After a great year of film watching and reviewing and enjoying a wide range of different genres, there were a number of films that passed me by and caught up with much later than their release date. With that in mind, I’m going to briefly review 7 films released in 2015 that I’ve since watched so without further pause, check out (or avoid) some of the movies below in our Midlands Movies 2015 catch up review blog.
Whiplash (2015) Dir. Damien Chazelle
Already an Oscar winning film before I got to watch it, Whiplash has ended up as one of my favourite films of the year. J K Simmons is the tour de force drum teacher who encourages then cajoles then demands, then bullies his talented new student played by Miles Teller. Whilst Simmons is intensely vocal and violently passionate, Teller holds his own as the gifted percussionist who will do almost anything to succeed. The banging drums helped provide rhythmic and dynamic editing beats as well as sound-tracking the movie in general (similar to Birdman) and this also pushed the film along to its fulfilling conclusion. There’s no need to be a fan of drumming for this thumpingly brilliant film with pulsating performances from two exceptional leads.
9/10 Midlands Movies Mike
Spy (2015) Dir. Paul Feig
Touted to be a surprisingly good comedy given the absolutely awful poster - which I thought looked like Stop or My Mum Will Shoot - Melissa McCarthy plays a desk based agent thrown into a world of gun-toting espionage. Everyone gives it their all, McCarthy isn’t as annoying as I’ve found her in the past giving a performance with heart whilst Jude Law nails an arrogant suave spy (once a possible Bond contender perhaps?) whilst Statham plays a deadpan comedic version of himself as a grizzled field operative unhappy with McCarthy’s assignment. Spy also contains possibly the weirdest scene of the year when British sitcom comedienne Miranda ends up falling on gangster rapper 50-Cent in the middle of a concert. Despite these positives, I didn’t think there were enough funny moments in the movie and I was forever snooping to actually find a laugh or two. Inoffensive to a fault, a few against-type performances were not enough to save the film which I found mostly dull, repetitive and simply not humourous enough to engage.
6/10 Midlands Movie Mike
It Follows (2015) Dir. David Robert Mitchell
The much lauded horror It Follows was on my “must-see” list for a long time before I finally got to view it in the middle of the year. And well? Well, I was unfortunately disappointed by the hyped reviews and “best-ever” tags. This was much the same case as last year for me with the dissatisfying Babadook. A great conceit where the “entity” is passed from victim to victim during s*x, the positives were realistic motivations and interactions between the American teen actors (this being a rarity in horror these days – see Gallows below) and a genuine sense of dread when the slow moving infected person entered the frame from background to foreground. The 70s style of Carpenter was also present but despite the odd moment of terror, the slowly approaching fiend was reflected in the pace of the film and never did I really feel that the group were in danger. A respectful take on a genre currently filled with jerks and jump cuts, the movie had lots of well-intentioned anxiety but no real peril for me.
6.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike
The Gallows (2015) Dir. Travis Cluff & Chris Lofing
Good lord! Where to start with this film??! Dear Cluff and Lofing – you simply have no idea how to make a film. As a fan of handheld horror (REC is a favourite of mine) I deplore the fact that a “filmmaker” thinks that wobbling the camera about a bit is enough to add “realism” to a horribly structured & edited movie. The list of flaws in this film will make you want to hang yourself but in short, the characters are unsympathetic (the main guy is a bully who I wanted to be knocked off as soon as he appeared), the story boring, the filming absolutely atrocious and the execution so flawed that I’m struggling to define it as a movie. If it was made on a zero budget by a group of school kids, the you could say “well done, grade A homework for a film made on your phone” but for a mainstream movie it is inexcusable this can be released in the form I saw it. The film should be lynched by any horror movie fan as a low point for the genre in 2015.
2/10 Midlands Movies Mike
The Visit (2015) Dir. M Night Shyamalan
Shyamalan in not sh*t film shocker! So should be the headline of every movie review and blog about this new feature from the director of the awesome Sixth Sense and Unbreakable as well as the terrible Lady in the Water, The Happening, Last Airbender and After Earth. Returning to themes first tackled in his scary debut, this is a handheld horror where 2 children are sent to their grandparents to stay whilst their mum goes on holiday. The kids capture the events using a camera the daughter brings to document their time there, but very soon the odd behaviour of the geriatrics start getting out of hand. Small ticks and sleepwalking start to take a sinister turn as their night terrors, screaming and strange actions are compounded by them failing to remember what has happened. Are they ill? Are they possessed? Well, it turns out to be stranger than that but Shyamalan shows his filmmaking talent with a short and scary tale that goes back to basics with simple shocks and unfussy terror through the eyes of the two children. Boundaries haven’t been broken but it succeeds in being both a relief in Shyamalan’s career that there is still talent in his filmmaking as well as being a satisfyingly spooky tale on its own merits.
7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike
The Gift (2015) Dir. Joel Edgerton
In his directorial debut, Joel Edgerton also plays the strange loner who re-enters the life of his former classmate Jason Bateman and his wife. Twisting and turning, the plot focuses on his strange and erratic behaviour as the couple attempt to work out his intentions but it soon becomes apparent that all is not what it seems with Bateman himself holding secrets of his own. Switching from victims to perpetrators the couple and the strange outsider discuss and analyse the actions of the past and how they ripple into the present day. I’ve never really taken to Jason Bateman so his turn as a quite unlikeable egoist and overconfident intimidator was a good use of his talents whilst Edgerton delivers a strong show as a mostly silent nuisance. 20 minutes from the end I sadly guessed where the film was going but once past the slow opening, the drama was solid and the narrative clearly told. However, it’s not the gift that keeps on giving as I doubt I would want to sit through this more than once despite being an assured unveiling of Edgerton’s talent outside of acting. A serious if sluggish thriller.
6.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike
Going Clear (2015) Dir Alex Gibney
A documentary focusing on a number of people who have escaped the clutches of the questionable “Church” of Scientology was always going to ruffle some feathers with the organisation and Gibney’s film does exactly that. Showing Scientology from its early beginnings as a simple money making tool for its inventor L Ron Hubbard, the later clips show celebrity endorsers John Travolta and Tom Cruise saluting this 1950’s huckster whose main goal it seems was cheap labour and avoiding tax. The film is interspersed with interviews with people who left or were forced to leave and stories like one lady’s “detachment” from her daughter and another’s car-leaping escape are equal parts harrowing and immensely terrifying. Director Gibney barely places any personal comment directly onto the footage and lets the talking heads recall their stories which shame the organisation and its cult-like practices. A powerful if not political study of a modern phenomenon, the film shows how faith and indoctrination is not just the sole domain of Middle Eastern tyrants but lands at the door of Western society as otherwise sensible people are hoodwinked into their pyramid scheme of secrecy. A must watch.
8/10 Midlands Movies Mike.