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Posts Tagged ‘What We Do In The Shadows’

Just like most movie bloggers, at this time of year I start to think about my top ten movies of the year.  Having only seen 28 movies at the cinema (I have averaged about 110 a year for the past two decades) I am not as excited by the idea as in previous years.  However I have watched more TV than ever before, practically through the first lockdown.  The best shows I have watched are The West Wing, and The Wire that I had not previously seen, and Breaking Bad that that I started watching last year.  But what of the new, and ongoing shows?  It’s actually been a really good year:

The Queen’s Gambit – Three years ago Scott Frank gave us Godless, a fantastic seven part western TV miniseries, who would have thought his next project would be about chess? As with Godless, Frank directed every episode, and wrote them with co-creator Allan Scott. Based a novel from 1983 from Walter Tevis, and telling the story of a (fictional) chess prodigy.   I have long thought Anya Taylor-Joy is the best young actor around at the moment, this has proved it, her performance is probably the best I have seen all year, in film and TV.  Hitting a lot of the beats of a sports movie, but where a sports movie has the challenge of making the sport look realistic, this has the problem of making chess exciting, it does it with ease.   As with Godless, Frank directed every episode, and wrote them with co-creator Allan Scott. 

The Mandalorian, seasons 1&2 – We had to wait until this year for the first season of The Mandalorian, it was worth the wait, to add to this, the second season was even better.  Set a few years after the end of the original Star Wars trilogy and telling the story of a Mandalorian bounty hunter.  Created by Jon Favreau and providing a perfect antidote to the patchy sequels.  Essentially a western in space, the stories are great but the real appeal is the characters .  With numerous rumoured spinoffs, it may be the starting point for the next generation of Star Wars, it certainly provides a strong template. 

Normal People – Marianne and Connell are two, well, normal people.  Coming from very different backgrounds in the same small town in Ireland, the story follows them from their final year at school, through their time at university.  Coming just two years after the publication of Sally Rooney’s novel on which it’s based.  Released on BBC Iplayer in one go, it was one of the summers most binge-worthy shows.  The performances from little known Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal are sensational. 

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel was adapted into a really good film in 2000 directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack.  The TV show is better than them Movie.  Moving the location to Brooklyn (the book was set in London, the movie in Chicago), but more significantly the casting of Zoë Kravitz changed the dynamic of the show, she is also brilliant.  Criminally, by the time it reached the UK, it had already been cancelled, so we don’t get a second season, this is a great shame. 

Gangs of London – Created by Gareth Evans, the man behind The Raid movies.  An undercover cop finds himself at the centre of a power struggle in London following the death of a gangland boss.  Full of recognisable British actors, but the standout performance comes from Sope Dirisu.  Episode five, is possibly the best single episode of TV this year. 

His Dark Materials – Season 2 is based on The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman’s second novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy.  The first season was good, the second is even better.  Dafne Keen has really grown into the role, as has Amir Wilson who has much more to do than in the first season.  The real star remains the brilliant Ruth Wilson.

What We Do in the Shadows, Season 2 – Based on the 2014 New Zealand mockumentary written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.  Continuing the mockumentary style of the movie but following a different house of vampires, this time in Staten Island.  The beauty of the comedy, is that however absurd it gets (it gets extremely absurd), it is totally deadpan.

Save Me Too – Marketed as Save Me Too, is the second Season of Save Me.  Co-written by star Lennie James.  The story revolves around a man searching for is estranged teenage daughter.  Spoiler: by the end of the first season he hadn’t found her.  The second season picks up eighteen months later, to its credit, it doesn’t always go where you expect. 

Sex Education, Season 2 – With the help of a classmate, the son of a sex therapist starts a sex advice business at school.  Set in an fictional British town that seems to exist out of time, with a school more reminiscent of American TV. What sounds like a terrible idea for a show is actually brilliant thanks to a the brilliant script, and performances.  The kids are all very good, but Gillian Anderson steals the show. 

Alice in Borderland – A late entry ontot he list as it only dropped on Netflix in early December.  A Japanese TV show based on a manga of the same name by Haro Aso.  Three friends find themselves in an abandoned Tokyo.  Trapped in the city they soon find they have to compete in a series of deadly games in order to survive.  Inspired by and taking elements of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, it is wonderfully bonkers.  A second season has already been announced. 

