Disappointment of 2014: Snowpiercer

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To call Snowpiercer my disappointment 2014 may come as a shock to some. Those who know my love of sci-fi will know that Snowpiercer is in fact one of my highlights of 2014. So why label it a disappointment?

It’s quite simple my disappointment is because if you are reading this in the UK it’s highly likely you haven’t seen Snowpiercer. Sadly, from all reports, there is a high chance you never will.

Set in 2031, the entire world is frozen except for those aboard the Snowpiercer. For 17 years, the world’s survivors are on a train hurtling around the globe creating their own economy and class system. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans), a group of lower-class citizens living in squalor at the back of the train are determined to get to the front of the train and spread the wealth around. Each section of the train holds new surprises for the group who have to battle their way through to the top carriage.

There is a long running disagreement between the director, Joon-ho Bong, and production company, the Weinstein company. Allegedly the tale is that one of the parties want a further edit that would take 20 minutes of the running time. This (as far as I’m concerned) is unnecessary. I thought this film was terrific with great direction, beautifully shot, well acted and a plot that in 2014 of all years has great relevance with it’s social class message.

Currently this film has no UK distributor attached and looks unlikely that it will.

This is such a shame a more people deserve to see this great piece of work.

When you consider the endless trail of sequels, and some of the frankly terrible efforts that do make cinematic release it makes Snowpiercer all the more tragic.

The film has reached mainland Europe and had a screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival. You can find it on Region 2 DVD or if you have a multi region player it’s not a problem. Seek it out, see this film join the minority who are no longer disappointed.

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Chef: The surprise of 2014

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For those of us who enjoy nothing more than spending time in dark rooms with strangers, or going to the cinema, as its also known. There is no greater joy than seeing something and being genuinely surprised. Not in the sense of seeing a shocking twist in a plot revealed or an engrossing documentary (although these are also great).  The best cinematic surprise is enjoying something you thought would be terrible.

In 2014 my biggest surprise was Chef. I had seen trailer prior to another screening and thought ‘that looks cheesy, twee and the type of self praising pap that I would avoid at all costs’. Fast forward to a couple on a rare child free date night plagued by indecision, who unable to convince the other of their preferred choices took a chance on Jon Favreau and his tale of a Chef who leaves his high-profile job to chase his dream and reignite his love of food.

This tale of ‘love what you do and do what you love’ is a little cheesy in places but it is finely balanced with also being genuinely heart warming as we see Favreau not only restart his career but also restart several of his previously deteriorating relationships (primarily with his son).

We meet loyal friends,we hear good music, we see ex wives who still care for their past relationships, and we salivate at some of the most mouth-watering food ever depicted on-screen. One particular memory is Favreau making a cheese toastie for his son and it looks like the greatest toastie the world has ever known.

Music lovers will enjoy this film, foodies will enjoy this film, those who love road movies will enjoy this film (I know have added a trip to a Texan smokehouse to my bucket list), those attempting to discover their path in life could be inspired by this tale.

Out now on DVD Chef would make a perfect Christmas stocking filler. It is the perfect curl up under a blanket film, warm and engaging with plenty to savor.

Ultimately Chef is my surprise watch of 2014 and is a great piece of cinematic comfort food that more should see.

Nightcrawler: Modern Horror

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Nightcrawler is going to feature in a lot of ‘Top films of 2014’ lists and rightfully so. This dark tale of one man’s obsession to achieve notoriety through others suffering is certainly one of my favourites of 2014.

Gyllenhall has never been better, gaunt almost with a ghostly transparence, wide haunting eyes that would suit the features of any nocturnal animal drawing the viewer deeper into his world of darkness. At times he can be found flitting between shadow and light in a manner that sums up his character perfectly.

It is the modern urban world that lights this film, the neon glow of city skylines and the strip lighting of cheap restaurants. Not since Drive has such a nocturnal film had such an impact on me. Gyllenhall may be the star but he is not the only character that elicits horror in the viewer.

In order for Lou Bloom to be a success he must sell the footage he takes to the media and more specifically Nina played by Rene Russo. A story and footage of a house break in is where the horror lies. Brought to the point of exuberant joy at the footage of chaos,blood, destruction Nina feeds the story to her news readers. She repeatedly tells them to emphasise the horror, the pain, be strong on heightening fear, screaming at her colleagues to tell the viewer over and over again how to feel about these criminals still ‘at large’.

Watching Nina was the point in the film where the true horror of Nightcrawler was revealed. The realisation hits the viewer that we are being fed many messages day and daily each with their own agenda.

There comes a point where we recognise that not everyone has our best interests at heart. Not everyone is speaking the truth. There are those more content in pedalling their own messages and agenda than helping others. Nightcrawler shows us this from a media perspective however it sadly stretches more widely than that.

We are being informed subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) what to think. Our reactions are being triggered by the information we are being fed, Our capacity to make our own judgements is tainted by sources great and small.

The media, churches, colleagues, friends, politicians, family all have voices and influence in our lives feeding us opinions that may contribute in some way to the formation of our opinions. The trick is learning to hear the relevant and truthful voices among the noise of those clammering for our attention.

Nightcrawler is a great modern horror story. The reality of this tale however may be more horrific than the film itself.