(US, 2014) Dir: John R. Leonetti. Stars Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard. “The overuse of flashing lights is always a sign of creative weakness in horror films (and many use it) as is the high volume slap sound scape and music. But nothing can make up for insipid characters who are two dimensional and unworthy of our attention, never mind sympathy,” says Andrew.
BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP
(UK, 2014) Dir: Rowan Joffe. Stars Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong. “With its top-drawer cast, there’s a compelling aspect to this psychological thriller in which reality, truth and reason struggle against the dark subtext of the unknown, but the heavy-handed cloak and dagger elements push it over into the realm of the incredulous,” says Louise.
“… feels rather manipulative as it tries to assert its premise….This is just about the only negative in an otherwise taut and terrific thriller with a vulnerable female (Nicole Kidman) at the centre, and a tragic story of brain damage that annuls her husband and
son,” says Andrew.
(US, 2014) Dir: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi. Voices of Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris. “The stop-motion animation is extraordinary, but there is something lacking in this third film from Laika Studios – heart,” says Louise.
(US, 2014) Dir: Antoine Fuqua. Stars Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz. “The pensive, brooding calm of an in-form Denzel Washington as the man who has to do what he does - because he can - alleviates this gritty thriller from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, in which Washington plays the Russian mafia as if it were a deadly chess game,” says Louise.
(US, 2014) Dir: David Ayer. Stars Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman. “David Ayer’s film succeeds in creating a claustrophobic mood, prising us into the Sherman tank in 1945 Germany with its melting pot of tension .., although the characterisations might have been better described,” says Louise. “The film’s impact is partly explained by the heavy artillery aimed at our sensibilities, not just our eardrums, and the almost careless narrative, which only glues together in the final, extended, extraordinary sequence best described as Wardaddy’s Last Stand,” says Andrew.
US, 2014) Dir: David Fincher. Stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris. “As far as adaptations go, this is one of the best, Gillian Flynn’s screenplay perfectly capturing the tone of her novel, in which a dark portrait of a marriage unravels… It’s disturbingly good. As well as dense, entertaining, funny, insightful and more,” says Louise. “.. director David Fincher wanted to make a flawless murder thriller in which the audience loyalty and association with the key characters was pushed and pulled unmercifully for maximum impact. He succeeds…” says Andrew.
HECTOR & THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS
(UK, Ger, Can, S.Africa) Dir: Peter Chelsom. Stars Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike. “Quirky, engaging and unexpected, this charming exploration of the road to happiness is elevated by the appealing presence of Simon Pegg, whose dissatisfied psychiatrist delves into the conundrum with naïve enthusiasm. His enthusiasm is addictive,” says Louise.
HOUSE OF MAGIC 3D
(US, 2014) Dir: Jeremy Degruson, Ben Stassen. Voices of Cinda Adams, Edward Asner, George Babbit, Murray Blue. “It's the whimsy and mix of lovable characters that make this animated family film from Belgium a winner, especially for the youngsters, who will giggle and warm to the colourful visuals,” says Louise.
(US, 2014) Stars Robert Downey Jnr, Robert Duval, Vera Farmiga. “The law may be black and white but there is nothing black and white about the father son relationship in this potent drama that comes to a blistering head during a murder trial…. It's a powerhouse of a film, worth seeing for the performances alone,” says Louise.
THE MAZE RUNNER
(US, 2014) Dir: Wes Ball. Stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson. “It doesn't quite have the bite or originality of The Hunger Games, but there are parallels in this first of a new sci-fi action fantasy franchise about survival in a controlled environment,” says Louise.
(US, 2014) Dir: Ben Falcone. Stars Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Kathy Bates. “Contender for worst film of the year, Tammy is a painful experience. If you are looking for a good laugh, a well-written script, engaging characters, quirky relationships, a story with a bit of heart and having a whale of a time, this Melissa McCarthy comedy is not it,” says Louise.
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU
(US, 2014) Dir: Shawn Levy. Stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne. “Laugh or cry, there’s no correct response, says Jane Fonda’s matriarch Hillary, in this hilarious expose of a dysfunctional family thrown together at close quarters. For the audience, there is more laughter than tears… It’s caustic fun on rapids,” says Louise.
WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, A
(US, 2014) Dir: Scott Frank. Stars Liam Neeson, Maurice Compte, David Harbour.
“Competently made, this rather bleak film set in the disturbing, ugly reality of drug trafficking and depraved killings, feels rather routine, with Liam Neeson its best asset…The gruesome nature of the exposition may be inevitable but there is an element of sensationalism about it; it left me feeling rather grubby,” says Louise.
(US, 2014) Dir: Stars J.K. Simmons, Miles Teller. “Thrilling and disturbing in equal parts, Damien Chazelle's magnificent film Whiplash, about a young jazz drummer obsessed with greatness and the sadistic teacher who pushes him to the brink, is a showcase in which fear, not harmony reigns. J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller offer superlative and unforgettable performances, as their characters duel as if in a fight to the death,” says Louise.