The honourable mentions: Devs, The Boys – Season 2, I Hate Suzie, Bosch – Season 6, Snowpiercer, The Eddy, Hunters, Lovecraft Country, Warrior – Season 2, The Umbrella Academy – seaason 2, The Expanse, Season 5 (may have made the top ten, but only half the season has dropped at the time of going to press). And finally: Small Axe – Marketed as a miniseries or an anthology, I didn’t include it as a TV show, but is worth a mention as it is excellent.  A series of five movies about the experiences of West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s.  All films are directed by Steve McQueen, who also co-wrote them.  The first two Mangrove, and Lovers Rock were the standouts for me. 

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AAvengers: Captain America: The Winter Soldier set the Avengers franchise in a new direction and Marvel announced phase Three schedule covering films up to 2019.marvel-avengers

B  – Boyhood: What could have been a gimmick turned out to be the best film of the year.boyhood poster

CNick Cave: 20,000 Days on Earth was neither documentary or a narrative film, but was one of the best movies of the year.20,000 Days on Earth

DDoug Liman: Edge of Tomorrow was the enigma of 2014.  The Doug Liman directed movie received solid reviews and great word of mouth but underperformed at the box-office.edge of tomorrow

EEgypt & Exodus: Gods and Kings – Ridley Scott’s biblical epic was released on Boxing Day in the UK and few weeks earlier in some countries.  The film has been banned in Egypt as the courtiers censors are unhappy with “historical inaccuracies”.Exodus Gods and Kings

FFincher & Flynn: Director David Fincher turned Gillian Flynn’s bestselling Novel Gone Girl into an excellent movie.Gone Girl

GGuardians of the Galaxy –  Made up of a cast of largely unknown characters, it was considered a risk for the franchise.  Not only was the film great fun but was the Highest grossing film at the US box-office (and 2nd highest worldwide) for the year.Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

HThe Hobbit: After more than 20 hours screen time, The Battle of the Five Armies brings Peter Jackson’s time in Middle Earth to an end.Peter_Jackson_Hobbit

IThe Interview:  The release for the movie The interview was cancelled following threats from hackers.  Barack Obama and George Clooney joined the debate and the film received a limited Christmas day release earning $1million from 331 scenes in independent theatres.the-interview-poster

JJennifer Lawrence: With an Oscar win and two other nominations as well as a starring role in two of the biggest movie franchises, Jennifer Lawrence is probably the biggest young star in Hollywood.  She was also the most outspoken victim of hackers who stole nude images and posted them online.jennifer-lawrence

KKickstarter: the big names to come from kickstarter in 2014 were the Veronica Mars movie and Zach Braff’s ;Wish I Was Here.  Blue Ruin and Obvious Child also raised a little to help get them released.veronica-mars-movie

L Luc Besson & Lucy: After numerous movies with his name attached as a writer or producer Besson is back in the director’s chair with the surprise hit Lucy.  Making back its $40million budget back in its opening weekend.Lucy

MMcConaissance: Matthew McConaughey’s resurgence was completed with a best actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club.Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

NNightcrawler: Jake Gyllenhaal gives the performance of his career in Dan Gilroy’s feature debut.Nightcrawler Jake Gyllenhaal

OOprah Winfrey: as well as producing two movies: Selma and The Hundred-Foot Journey Winfrey proved her Hollywood power by lending her support to the independent British film Belle.Oprah Winfrey

PPaddington: What could have been a disaster turned out to be charming and funny.paddington

Q – Quvenzhané Wallis: The young star of Beasts of the Southern Wild retuned with a small part in 12 Years a Slave and starring role in the remake of Annie.Quvenzhané Wallis

RThe Rover: After his début feature, Animal Kingdom in 2010 David Michôd is back with The Rover, a movie full of subtext, foreboding and great acting from Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy. The Rover

SScarlett Johansson: It’s been a busy year for Johansson with the UK release of: Her, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chef, Under the Skin and the surprise hit of the year Lucy.Scarlett Johansson under the skin

