Time to start yet another trawl through the cinematic wonders of the year, the fifth time I’ve broken down the cinema year in blog post form, and as has now become traditional I’m starting with my look at the best trailers of 2014. I have to say that 2014 hasn’t struck me as a golden year in the art of the cinematic promo, not least because of an ever increasing avalanche of marquee names and tentpole sequels that have a very precise series of beats to hit. I’ve probably also reached a point where I don’t watch very many of these in cinemas, partly because the tendency to keep the house lights up means most people tend to sit and chat through them, but also down to the fact that the standard diet of ads and trailers at the multiplex is twenty-five to thirty minutes of my life I’ll never get back, so I try to dip in as close to the start of the film as I possibly can.
All that said, there have still been a few highlights of the year, so in tribute to my normal Half Dozen trailer run-down I’ve pulled together another double dose of the best of the year’s trailers.
Best Trailer That Condenses The Movie Into Two Minutes: The Grand Budapest Hotel
What you’re really looking for from a trailer is something that sums up the tone and the spirit of the film without giving the game away. Recent trailers for Wes Anderson’s films have got this down to the finest of fine arts, not least because they tend to use the score from their respective films, and this picks off a selection of crowd-pleasing moments and also captures the true sense of the lighter moments of the film while not giving away too many of the highlights for when you come to watch the film.
Best Trailer For Teasing Just The Right Level: Godzilla
Just as with the Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla, this trailer was doing its best to keep back the detail of the grumpy green giant until you were sat watching the film. This probably worked more effectively, not least because the reveal of the actual creature leaves you breathing a sigh of relief rather than disappointment. Most of us who remember the travesty of Matthew Broderick charging round after a bunch of humourless Godzookies were relieved that this offered up the possibility of something just a little less emotionally scarring.
Best Trailer Earworm Of The Year: Guardians Of The Galaxy
Marvel couldn’t really lose here, as few people would have had too many expectations of this very minor property before James Gunn was offered the director’s chair. Even the eccentric (if expensive) casting wouldn’t have done too much more to raise hopes, but then this first trailer hit, with the film’s secret weapon revealed: the killer throwback soundtrack, and if you weren’t oonga-chakkaing to yourself after hearing Blue Suede’s Hooked On A Feeling, it’s possible you either hate the Seventies or you have no soul.
Best Comedy Trailer Of The Year: What We Do In The Shadows
I had a few issues with What We Do In The Shadows, mainly around the lack of big laughs, but that was possibly also down to the fact that many of the film’s best moments ended up in the trailer. Conversely, this is a two minute breakdown of the film that still hasn’t failed to put a smile on my face every time I’ve watched it.
Best Action Trailer Of The Year: The Raid 2
The Raid 2 suffered from being a subtitled action movie so it failed to crack either the art houses or the multiplexes and I ended up performing a 120 mile round trip just to see it. But when this trailer was offering up so much (all of which was delivered on in spades in the film), it was hard to resist. It helps when your two and a half hour action movie has probably close to an hour of action so that you’re not losing too many important beats to the need to drum up an audience.
Best Ronseal* Trailer: Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie
No, wait, come back! I haven’t taken leave of my senses: Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie is almost certainly a terrible film – I haven’t actually seen it – but there’s something about the trailer: you could not possibly watch it, and then sit down and watch the film saying you weren’t warned what you’re getting. Having been forced to endure some of the TV series, all of the staples are present and correct: the sub-music hall humour, the fourth wall breaking, the corpsing mid-joke, the self-referential digs, and in terms of pitching the finished product, you can’t fault it.
* does exactly what it says on the tin
Most Horrific Flashback Of The Year: Edge Of Tomorrow
You learn something every day. In this case, I discovered that the mind-numbing flashbacks I was having to the Battle: Los Angeles trailer caused by the use of the same music in this trailer wasn’t caused by the same music at all, just a common reliance on heavy use of autotune. For the record, the trailer for my least favourite film of the current decade was accompanied by Johann Johannsson’s The Sum’s Gone Dim and the Edge Of Tomorrow trailer is underscored by Fieldwork’s This Is Not The End. Feel free to tell me that I’m getting old and should be able to tell the difference.
Best Reveal In A Trailer: Citizenfour
Citizenfour has a trump card up its sleeve, and both the trailer and the film manage the reveal in an understated but effective way.
Yeah, not much more I can say than that.
Move along. Nothing more to see here.
