me and entertained me massively. The story isn’t needlessly bloated, Ben Mendelsohn is reliably terrific, and the imagery conveyed is hauntingly beautiful.

10. Chappie is a return to form for Neil Blomkamp…

Poor Neil Blomkamp – he just can’t win. Expectations were high after his debut, District 9, and Elysium did little to satisfy that. Surely Chappie would return him to the sci-fi heights everybody hoped he would hit? I think it did – though it seems like the whole world thinks otherwise. The characters are interesting, the special effects are superb, and most importantly, the story intertwines sentimentality and action perfectly. Not as politcally-charged as Blomkamp’s prior efforts, but a lot of people don’t seem to realise that it doesn’t have to be.

-Gus Edgar

Top 10 Films 2014

As part of EdgarReviews’ 12 Days of Christmas, a Top 10 will be posted every few days from 14th December to 25th December.

2014 has been one of my favourite years for films in a very long time; there’s been a fantastic mix of prolific blockbusters, engrossing indies and offbeat comedies. Due to various reasons, including UK release dates, I haven’t had a chance to watch heavily-touted flicks like Whiplash, Birdman, Gone Girl and Foxcatcher. Therefore this list may appear rather different to any other written so far; though rest assured, all films on this list are deservedly praised; I can’t recommend them enough.

10. CHEF

Chef, directed by and starring Jon Favreau, is a joy to watch from start to finish. While it certainly doesn’t carry a large amount of emotional heft and drama, that’s not the point; Chef’s lack of cynicism is refreshing, where Favreau only intends to take the audience on a culinary journey with a heartwarming family (including a child actor that’s actually good!) and some excellent dishes. The film follows Favreau as he decides to start a food truck business with his family directly after a disagreement at his previous restaurant. As he begins the journey, comedic moments, family bonding and feel-good moments ensue. With a stellar cast (Robert Downey Jr’s cameo a particular highlight), a soundtrack guaranteed to make you smile and succulent meals that will make any sane audience member’s stomach rumble, Chef earns its number 10 spot with aplomb.

9. NIGHTCRAWLER

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom almost steals the show in Nightcrawler, directed by newcomer Dan Gilroy. Unsettling and intense, the film focuses on Bloom’s pursuit of his twisted version of ‘The American Dream’, where he chooses to start a crime footage business. Hiring a hapless intern, brilliantly played by Four Lions’ Riz Ahmed, the film spirals into insanity as Bloom’s actions grow increasingly more hungry, dangerous and sinister. While the performances are mesmerising at times – Rene Russo’s Nina, a television news producer should also be included in this appraisal – they hardly carry the film; the script is sharp, the pacing is perfect and the cinematography is beautiful – the LA streets haven’t looked this sleek since Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Drive.
Nightcrawler Review here.

8. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS

The New Zealand indie What We Do In the Shadows is 2014’s funniest pure comedy. Taking the recently flooded vampire premise and turning it on its head, the film is a mockumentary that mainly follows three vampires (and later a fourth) through their endeavours and antics while living in a house as flatmates. Performances are strong and the sparse effects are used well, but the hero of this flick is its witty script, producing fantastic one-liners – “We’re werewolves, not swearwolves” and “No, you can’t kill the cameramen. Maybe one cameraman.” – and hilarious situations, including a literal bat fight, that had the audience laughing their heads off.

7. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

As far as blockbuster-esque films go, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (that’s quite am mouthful) is one of the best of the decade. Building upon its predecessor’s success, the film offers more thrilling action sequences, greater special effects, a larger amount of moral ambiguity, and all while maintaining its quality to a vast target demographic. Stunning scenes (a particular 360-degree action shot comes to mind) make up large portions of the film; it follows the struggle between humans and apes ten years after the pandemic that wiped out the majority of humans. The tension between the two parties build, and inevitably boil over as mutiny and treachery unfold. Andy Serkis delivers a stunning performance (though not an Oscar-worthy one, like many claim) that is aided by the remarkable special effects that seamlessly fit into the film.