TAlan Turing: The imitation Game finally told the long overdue story of war hero and farther of computing, Alan Turing.the imitation game

UUnreleased: A region 2 DVD of Snowpiercer is available from a well know online retailer but the film is still yet to receive a UK release.Snowpiercer

VVampire: Forget Twilight, with Only Lovers Left Alive and What We Do in the Shadows there are two original ideas to kick-start the genre.Only Lovers Left Alive

W – Mia Wasikowska: After appearing in Stoker my favourite film of 2013 Mia Wasikowska is rapidly becoming one of my favourite actresses with appearances in Maps to the Stars, The Double, Only Lovers Left Alive and Tracks in 2014.Mia Wasikowska

X – X-Men: Days of Future Past: Bryan Singer returned to the X-Men franchise with a seminal story form the 80’s. It beat Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the world box-office, dragging the franchise from the shadow of Marvel Studios.X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-chess-game

Y – 12 Years A Slave: Winner of Oscars for Best picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o in her first feature film.Lupita Nyongo

ZThe Zero Theorem: Terry Gilliam is back after five years, and back to what he does best, making interesting films that look like the cost a lot more to make than they actually did.The Zero Theorem

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I haven’t been writing much over the past month, it isn’t because I have been busy watching films with only nine visits to the cinema all month.

Mr. Turner: Mike Leigh’s portrait of J. M. W. Turner is loving without being sentimental.  It is beautiful without being twee, but most surprising is just how funny it is mainly thanks  to Timothy Spall.  The 150 minute running time flies by.Mr. Turner

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman: I’m surprised by the mixed to negative reviews it has received, I really enjoyed it.  A trashy Euro thriller with a American lead, it is surprising Luc Besson’s name isn’t attached!  Shia LaBeouf, is finally showing some of the promise of his early films such as A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Evan Rachel Wood is always worth watching even with a wafer thin character to work with.The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

Say When (released as Laggies in other countries): Introducing the idea of a “quarter-life crisis” as twenty-something Keira Knightley takes time off from her normal life by hanging out with teenager Chloë Grace Moretz.  Knightley is choosing some interesting roles and Moretz is proving there is more to her than Hit Girl.  The film is at its best when Sam Rockwell is in it, that sadly isn’t often enough.  Knightley was cast as a replacement for Anne Hathaway who was busy filming Interstellar, speaking of which:Say When aka Laggies

Interstellar: Astronauts travel through a wormhole looking for a habitable planet to replace the dying earth.   A more personal and emotional film than we are used to from Christopher Nolan, but far from his most accessible.  The cast are all excellent particularly Mackenzie Foy as Matthew McConaughey’s 10 year old daughter.  The photography is stunning (Hoyte Van Hoytema in for Nolan’s regular Wally Pfister).  The end is sure to divide opinion.Interstellar

The Drop: A low key crime thriller based on a Dennis Lehane novel, notable as James Gandolfini’s final film.  A film that seems to have divided critical opinion, it does have its flaws, but on the whole it is a very good film elevated by a great performance by Tom Hardy and a killer ending.The Drop

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: To take the weakest book in the trilogy and split it into two movie is a cynical commercial move top extract as much money as possible out of a profitable franchise.  That said the film is quite good, the tone is different to the first two.  The only real downside it doesn’t work as a complete film, it is part one.  This may not matter when it can be enjoyed with part two.The Hunger Games Mockingjay  Part 1

The Homesman: Tommy Lee Jones second feature as a director sees him return to the west, but he refuses to call the movie a western.  A harsh and sombre film, but one that is lifted by great performances from Jones and Hilary Swank.The Homesman

Get On Up: The James Brown bio-pic seems to be earning praise for Chadwick Boseman’s fantastic performance but criticism for confusing chronology.  I agree with the former but actually think the disjointed chronology helps not hinders the narrative.Get On Up

What We Do In The Shadows: Vampires get the mockumentary treatment thanks to the Flight of the Conchords team.  The deadpan Spinal Tap style delivery takes a little time to get into but when you adjust to it, it is very funny.What We Do In The Shadows

Some really good movies but there can be only one movie of the month, and there was only one real contender:interstellar poster

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