Best Underdog Trailer (also Best Use Of Eighties Music): We Are The Best
I’ve not managed to catch everything I’d hoped to this year, I never do, but if one film stands out as being one I regret missing, it’s We Are The Best, and hopefully this trailer shows you exactly why. Out of the films I’ve not seen (at time of writing; it’s on Netflix so may yet appear in the top 40), this one seems to have been cropping up on as many end of year lists as anything.
Best Trailer For A Film Not Out Until 2015 First Runner-Up: Inherent Vice
I’ll be honest, I’d not paid much attention to Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, partly because you don’t need to: it’s a name that’s become as reliable a stamp of quality as Scorcese or Spielberg at their peak. Consequently, this trailer – showing how Anderson set about capturing the feel of Thomas Pynchon’s novel – took me by surprise. Some top quality falling over from Joaquim Phoenix there.
Best Trailer For A Film Not Out Until 2015 Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road
The first trailer created a real buzz around the internet with its incredible looking action scenes, but it was just a string of action scenes with a cool techno soundtrack and a two-headed lizard. But this second promo was a perfect storm of fast cuts, giant logos, Nicholas Hoult going a bit mad and when the Dies Irae from Verdi’s Requiem drops, it’s the trailer equivalent of snorting pure speed. Seven million YouTube views in a week have surely guaranteed this a big opening weekend next year.
The Best Trailer Of 2014 is The Babadook
There could only really be one winner this year. Preparing to watch The Guest on the opening night of FrightFest, in a room full of hardened horror movie fans, the fact that they were freaking out over a trailer spoke volumes about what was to come, and by the time the film played two nights later there were actual screams. This brings us nicely full circle, as this trailer also does a great job of nailing the concept without giving away too many of the big moments, and I’m not only adding The Babadook to my Trailer Of The Year roll of honour, but I’m still sleeping with the lights on and I’ve stopped reading books. Can’t take any chances.
The 12 Best Trailers Of 2013 WINNER – Gravity
The 12 Best Trailers Of 2012 WINNER – The Imposter
The Dozen Best Trailers Of 2011 WINNER – Submarine
The Half Dozen Best Trailers Of 2010 WINNER – The Social Network
It’s been a long summer, full of mutants, monkeys, giant fighty robots, some additional giant fighty monsters and Jon Favreau cooking, but now the nights are drawing in and there’s no better time to be in the cinema. Admittedly I can’t think of a bad time to be in the cinema, but I was never the best role model. Having had a busy summer, followed by a month-long binge on two of the country’s foremost film festivals, this feature has had a rest for the past couple of months but now it’s back,
better than ever largely the same as ever, bringing you the six most tantalising two minute compilations of films released in UK cinemas this calendar month.
If you’re a long time reader, you’ll remember that the first rule of The Half Dozen is that you don’t talk about… no wait, that’s Fight Club. The first – and indeed – only rule of The Half Dozen was that these were trailers for films I hadn’t seen. This was a fairly flexible rule, to the point where one month it was only films that I’d seen. I’ve also not stuck rigidly to six on occasions. So if we’re going to do this again, then there are no rules. Who needs rules anyway! Apart from these being films which will at some point in October be shown in a UK cinema, having not previously been shown in UK cinemas outside of festivals. So there’s a kind of rule. Whatever.
I can offer one improvement on this post over previous efforts – I’ve added release date details on each film! Don’t say I never get you anything. Anyway, on with this month’s not particularly anarchic selection of promos.
Speaking of rules, there used to be a rule that all even-numbered Star Trek films were great and odd-numbered not quite so great. That rule has fallen apart over the years, what with ten and twelve being complete bobbins and three actually not that bad, then eleven was one of the best of the series. A rule you can put much more faith in is that David Fincher saves his best work for his even numbered films: while Alien³, The Game, Panic Room, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo have been various shades of interesting, the films sandwiched in between – Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network and now Gone Girl – are all likely to become established as classic films with a bit of distance. I hope to have a review of Gone Girl up this weekend to explain my reasoning behind that in more detail, but for now rejoice in this surprisingly non-spoilery trailer.
Gone Girl has been on nationwide release since 3rd October, and it’s been rated 18.
I have to confess that most of what occurred in Northern Ireland while I was a child mystified me – TV news had a lot of assumed knowledge, and coming to it as a young child all I knew is that the IRA from time to time blew up either places where the families of people I knew worked or occasionally train stations that I was about to pass through. So it will be interesting to see how this film manages to keep the balance between the action movie it’s clearly trying to be, and the backdrop of the conflict in which it’s set. Casting Jack O’ Connell, so great in the likes of Eden Lake and Starred Up, is a good first step in whatever you’re trying to achieve.