6. THE LEGO MOVIE

The greatest animated movie since PIXAR’s Up, The Lego Movie is a  hilarious addition to Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’ filmography, proving their worth as one of the best recent writer/director pairs (the Jump Street franchise proves that). The film is beautifully animated, made to look like classic stop-motion; it’s a wise decision that gives the film a stylistic, creative tone and sets itself apart from the current flood of 3D animations. As far as plots go, it’s surprisingly eloquent and meaningful for a children’s film – following a regular guy (Chris Pratt) who’s mistaken as ‘The Chosen One’, he sets himself on an adventure, joined by a crew featuring the voice talents of Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, and a Batman brilliantly written and played by Will Arnett, as they attempt to stop an evil businessman (Will Ferrel) from world domination. The gags are thrice-a-minute, hitting you fast and with little rest. It’s a joy to watch the plot unfold, where its animation, witty script and well-written characters provide the audience with one of the most fun movies to view in ages.

5. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Released in the UK in 2014, Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the Coen Brothers’ best, featuring a script as achingly depressing and darkly comedic as you would expect from the pair of directors. One of the strengths of the Coens is their ability to create interesting, oft-hilarious characters while maintaining a sense of believability, and that’s no more apparent here as the titular character (played brilliantly by Oscar Isaac) is confronted with such characters as Carey Mulligan’s spiteful ex-lover, John Goodman’s disturbed jazz musician, Adam Driver’s eccentric friend, and Garret Hedlund’s constantly-smoking poet. The array of offbeat characters don’t burden the brooding, droll script; it’s both hilarious and discouraging to watch Davis as he struggles through his life, let down by both his luck and his faulted endeavours. The film is aided by some great folk-songs on display, where Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake are a particular highlight. The cinematography, too, is excellent, capturing a nostalgic atmosphere as well as its brooding tone.

4. THE DOUBLE

Director Richard Ayoade’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed Submarine, The Double more than dispels any doubts about Ayoade’s talent as a filmmaker. The Double is truly excellent, and would be higher on any list if 2014 wasn’t such a fantastic year for films. Jesse Eisenberg plays both Simon James and James Simon – one an introverted slither of a man, another a confident, charmingly dangerous double, his entrance sending Simon James (and only Simon James) into delirium. Simon Jame’s pursuit to befriend and seduce his love interest (Brilliantly played by Mia Wasikowska) is halted by his double’s antics, and a rivalry forms, and spirals out of control. Adapted off of a Dostoyevsky novella, the flick has a suitably bleak and claustrophobic feel that increases tension tenfold. It’s a deeply polarising production that will turn away many critics – its subtle humour and crazed plot points will confuse and frustrate as much as it will entertain, but that’s no matter – it’s an ingenious film that bludgeons the audience with symbolism, wit and an ending that forces the audience to stay attentive. While both the direction and the performances are terrific, they don’t overshadow the striking, musty cinematography (its claustrophobic feel increased by a lack of any sunlight shown) and a pumping, mechanical soundtrack fitting of what the film tries (and succeeds) to present.

3. INTERSTELLAR

Interstellar is not a perfect film. Brimming with exposition, a tendency to force-feed the audience, and clunky dialogue, Nolan’s latest is frustrating at times. Despite all this, watching Interstellar in IMAX 70mm was my favourite cinematic experience of my life thus far; so good, I watched it twice more. Nolan is oft-criticised (though I disagree) with being technically fantastic but emotionally distant. Interstellar serves as an antithesis to this point with some heartbreaking scenes – one particular children-to-father segment being a standout. Yet the director maintains his technical prestige with one of the year’s best cinematography – certainly the year’s best special effects. The effects – accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s amazing score that boasts soulful organs – lead to some amazingly vast and overwhelming scenes – a giant wave captivates the audience magnificently – as does the brooding tension of a perceived antagonist trying to dock incorrectly. As far as performances go, each actor brings a verve and sentimentality about them that allows them to escape their caricature. Interstellar was my most anticipated film of 2014, and it didn’t let me down. It may have left me slightly frustrated, but that’s only because I know its minute shortcomings prevent the sci-fi epic from becoming a masterpiece; the fact that it received such mixed reviews is mind-blowing given how impressive the film was – a clear portrayal of how expectations of Nolan have risen dangerously high.

2. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Wes Anderson is one of my favourite, if not my favourite modern directors. The Grand Budapest Hotel is my new favourite of his (muscling out The Royal Tenenbaums),a delightful and charming tale of a hotel and its owner (magnificently played by Ralph Fiennes, fitting seamlessly into his against-typecast comedic role), aided by a lobby boy (Tony Revolori, also fantastic) in attempting to steal a world-renowned painting (to which they rightfully own), encountering villainous characters and obstacles in the form of iron bars. It’s deeply funny, with slapstick moments (“Did he just throw my cat out the window?”) and classic Anderson humour (“You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it. “) that add to the flick’s breakneck pace. Yet it’s also subtly sorrowful – a war subplot is sparsely mentioned but cuts through the comical facade like butter, hinting at a much more tragic backdrop. The mood isn’t dampened too much, however – eye-globbering visuals, Desplat’s nostalgic score and Ralph Fienne’s off-kilter performance is enough to maintain The Grand Budapest Hotel’s stylistic perfection. There is little to fault with the film, and if it wasn’t being released in the same year as the final film on this list, it would surely make the top spot…
The Grand Budapest Hotel Review here.

1. BOYHOOD

And here we have my favourite film of the year; Linklater’s Boyhood is a moving, fascinating and honest depiction of life – not just life as a boy, as the title suggests, but life as a sibling, life as a father, life as a single parent. The film is a 3-hour epic that feels anything but; it’s reserved and raw, subtle in its portrayal of the important things in life. Events in the film appear as strands – not adding up to anything and simply in a state of being. While this could be perceived as a criticism, it’s quite the opposite – this is life, true life, and not what is shown in the slew of coming-of-age flicks. Each event holds great sentimental value and weight when pieced together – you feel as you are living the life of Mason (Understatedly played out by Ellar Coltrane) – Linklater’s ability to eek out naturalness is uncanny. Boyhood isn’t just ambitious – it’s a structural masterpiece and a film that will be remembered for a very long time. I’ve now seen this film twice and it hit me harder the second time – the mere thought of Coltrane’s life squeezed from an expanded state into a production is oddly profound – a sentiment shared by Mason’s mum (Patricia Arquette in what should surely earn her an Oscar nomination, if not a win for best supporting actress) as she utters the devastating line “I just thought there would be more”. Resonating deeply with me – and most likely many more out there – Boyhood is an eloquent portrayal of life and the moments worth living for.
Boyhood Review here.

Top 10 Movie Scenes 2014

As part of EdgarReviews’ 12 Days of Christmas, a Top 10 will be posted every few days from 14th December to 25th December.

WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for many films released this year.

10. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – QUAALUDES

Released in January here in the UK, Scorsese’s latest was a fun, if uneven and at times tedious romp that showcased both DiCaprio and Jonah Hill in fine form. The stand-out scene of the film epitomises their performances with a drug-fuelled segment; DiCaprio, after taking too many Quaaludes, hits the deck and limply traverses towards his car, which he then has to try and not damage. He then wrestles with Hill – also affected by the heavy-hitting drugs – in order to protect himself from the FBI, immediately followed by saving Hill’s life to the image of Popeye. It’s an insane scene – even for the film’s vulgar standards – that leaves the audience either dumbfounded or in tears with laughter.

9. 22 JUMP STREET – CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTER

22 Jump Street managed to build on the success of 21 with witty self-references and abundant slapstick; hilarious in equal measures. Its funniest scene arrives at the point where Schmidt (Jonah Hill, yet again) is revealed to have gone missionary on the Captain’s (Ice Cube) daughter. What makes this scene work is the side-splitting reaction of Channing Tatum – showcasing his diversity in acting with a hugely popular comedic performance – where he parades around the Jump Street headquarters with disbelief. Both Hill, Ice Cube and the audience can only watch on as Tatum delivers one of the best comedic scenes of the year.

8. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 -TIMES SQUARE BATTLE

There’s no denying that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t that great a film. Even so, it managed to have a surprisingly excellent set piece in the form of Electro and Spider-Man’s (Jamie Foxx and Andrew Garfield respectively) first standoff. Afraid and unaware, Foxx stumbles into Times Square and is immediately bombarded by police; a tragic figure surrounded by foreign faces, Spiderman takes it upon himself to reason with Foxx. A foolish sniper strike quickly puts an end to the discussion and Electro unleashes his fury around all of Times Square – a slow-motion spidey-sense save being a particular highlight. The scene is held together with a fantastic Hans Zimmer score that fully fleshes out the epic scope.

7. CHEF – FAVREAU’S OUTBURST

Chef was the best feel-good film of the year – there wasn’t a cynical bone in its body. All the moments of heartwarming family connection and cuban sandwiches are juxtaposed by scenes of brutal, delicious anger, and Favreau displayed such acts in a scene nearing the end of the flick’s first act – which serves as a catalyst for his decision to work in a food truck. After feared critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) rips into his restaurant’s boring, reserved menu, all the pressure leads to a stunning outburst from Favreau where he spews superlatives at Platt’s face, corrects his culinary knowledge and slams chocolate lava cake all over the table while shouting “It’s fucking molten!” and “You’re not getting to me!”. It’s hilarious and relevant to the film industry and critic system in equal measures – a neat allegory to Favreau’s Iron Man 2 reception.

6. THE INBETWEENERS 2 – POOP CHUTE

Though let down by a lack of fleshed out characters and any fulfilling resolution, The Inbetweeners 2 is funnier than its prequel and it owes that attribute to scenes such as this – Will (Simon Bird) bum-shuffling down a slide away from an upcoming hazard in the form of Neil’s (Blake Harrison) excrement. The chase ends with an unaware Will – thinking that he’s escaped – promptly being smashed in the face by the brown stuff. Cue an outrageously disgusting segment where he helplessly spews into the surrounding pool as sickened tourists flee from the scene. It’s surprising that such a vulgar scene can shock the audience – even when you’re familiar with the antics of The Inbetweeners.

5. BOYHOOD – LETTING GO

Boyhood is a stunning, relatable film that generates its power by resonating with the audience. It’s an understated, subtle tearjerker, made all the more prominent by a particular scene where Mason (Ellar Coltrane) leaves for college and his mum (Patricia Arquette) reacts with devastating rawness, breaking down and displaying every rush of emotion felt at the sending off of one of your beloved. It speaks volume of Linklater’s directorial capabilities when the utterance of the line “I just thought there would be more” hits so deeply with the audience. Boyhood is a great film, and with the inclusion of this scene, is made a masterpiece.

4. NIGHTCRAWLER – FINAL CHASE

Nightcrawler contains one of the best finales of 2014. This scene is a buildup of the brooding LA tension and Gyllenhaal venom that is prominent throughout, and as the bubble bursts following a shootout, a terrifically staged and shot car chase plays out – ending with the betrayal of Lou Bloom’s companion and intern (Riz Ahmed). It’s a scene that encapsulates the film as a whole – dangerous, unforgiving and brutal – Gyllenhaal is here to win the game, at all costs.

3. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – MUSEUM

There were so many fantastic scenes to choose from in The Grand Budapest Hotel – a cat being thrown out a window, the prison escape and the winter olympics chase. I settled, however, on a brilliant museum scene that follows Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) attempting to escape a hitman (Willem Dafoe) through a museum. A shrill score, fantastic use of shadows and Wes Anderson’s signature style creates an intense, suspenseful chase that leaves the audience on tenterhooks. Heart in mouth, and hopeful of Goldblum’s survival, the scene crescendoes with a startling swift shut of a door and sever of the poor Kovac’s fingers – muffled screams signifies the character’s demise. The shocking nature of his death is made all the more surprising by its goriness – a rare sight by Wes Anderson that highlights the fact that he’s not fooling around. Up until this scene, The Grand Budapest Hotel had been an enjoyable, harmless flick. With this scene over, the film is elevated completely with the knowledge that no-one is safe.

