"The Guest", directed by Adam Wingard

Movie, 2014 A film which flits between thriller, horror, mystery and teen romp but ends up being none of these things. Some good atmosphere and ideas early on, though these are subverted through clumsy foreshadowing, obvious plotting and a weird sense of non-anticipation as incident follows incident with indecent haste. A film which isn’t so many things, it’s tricky to say what it is. Hokum … Continue reading "The Guest", directed by Adam Wingard

"The Babadook", directed by Jennifer Kent

Movie, 2014 A powerful atmospheric horror about a bogeyman, taking many of the genre’s tropes (creepy house with a cellar, strange magical texts and a family battling good versus evil) and fits them in an Australian suburban set up, very much focusing on young mothers. This fresh approach to older, conservative forms reaps huge dividends, with the mother/son relationship swinging wildly and the absence of … Continue reading "The Babadook", directed by Jennifer Kent

"Foxcatcher," directed by Bennett Miller

Movie, 2014 Adaptation of a real life story involving an Olympic wrestler and a philanthropist whose interest in the sport bring the men and families closer together. In a film where the drama builds and fortunes interweave and develop, there’s plenty to admire, even if a few bits and pieces are a little hard to get used to, mainly John DuPont’s odd prosthetics and very … Continue reading "Foxcatcher," directed by Bennett Miller

"Lucy," directed by Luc Besson

Movie, 2014 Science fiction superhero gangster film with too many ideas to sustain and a generally cold outlook and a few less than savoury undertones. The basic idea of a innocent superhero inflicted with powers through to the footage of wild game being hunted by big cats are as tried and tired as they come. While the action scences and the pacing are fine, the … Continue reading "Lucy," directed by Luc Besson

"Nightcrawler", directed Dan Gilroy

Movie, 2014 Effective, powerful film charting the rise of a disreputable news collector in LA, superbly played by a suitably other worldly looking Jake Gyllenhaal. While this could have been preachy and one-dimensional, the film pulls you on board with some good characterisations and a compelling narrative, which builds and keeps the interest throughout. Not always easy to watch and possibly stretching credibility at times, but … Continue reading "Nightcrawler", directed Dan Gilroy

"Still Alice", directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

Movie, 2014 Gripping account of a woman’s struggle with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. While this is story of heart-rending intensity, and while there’s no ambiguity or bright hope of a change in an inevitable outcome, the narrative is compelling and the incidents portrayed remain interesting. Some wonderful acting, not least by Julianne Moore, around whom the emotions and focus intensify, even as her own mental … Continue reading "Still Alice", directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

"The Drop", directed Michaël R Roskam

Movie, 2014 While this is a film with huge potential for failure – a slurring method acting loner, rescued dog etc. – this slow burner builds a tense and twisting plot and genuine foreboding atmosphere. There’s also a refreshing straightforward setting and story telling with no artsy tricks, crushing soundtrack or CGI, just the goings on in a bar, its assistant manager and people orbiting … Continue reading "The Drop", directed Michaël R Roskam

"What We Do in the Shadows", directed Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi

Film, 2014 Mockumentary about four flat-sharing vampires and their interactions with two newcomers, one of whom is turned into a vampire and one – the hilariously popular Stu – who isn’t. This preposterous set up sits on top of some occasionally almost understated humour and some amusing scenes, most notably in the face-off between the vampires and a werewolf gang. There’s plenty of gore giving … Continue reading "What We Do in the Shadows", directed Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi

"The Big Midweek" by Stephen Hanley and Olivia Piekowski

Non-fiction, 2014 Sardonic, celebratory account of Stephen Hanley’s two decades playing bass guitar for The Fall. It would have been quite easy for Hanley to have ranted, although in his balanced descriptions, band members are brought to life and what feel like balanced recollections are made. Highs comfortably balance the lows with a claustrophobic inevitability setting in from the early 1990s, at around the time … Continue reading "The Big Midweek" by Stephen Hanley and Olivia Piekowski

"The Bag Man", directed David Grovic

Movie, 2014 Relatively tightly plotted thriller about a hit man entrusted with the job of getting a bag safely delivered to a gangland boss. A film whose A-list cast is a little wasted, but which nonetheless delivers some claustrophobic thrills and tension. In a film reminiscent of hard boiled films from the late 1990s there is, however, some rather flabby plotting and violence which, at … Continue reading "The Bag Man", directed David Grovic