’71 has been on release since 10th October, and is still playing at a reasonable selection of cinemas. It’s a certificate 15.
Having been running this blog for nigh on five years, I get a whole load of e-mails offering me film related opportunities. In five years, barely any of them have actually been worth taking up, but when I was offered a screener for this film I jumped at the chance. The one thing the trailer skips on is the language – this is a proper, rough, Northern with a capital N film (and I’m half Northern by birth, so I can say that, even though my normal speaking voice is Queen’s English with a hint of estuary) but it’s also got one of the best soundtracks of the year.
Northern Soul is out today (17th October), and is on limited release, also rated 15. It is also available to book via OurScreen, an initiative to allow you, the viewer, to decide what ends up in cinemas. You just need to ensure a certain amount of tickets get sold for the cinema to actually show the film. Genius. You’ll see a whole host of Northern Soul screenings on the website if you head over there now. It’s also out on DVD and Blu-ray to buy on Monday.
I saw this at FrightFest, it’s the best film I saw at FrightFest and one of my favourites of the year (currently residing at 11th on my provisional top 40), people were actually screaming, people were even freaked out by the trailer, if you even vaguely like horror movies or just decent films then go see. Put some of that on the poster, but be a good editor. (“People were actually screaming”? “The 11th best film of the year”? Maybe just “Go see”.)
The Babadook is on wide release from next Friday, 24th October, and is also rated 15.
Over the years I’ve taken great pleasure in ticking off some of the names of our finest directors and seeing films of theirs in the cinema for the first time. Since my cinema going reached epic levels after moving to Cambridgeshire, I’ve seen both Happy-Go-Lucky and Another Year, and both were great, so my anticipation levels for Mr. Turner should be described as high. At some point I do need to go back and revisit the rest of Mike Leigh’s forty year career, but I consider that a mere technicality at present.
Mr. Turner is out on October 31st, painting up a storm in art house cinemas near you, and is rated 12A.
Just think, there was a time when none of us knew how to pronounce Gyllenhall. Actually, that’s probably still now, isn’t it?
Nightcrawler is also out on October 31st, and is also rated 15. Seriously, are there no kids’ films out this month?
Sadly, doing the whole of FrightFest wasn’t really an option for me this year. Two days after it finishes, I’ll be starting my annual eleven day stint at the Cambridge Film Festival, so there’s only so much annual leave I can spend watching films and that ruled out Friday. Then I also knew I had a choice to make about Saturday, as one of the choirs I sing with when I’m not watching films was doing their annual cathedral visit. The idea is, whenever the regular cathedral choir goes on holiday, then other visiting choirs come in and do the services instead, and this choir was singing at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve sung in a whole host of places before, from the Royal Albert Hall to Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral to King’s College chapel, but if I have a bucket list of places left then St. Paul’s was probably at the top of it and it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Normally you do these things for your own benefit, as a Saturday evensong at most cathedrals during the summer gets two people and a dog in attendance, but I was surprised to discover that St. Paul’s – being proper famous and all that – had somewhere between three and four hundred people in the congregation. No pressure then. It lived up to my every expectation and I spent three hours practising and singing in one of the finest buildings in the country, and all of the staff there were lovely. Then, as the rest of the choir boarded their coach to head back to Norfolk, I headed down The Strand and towards Leicester Square – I knew I could still get at least two films in when I planned the day, and what better way to finish it up than another dose of FrightFest?
Well, as it turns out there was one alternative: I hadn’t twigged that this was when the new series of Doctor Who was starting when I booked the tickets, so I will now not be seeing that until at least Tuesday. (EDIT: Wednesday now. Still not seen it.) However, on arriving in Leicester Square it dawned on me that not only was the episode on TV, but the whole thing was being shown in cinemas as well – which Leicester Square has in abundance – and the Q & A might even have been hosted somewhere round there. So I waded through the hordes of enthusiastic cosplayers – I counted a First, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor, as well a woman in a TARDIS dress and a multitude of children in various get-ups, including one with a cardboard TARDIS of his very own – and made my way over to the Vue for another night of horror-related film entertainment.
Thankfully it seemed as if the issues over the venue transition were settling down, and I arrived to find a very contented audience at the halfway point of the festival. The afternoon also meant I arrived for the second time at the festival suited and booted, so I shall feel somewhat under-dressed when I rock up in jeans and trainers on Sunday. It also made me realise that, for all of the genres it ends up spanning, FrightFest is actually pretty light on the cosplay. Someone did ask me if I was dressing up for the festival, but I think I’d not be along in thinking that five days sat in a cinema in fancy dress or heavy make-up isn’t the best idea.