2. X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – TIME IN A BOTTLE

Any reservations Marvel fans had over Quicksilver’s portrayal were quickly put away by the stand-out scene of the film – the remaining runtime seemingly anticlimatic in comparison. With the mutants – Fassbender, Jackman and McAvoy – in danger as guards point their guns towards them and shoot, Quicksilver (Cheekily played by Evan Peters) takes it upon himself to save them and have fun in the process. With the integration of stunning effects, slapstick humour and a fitting, witty song to boot, this scene highlights X-Men’s light-hearted side of affairs, adding relief to an otherwise more serious flick.

1. INTERSTELLAR – DOCKING

Like The Grand Budapest Hotel, there are so many fantastic scenes to choose – from giant waves to tear-jerking messages and extra-dimensional tesseracts, Interstellar was one incredible set-piece after another. However, it had to be the epic docking scene that takes the number 1 spot as this year’s best scene – with the Endurance spinning out of control following Mann’s death, Cooper (McConaughey) decides to match rotation and lock onto the Endurance’s docking mechanism – a feat that is deemed impossible. McConaughey’s response – “No, it’s necessary” – promptly followed by Hans Zimmer’s booming No Time For Caution score creates a scene so epic and powerful that my mouth opened agape for its entire duration – all three times I watched the film. The stunning effects too help to solidify this scene’s colossal scope., and solidify this scene as one of the best in a very long time.

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

As part of EdgarReviews’ 12 Days of Christmas, a Top 10 will be posted every few days from 14th December to 25th December.

2015 is set to be one of the biggest years in film history. The sheer amount of hotly-awaited blockbusters (Terminator: Genisys, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) is only one of the reasons why next year will break box office boundaries. The amount of potentially fantastic films is so impressive that there’s no room for the Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain drama, A Most Violent Year, the nostalgic hits of Terminator: Genisys and Jurassic World, David O’Russel’s latest, Joy, and the Marvel centerpiece, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

10: SPECTRE

UK Release Date: 6th November 2015
US Release Date: 6th November 2015

I haven’t been too impressed by the Daniel Craig era of James Bond. Casino Royale was unfulfilling, Quantum of Solace was objectively poor and Skyfall didn’t have the feel of a Bond movie. But I’m excited for Spectre. Very excited. And that’s because of its bolstered cast. Lea Seydoux is the new Bond girl, Andrew Scott joins Craig as an ally, and most importantly, Christoph Waltz is the new Bond villain. Anybody who has seen Inglourious Basterds will know that he’s going to knock it out of the park.

9: THE MARTIAN

UK Release Date: 27th November 2015
US Release Date: 25th November 2015

When it comes to cast ensembles, it’s hard to turn your head away from The Martian. Helmed by Ridley Scott, this film could potentially be a return to form for the wayward director (Prometheus was shunned and Exodus is currently getting lacklustre reviews). The film follows Matt Damon as he attempts to survive while being stranded on Mars with limited resources. Add to that promising premise with a cast featuring Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels and Chiwitel Ejiofor, The Martian has enough starpower to be stunning. If Scott can keep the film running smoothly and not place visual set-pieces over substance then we could be looking at one heck of a film.

8: THE GOOD DINOSAUR

UK Release Date: 27th November 2015
US Release Date: 25th November 2015

PIXAR are, for the first time in their history, releasing 2 films in one year. The first, Inside Out, looks relatively underwhelming. The second however, The Good Dinosaur, shows much more promise. The film tells the tale of an Apatosaurus named Arlo befriending a young boy. It poses the question: what would happen to the Earth if Dinosaurs were never wiped out. With the ingenious premise we’ve come to expect of PIXAR, their sumptuous visuals, and a stellar voice cast (Frances McDormand, Neil Patrick Harris, Bill Hader), The Good Dinosaur is my bet to be the animated film of the year.

