Friday, 9 January 2015

Yearly Projections 2014

Was 2014 a good year for film? Here's my own top ten...


Actually premiering at Cannes in 2012, Broken is harrowing, but hugely rewarding urban drama. Brilliant performances from old hands like Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy are all-but eclipsed by the utterly enchanting and naturalistic performance from young Eloise Laurence as 'Skunk', who stands out like a lone wild flower growing in an inner-city demolition site. The gritty narrative of Broken attempts to deconstruct Skunk's life, but showing more irrepressible spirit than the struggling adults inhabiting her world she ultimately achieves the happy ending which everyone, audience included, might have lost hope in.

The Winter Soldier

A superhero movie where the lead character spends most of his time in jeans and a T Shirt, and Robert Redford gives us comic book adaptation cinema's most chilling and believeable villain so far. 2014 will be remembered as the year that Marvel did epic space opera, but more importantly in my mind, it's also the year they aced the espionage thriller.  Being fans of the Agents of Shield TV series, the very strong impact which the events of Winter Soldier leaves on the narrative of the TV show is yet another plus for us. Hail Hydra!

Sunshine on Leith

The Scottish musical which isn't Brigadoon. Listening to Scottish D-Js was always an odd experience for me - something about a Glaswegian being professionally friendly is just wrong (you have to work at being pals with someone from 'No Mean City', and then they're your friend for life)  Similarly, I couldn't imagine how a chirpy musical based on the music of The Proclaimers and set in contemporary Edinburgh was going to pan out.  Fortunately, the inevitable 'cheese' is definitely blue vein rather than broadway or West End cheddar, with an uplifting ending which is more than worth the sometimes difficult journey to get there.


New Zealand made a pitch perfect comedy/horror film in 2014 - and also released What we do in the Shadows.  Although the 'NZ-feratu' film gained all the accolades last year, for my money Housebound is where homegrown chills and spills were really at. Morgana O'Reilly's  Kylie Bucknell is a Kiwi heroine for our times, tough, uncompromisingly direct and utterly fearless. Hire it tonight!

X-Men: Days of Future Past

From the bleak and hopeless future, to a meticulously realised 1973, the latest X-Men film shows that it's traditional blend of ensemble action set pieces and intimate character beats still leads the pack in comic book movies.
These charcters have been with us for a long time now and this enhances how much we care about them, whichever version we might be watching.  And the flying stadium scene - just, wow!


My parents had this book back in the 70s, I suspect a lot of people did. Mai Wasikowska is perfectly cast as Robyn Davidson in this long-awaited adaptation of a singular woman's solo trek across Australia with four camels and a dog called Diggity. Davidson's 2700 km journey to the Indian Ocean would be difficult enough for anyone, but for an unaccompanied woman forty years ago the limitations in technology and gender politics make it even more of a remarkable achievement.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This film has garnered so much extensive praise from every quarter that I was actually reluctant to even mention it here.  But I kind of have to.  So I just did.


Another film I'm reluctant to mention because I wouldn't honestly recommend it. Sordid and disturbing, this gruelling tale of the gradual disintegration of an irredemable Edinburgh detective is also so perfectly directed and performed that it stays with you - even when you wish it wouldn't.  Watching former 'Mr Tumnus' James McAvoy in the previously mentioned X-Men film a few months later, I found my lip curling because I still couldn't divorce him from his repellant role in Filth for the first few minutes. A film possibly to be respected rather than liked.

Deep Breath

Like Day of the Doctor last year, I saw this at the cinema, and it grabbed the number four place at the NZ Box Office that week so I'm including Peter Capaldi's feature length debut. Althought the full extent of Capaldi's 'Like me or not, I should care because...?' performance is not yet apparent, the change of pacing from the periodically superficial freneticism of Matt Smith is - and it's a deep breath of fresh air.

The Finishers

A French 'Father and Son triumphing against all odds' film with a difference.  Wheelchair-bound Julien is desperate to connect with and motivate his recently unemployed, workaholic Father, Paul, and fixes upon a seemingly impossible challenge for them both. They enter a triathalon competition (actually filmed during an Iron Man event in Nice) where Paul pulls and carries Julien through the swim, cycle and run competition which sees many able-bodied contestants falter. Perhaps formulaic, but still an utterly inspiring reminder that the human mind and spirit is capable of overcoming all physical boundaries.

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