30 December 2014

The Must See Films of 2014

At long last, 2014 fades to a close as 2015 looms ominously before us, the passing seasons and changing of calendars alerting you to the ever quickening journey of life itself, the end of which is only getting closer every minute of your continuing existence. You start asking questions - did 2014 really last as long as other years? Have I achieved anything this year? What percentage of my life remains?  Will anyone remember me when I die? Has time started speeding up as my responsibilities grow, burdening me like an ever-expanding weight on my soul?  What good films came out this year?

Well it turns out that actually, 2014 has been a pretty good year for cinema - despite a few disappointments, the majority of anticipated pictures have lived up or even exceeded the hype surrounding them, a situation that comes around just once a blue moon. So I've made a list of the films released in 2014 in the UK that I would consider the ones you need to see.

This is by no means a definitive list - there are a fair few films that have been making the rounds in other lists that I never got round to seeing or haven't been released in the UK yet, but of the films I have seen, these are the ones I would most recommend, the films that for one reason or another I would consider 'required viewing'.

So, in the order that I saw them;

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street follows the life of Jordan Belfort, a real life stockbroker who lived a life of excess using the money of those he conned and lied to. A return to the biopic-esque structure of his previous films, Martin Scorsese once again proves he is a master of cinema in a confident, superbly directed film with a fantastic cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie and Jonah Hill, each giving excellent performances in career defining roles. A film of ridiculous highs and crushing lows, The Wolf of Wall Street perfectly encapsulates both the lure of power and the destruction it can cause in the wrong hands, and despite being based on a story 30 years old, still feels surprisingly relevant today.

26 December 2014

Agents of SHIELD S2E10 "What They Become" changes the Marvel Cinematic Universe in big ways

An immediate continuation of "...Ye Who Enter Here", "What They Become" follows Skye as she meets her father after being kidnapped off The Bus by Ward while May, the Koenigs, Triplett and Hunter try to survive a surprise Hydra attack. Meanwhile, Coulsons attempts to access the city have proven unsuccessful, and with the loss of Mac into the city they have withdrawn for the moment, attempting an attack on the Hydra base nearby after rejoining with the agents on The Bus. It feels like a conclusion to a lot of what has been building for the last 9 episodes, while setting up future events and leaving some plot threads dangling in true mid-season finale fashion.

The long awaited scene between Skye and her father, The Doctor, is really well done, each character both excited and nervous to be finally reunited with their only remaining family, and constant references to Skye's true identity in previous episodes are confirmed in this episode in what is sure to be a big moment, not just for the show, but for the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, drawing on ideas from a future MCU film that isn't due to come out for years yet. It's an interesting development in the way that Agents of SHIELD interacts with the films, and I am hoping it is indicating that the events of the show will tie in further with the films from now on, rather than the show simply reacting the films when it needs to.

19 December 2014

Agents of SHIELD S2E9 "...Ye Who Enter Here" sets everything in motion for the mid-season finale

"...Ye Who Enter Here" is the penultimate episode of the first half of this season, following Coulson, Mac, Simmons, Fitz and Bobbi as they head to the island where the secret underground city that they have been searching for is located, while the rest of the team (Triplett, the Koenigs, Skye, May and Hunter) track down Raina to ensure that Hydra don't take her in for their own nefarious purposes.

The cold open of "...Ye Who Enter Here" is a surreal trip into Skye's mind that gives a lot away about where the show is heading, specifically who she really is, and what she might become. There have been plenty of fan theories regarding Skye's real identity, and it looks like one of them in particular is correct, with several clues in this opening pointing towards her new identity, and a greater relevance within the Marvel Cinematic Universe - an identity that I imagine will be confirmed next episode, in the mid-season finale.

14 December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies fittingly concludes the trilogy

A lot of people love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it isn't hard to see why - you've got an epic, sweeping story of an adventure over an imaginative, richly detailed work with it's own unique back story that boils down to a story between good and evil. Peter Jackson's work on the Lord of the Rings films would be hard to criticise - yes, they are maybe to long, the extended editions a little too masturbatory, but considering the source material? It's a miracle that these films weren't longer. He seemed to be a director that is clearly capable of enormous restraint, managing to prioritise the narratively important moments over less important parts that appear in the books.

And then King Kong happened. And happened. And carried on happening until over 3 hours had past, completely unaware that it had long ago lost any of the interest the audience once had in it. King Kong was a bad film, mostly due to this colossal run time, and is a film I can't see many people jumping to defend. So when Peter Jackson announced that he would be directing a version of The Hobbit, a relatively short book, I got worried. When he announced it would be done in 3 films, I got really worried.

11 December 2014

Agents of SHIELD S2E8 "The Things We Bury" digs up and examines the past

I thought I was being smart with the title word play, but I guess thats the entire reason this episode was called that.

Set during the second world war and onwards, "The Things We Bury" is once again an episode of multiple plots that are linked in small yet meaningful ways, partly uncovering the truth of Doctor Whitehall, partly delving deeper into Wards past and partly moving forward the ongoing season wide plot, the mystery of The Obelisk (or as it should be know, The Diviner) and the missing city. Each of these otherwise separate plot lines tie into each other in interesting and occasionally unexpected ways, making "The Things We Bury" one of the better written episodes that this season has offered up so far, and continuing a pretty impressive streak of good episodes.

5 December 2014

Agents of SHIELD S2E7 "The Writing on the Wall" starts to answer the big questions

"The Writing on the Wall" is another episode of two clear, distinct parts, a common situation that Agents of SHIELD has found itself in these last few weeks. Half of this episode deals with the teaser at the end of last weeks episode, where we saw a strange man having Coulsons's carvings tattooed onto himself, and progresses the mystery of the carvings significantly as Skye, Coulson, Fitz, Simmons and Mac learn an awful lot about SHIELDs past and the GH-325 formula. The other half of the episode deals with the fact that ex-agent Grant Ward is finally on the loose again after escaping at the end of last weeks episode, and has Agents May, Hunter, Triplett and Morse attempting to track him down.