7: PAN

UK Release Date: 17th July 2015
US Release Date: 24th July 2015

I’ll be completely honest; until it’s fantastic trailer, I wasn’t sold on Pan beforehand. It seemingly followed a long string of sub-par gritty fairytale reboots (no, I’m not even gonna try and list them all), but I’m hopeful that Pan will break this run. Simply put, the film looks wonderful from both a visual and stylistic perspective. Of course it would; the film is directed by Joe Wright, known for his adventurous directorial style – both Anna Karenina and Atonement were wonderfully crafted. Pan itself follows Levi Miller as the titular character, swept away from his orphanage where he battles against Hugh Jackman’s frightening Blackbeard. Rooney Mara, Garrett Hedlund, Amanda Seyfried and Cara Delvigne also star; Pan is yet another fantastic cast ensemble of 2015.

6: THE HATEFUL EIGHT

UK Release Date: TBA
US Release Date: TBA

The only reason The Hateful Eight is not higher up on my list is because I don’t rate Quentin Tarantino as highly as others do. But anybody who doesn’t look forward to Tarantino’s next flick following the success of Django Unchained worries me. It looks just as bloody, violent and iconic as his previous films; and yup, its cast is also fantastic. Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, and potentially both Jennifer Lawrence and Channing Tatum feature. In terms of plot points, it’s being kept under wraps (unless of course you’ve had the fortune of peeking at its leaked script that caused a flurry of backlash and Tarantino to momentarily drop the project).

5: THE SEA OF TREES

UK Release Date: TBA
US Release Date: TBA

Matthew McConaughey has already proven himself as a fine actor, and The Sea of Trees looks to be another addition to the ‘McConaissance’. Featuring both McConaughey and Ken Watanabe, the film follows the pair as they befriend one another following an attempted suicide. Directed by Gus Van Sant, The Sea of Trees is seemingly a gem in the flurry of blockbusters in 2015.

4. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

UK Release Date: 18th December 2015
US Release Date: 18th December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens had to be on this list somewhere, despite me not being a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise (both the originals and the prequels). Sending nerds into delirium with its announcement, the trailer more than shows that JJ Abrams is comfortable with helming such a huge project. The cast itself is also impressive: Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and the return of the familiar Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford makes this an unmissable film. Whether you enjoy the franchise or not, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film you need to see in cinemas.

3. CRIMSON PEAK

UK Release Date: 16th October 2015
US Release Date: 16th October 2015

Guillermo Del Toro’s latest project, Crimson Peak, tells the story of a woman (Mia Wasikowska) who mistakenly marries a suspicious character (Tom Hiddlestone). The acclaimed director goes back to his horror roots, which is a welcome sight when you look at his last film, the horrendous Pacific Rim. The cast is one of the best of 2014, with the aforementioned actors plus Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hunman. I don’t usually go for horror, but Crimson Peak has certainly piqued my interest…

2. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

UK Release Date: 15th May 2015
US Release Date: 15th May 2015

Forget Star Wars, Jurassic World, Avengers and Terminator – Mad Max: Fury is the blockbuster I’m looking forward to most of all in 2015. Just look at the trailer – it’s absolutely stunning. Aside from being a visual masterpiece, the film looks entirely engrossing, a rare feat when the plot consists of a 2 hour car chase. Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult all star in the film, though the hero is George Miller, a director that was made famous due to his Mad Max films. If you remain doubtful that Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t going to be excellent, just remember this – the studio was so impressed with the film that they walloped a hefty added budget to reshoot and make the flick even more spectacular.

1. BIRDMAN

UK Release Date: 1st January 2015
US Release Date: 14th November 2014

My most anticipated film of 2015 is also the earliest film released in the list; already released in the US, us UK citizens only have to wait til the start of 2015 for Birdman. I’ve only seen one film from its director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, which was Javier Bardem’s Biutiful, a fantastically morbid and grim look at Barcelona that makes me excited for Birdman. The film has been picking up awards in abundance, is a frontrunner in numerous categories for the Academy Awards, and will most likely grab a Golden Globe. It’s been met with universal acclaim, where critics have especially pointed out Keaton’s performance. That’s not to say Keaton is the only A-list actor in the film – Naomi Watts, Zach Galifanakis, Emma Stone and Ed Norton all put in strong performances. Birdman looks to be a mind-bender of a film, with beautiful cinematography and fantastic camera work – the whole film is made to look like one continuous shot. I’m definitely hyped for it.