(You might wonder why I’m telling you all this; partly because this is a blog, so you get the delight of reading about me and the films in a sort of movie BOGOF deal, partly so you know why I hadn’t given myself over completely to FrightFest when I’m an enthusiastic blogger but also because I think it’s useful for you to know that I live life through a series of rather mundane extremes; knowing that I spend the afternoon in church singing and the rest of the weekend seeking out the most depraved horror films imaginable probably tells you all about me as a person that you need to know.)
Anyway, to the films! Not actually that much depravity here, but certainly a double dose of quality.
Life After Beth
When you think of the term rom-zom-com, you might think (a) is that really a thing?, or more likely (b) Shaun Of The Dead (or, if you’re paying attention, last year’s Warm Bodies). The latest attempt to put a tick in all three boxes of that high concept is a very different spin on each aspect. The “com” is very much in the style of American indie films, not feeling a million miles away from Aubrey Plaza’s earlier film “Safety Not Guaranteed”. The “zom” is also a little different: rather than the world suddenly being swamped with hordes of the undead, we pick up with Zach (Dane DeHaan) mourning the loss of his girlfriend Beth (Plaza) and spending time with her parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon) in an effort to find peace. Except what he finds is Beth, seemingly returned from the grave and oblivious to her recent untimely death. Finally, the “rom” is also somewhat skewed, for while Beth’s return gives Zach the opportunity to say and do the things he regrets never saying and doing, their relationship was already in trouble and Zach is now left wondering if life with Beth’s death is actually what he wants.
The stand-out performance undoubtedly comes from Plaza, absolutely committed to however zombie she needs to be, but DeHaan is also great as the confused boyfriend trying to work out whether or not he should be using the Z-word about his newly returned girlfriend. The cast is packed full of familiar comedy faces, including Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines as Zach’s parents and Anna Kendrick as an old family friend who catches Zach’s eye, much to Beth’s disgust. The other highlight in the cast is Matthew Gray Gubler as Zach’s unhinged brother, who adds a screwball note to the otherwise deadpan, understated comedy. The laid back nature of Life After Beth might mean it’s not to everyone’s tastes – not a huge amount actually happens – but there’s a lot to enjoy, especially as events pick up pace in the second half; in the words of the immortal Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly.” It’s a fun take on an established genre mix that will leave you smiling, with just a touch of poignancy before the end.
The Score: 8/10
Each of the films at FrightFest were preceded by a short selection of trailers and one of a series of films encouraging viewers to “Turn Your Bloody Phone Off”, after years of people not doing exactly than and causing much wailing and general abuse in FrightFest audiences. On Thursday night, one of the films also came with the trailer for The Babadook, which caused at least two people behind me to evacuate their bowels thanks to being generally terrifying.
So there’s two things about The Babadook: first, it’s generally terrifying. The washed-out aesthetic of the family home, full of dark blue hues and lingering shadows may not be the most original horror setting but it’s superbly executed, every dark corner full of constant menace. The Babadook is also a magnificently ominous creation, especially given that he’s a character in (admittedly the world’s darkest and most twisted) children’s book. When the book appears without warning on their bookshelf, mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) think it’s just another bedtime story, but Samuel becomes obsessed with the story. Raising her son without the father killed in an accident seven years earlier is hard enough for Amelia, but as Samuel’s very soul seems to be overtaken by fear of the monster, Amelia also finds herself pushed to breaking point.
The second thing is that there’s more to The Babadook than just some carefully constructed scares. What really makes The Babadook work so well is the level of investment that writer / director Jennifer Kent puts into Amelia and Sam’s relationship and backstory. Both Davis and Wiseman give perfectly pitched performances, Wiseman with the wide-eyed terror redolent of highly strung Danny Torrance from The Shining and Davis visibly fraying at the edges as the stress of her situation continues to pile on, but it’s the accident that took Amelia’s husband that haunts her as much as any fictional character ripping itself from the pages of a book.
Taken in combination, the emotional resonance from the script and the unnerving images of Amelia and Samuel’s gradual haunting produce a gripping story that worms its way into your mind before scaring the living senses out of you. I’ll just say this: it’s my third year at FrightFest, but I’ve been watching horror in cinemas for over twenty years, and yet while I’ve seen and heard people jump countless times in horror movies, The Babadook was the first time I’d heard someone properly scream in a cinema. Twice.
The Score: 9/10
Next time: Sunday, and a full day pass to a half dozen horrifying treats. (I also skived off church. Well, you have to have some priorities, don’t you?)