Top 10 Films 2013

2013 was a fantastic year for films, where there were many stand-out flicks in both serious and comedic genres. Honourable mentions go to The World’s End, Trance, Les Miserables, The Impossible and Side Effects. Despite their individual brilliance, the fact that they didn’t make the top 10 is testament to the plethora of fantastic films released in the UK in 2013, and how strong they were.

10. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

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While certainly a slow-starter, Captain Phillips grew into one of the most tense and fixating films of the year, and was deservedly nominated for a myriad of Oscar categories. Following, er, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), through a terrifying ordeal where his boat is captured by Somalian pirates, (Barkhad Abdi with a particularly exquisite performance), the film focuses on raw emotion and conflict of morals rather than stunning adrenalin-pumped sequences; a wise decision by director Paul Greengrass. However, only the film’s dying moments makes Captain Phillips a great film, as opposed to a good one.

9. ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

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2013 was filled to the brim with excellent comedies. Anchorman 2 is no doubt one of them, a sequel that lived up to the high expectations surrounding it. It’s truly hilarious, containing some magnificent moments that had the whole audience crying with laughter (no hyperbole used). Following Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrel) and his news team (Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner) through silly antics (the plot is barely there), the film descends (or ascends) into brilliant madness that is, at times, side-splitting (and at other times, unfunny, such as a dinner scene involving Ferrel and his ‘black lingo’). Yet for every damp squib, there’s three or four quotable lines (‘A black man always follows me when it’s sunny’ or ‘No offence, but you’re a stupid asshole!’), or an achingly-funny sequence.

8. ONLY GOD FORGIVES

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Only God Forgives is frustrating to watch. As with Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous film, Drive, it’s visually vibrant and makes great use of non-diegetic sound. Yet it’s much harder to follow and shrouded by intrigue that comes across as both interesting and pretentious drabble. On my first viewing, I was slightly nonplussed as to what I thought of the film; I was impressed by it’s atmospheric qualities, but both the characterisation and the seemingly non-existent plot hindered it. Second and third viewings have made me appreciate each performance and their subtlety (Ryan Gosling is good, but is completely outclassed by Kristin Scott-Thomas’ despicable motherly figure), as well as giving me more opportunities to pick out the symbolism and metaphorical meaning behind each scene. If you are to watch Only God Forgives, do so without the expectation of a formulaic plot or conventions associated with thrillers. It’s understated, unnerving and exquisitely framed.

7. UPSTREAM COLOUR

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Did you understand Upstream Colour on first viewing? No, neither did I. Shane Carruth’s long-awaited followup to 2004’s (wildly-overrated and just as confusing) Primer sees a woman (Amy Seimetz) taken over by a worm-like parasite, a man that enters her life (played by Carruth), a group of pigs and the farmer that keeps them in order, and… uh, that’s it. The audience is tasked with putting the film’s numerous strands into a coherent plot. It’s once again utterly ostentatious, but not in a way where its knowingly-pretentiousness is a burden. Beautifully shot and fantastically scored (by, er, Carruth once more), Upstream Colour appears as 2013’s most confusing, distorted and interesting film. Multiple viewings are recommended.

6. ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA

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Steve Coogan effortlessly transfers his TV persona onto the big screen, in a much more impressive way than Mitchell and Webb’s The Magicians. The reason why? Alpha Papa is undoubtedly the funniest comedy of 2013. Slapstick merges seamlessly with stunning one-liners spewed from a top-class script: “We’re asking, what is the worst monger? Iron, fish… rumour… or war?”. Amazing. Coogan isn’t self-indulgent either in the way he wants to show Partridge off to the audience, ever keen to embarrass himself, or portray himself selfishly. The humble performance was just the pinnacle of what had been a stellar year for Coogan, appearing in other such films as What Maisie Knew and Philomena. Funny stuff.

5. FILTH

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Tragically unheard of over in the States, Filth contains James McAvoy’s best performance to date. He plays a despicable Scottish psychopath with a childhood shrouded in mystery and problems with both his family and his work. Fixated on sex, drugs and anything that can be deemed offensive, the film starts comedic and quickly grows dark and dreary, descending into one of the most depressing films of the year. At times incredibly surreal, the performances of every actor in the film are outstanding, where Eddie Marsan and Shirley Henderson particularly stand out as supporting cast. Filth is the best adaptation of one of Irvine Welsh’s novels since Trainspotting, and for that earns a place on my top 10.

4. GRAVITY

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Gravity’s minimalistic plot is by no means unintentional; if anything, it helps capture the audience more vividly in the overwhelmingly realistic details weaved into the film. More impressive is the immeasurable, inescapable tension felt throughout the film. Akin to All is Lost and Captain Phillips, the plot involves the feeling of helplessness as character(s) are trapped in a situation from where there is seemingly no way out. And for a large part of the film, you can sense that Bullock’s character’s future is escaping from her grasp. Does she make it back to Earth? Well, this is a high-grossing Hollywood film, so I’ll let you make your mind up from there. What particularly impresses is Sandra Bullock’s physical acting, where she epitomises fragility and fear with little dialogue. While the Oscar for Best Actress went to Cate Blanchett for her work in Blue Jasmine, Bullock perhaps gives the performance of her career in this film. Stunning visuals also work in the film’s favour, which helps to engage with the audience as if you’re in place of Bullock. Mesmerising, Gravity is a spectacle of a film where you need to watch it in the 3D medium to appreciate it fully.

3. CLOUD ATLAS

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Opening to a £6m box office return, Cloud Atlas is criminally underrated, inaccessible and relatively unheard of. Which makes no sense; it’s helmed by the directors of the Matrix Trilogy, features a number of A-list actors (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent), and has an ambitious scope that it just about manages to achieve. Cloud Atlas is an epic, and not short of a masterpiece. It’s a mixture of emotions, action and pace that rarely seem cluttered; and while not every story (in Cloud Atlas, six intertwining stories are told in fantastic detail) is impressive, the flick is visually stunning, and has a magnificent score that resonates with the audience for days on end.

2. THE GREAT GATSBY

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A movie that was slammed by critics, being too in-your-face, boisterous, and absolutely not atypical of the era it was set in. Well, it seems like critics miss the point of Baz Luhrmann and his style. This film perhaps encapsulates everything Luhrmann moreso than Romeo & Juliet, or even Moulin Rouge. It’s also the film I prefer the most out of the trio; booming music, incredible visuals that, contrary to what most people think, don’t tire you out the longer you progress into the movie, and once again, dazzling performances. Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton steal the show; Mulligan as a romantic woman torn between her husband and Gatsby, and Edgerton as a plastic, slimy, charmless husband to Mulligan. Edgerton’s brutality is exquisite. As too is Mulligan’s facade of a sweet innocent woman. DiCaprio’s performance, on the other hand, is what would be expected of Gatsby, but it’s a little overplayed at times.  Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby impresses and entertains on so many levels, with the only afterthought being a gobsmacked “wow”.

1. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

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“If you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.”

Derek Cianfrance’s latest film since Blue Valentine is absolutely incredible. It tells the tale of a motorcyclist (Ryan Gosling), as he tries to support his family. A cop (Bradley Cooper in his best ever performance) enters the fray and the consequences of their encounter are told in the film’s final act. The Place Beyond the Pines is the most moving film of 2013, featuring a raw, understated performance from Ryan Gosling (his best ever performance) and a haunting soundtrack that etches its way into the audience for some time after the end credits appear. A masterpiece, the film manages to be both thrilling, tense and emotional, each attribute balanced perfectly by Cianfrance as not to dominate the film. Dane DeHaan, who plays Gosling’s son, brings out another fantastic performance, a definite rising star that has a great future ahead of him. What makes The Place Beyond the Pines so special is its ability to resonate with the audience, to show a raw and fresh reality that strikes deeply into the audience’s heart.