29 September 2014

Capsule Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones (Scott Frank, USA, 2014


A passion project of Scott Frank’s for over a decade, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” doesn’t emanate enthusiasm on the big screen. Based on a novel by Lawrence Block, the feature puts Liam Neeson through his grisly paces (for the hundredth time since 2008), wasting the actor’s talents on a PI comprised of snarls, a proclivity for booze and maybe even a dark secret or two. Neeson’s tracking a killer who abducts women, hired by Dan Stevens’ (so good in “The Guest”, comatose here) impossibly youthful Brooklyn drug lord. Some plaudits must be reserved for the intricacy of the feature’s plot, but the themes, people and set-pieces which govern the narrative are fairly rote, culminating in a perplexingly unsubtle denouement which bellows the links between Neeson’s AA history and current mission with the refinement of an inebriated warthog. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is in many ways like a graveyard itself; competently arranged, but dryly repetitive.

A Capsule Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014 

* A fuller review of this film was broadcast on Blast106.4 FM on 27/09/14. 

22 September 2014

Review: '71 (Yann Demange, UK,Ire, 2014)


2014, 99mins, 15
Director: Yann Demange 
Writer: Gregory Burke
Cast includes: Jack O'Connell, Sam Reid, Sean Harris, Paul Anderson, Charlie Murphy
UK Release Date: 10th October 2014

Northern Ireland’s internal issues during the latter half of the twentieth century have endured an uneasy relationship with the screen. Alan Clarke’s seminal short “Elephant” and Steve McQueen’s visceral feature debut "Hunger” advocate the conflict’s cinematic potential, but clunkers like last year’s “A Belfast Story” serve only to undermine both local history and good film-making. “’71” definitely belongs in the upper-tier of this limited pantheon, namely due to incredible authenticity. Yann Demange’s feature manages to articulate the aural and visual uneasiness that envelops a City at war with itself, dragging its desperate protagonist through a struggle that is chiefly human, not political. The essence of the Troubles is woven satisfactorily into the narrative, but “’71” is essentially an efficient chase movie with a strikingly believable outer shell.

Gary (Jack O’Connell) is a young soldier, drafted like many before him to serve in Belfast. Leaving behind familial ties, Gary is shocked by the divisions running through all aspects of the city’s culture, the palpable resentment breeding intense violence. Whilst undergoing a routine raid with his division, Gary finds himself separated, with an assortment of enemies on his tail. Some want him dead for what he represents, whilst others harbour a more devious motivation. With no knowledge of the city, and nobody to trust, Gary is left frightened and vulnerable, touring neighbourhoods consumed by hate.

Demange’s previous work has largely been televisual, but “’71” heralds the coming of a very cinematic film-maker. The recreation of Belfast is startlingly accurate (remarkable given the film shot almost entirely around Sheffield), comprising tight terraced housing, a maze of alleys and a population that emanate life. Even background artists sport impeccable accents, and the hostility evidenced in their dialogue and actions feels real. It’s laced with venom, with a sense of unsympathetic scorn for opposing civilians. Much credit must go to screenwriter Gregory Burke, who utilises a credible depth of native rhetoric, but Demange’s visual construction of the city and use of his eclectic cast make the strongest impression. As somebody born in the Belfast, I bring with me a certain inherent eye for specifics, and Demange meets each challenge with aplomb. “71’” is aesthetically convincing, and as a result the drama at its core becomes not only believable but heatedly genuine.

O’Connell has enjoyed a sterling year. A combination of high-profile exposure (the “300” sequel) and intimate character work (“Starred Up”) have made a strong case for sustained presence  in the industry, his work often centred around his duel ability to meld macho with meek. His sturdy physical presence, angular features and gruff delivery ensure we buy him as formidable, but there’s a naivety O’Connell conjures which makes him entirely vulnerable. As his stranded soldier fumbles through firefights and detonations, his wounds both physical and emotional leave a mark. He’s tough enough to survive, but never cold enough to seem invincible or inhuman. That’s a difficult task for any performer, but O’Connell makes the game seem easy. Gary isn’t a hugely complex character (certainly nowhere close to the broken soul in “Starred Up”) but the young Brit’s innate qualities bring him confidently to life. The supporting faces are also worthy. Burke’s script is more concerned with plot and setting than character, so Demange has wisely caught a cast of underrated heavy-hitters. Sean Harris in particular, perfectly mirrors the uncaring and merciless mood of the time.

Thankfully “71’” is a historically reverent chase movie rather than a piece governed by political intent. Burke’s script avoids taking sides, instead dividing his characters between the few who process compassion and the majority who don’t. Nationalism vs. Unionism isn’t a factor. This should not only suit viewers associated with the conflict, but also those to whom it means little. “’71” doesn’t concern itself with the context of the strife; instead it mourns a sour era in Ireland’s past through brutally depicted street warfare. In the world of “’71” children have lost their innocence, civilians have surrendered their social freedoms and a young man is forced through a night of torment. “’71” weeps not for independence nor promotes a union, instead the picture honours the many innocents ruined forever by the country’s continued unrest.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014

16 September 2014

Review: Magic in the Moonlight (Woody Allen, Warner Bros, 2014)



Magic in the Moonlight 
2014, 97mins, 12
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast includes: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver, Simon McBurney, Eileen Atkins,
UK Release Date: 19th September 2014

In a career spanning almost 50 directorial efforts, it is perhaps unsurprising that one must travel back to 1981 before they find a year which doesn’t have a Woody Allen picture to call its own. The film-maker’s uneven track record is a regular topic of conversation among cinephiles, and not one I’ve ever been particularly interested in continuing. The man generates product at an almost incomparable clip, and so, one must not be appalled to find some of the work falling below par. What is genuinely remarkable to observe is that at the age of 78, Allen can still create great cinema, exemplified wonderfully by last year’s lively and challenging “Blue Jasmine”.  “Jasmine” had Allen working at his best; a stunning compilation of hard truths, savage drama and sparkling dialogue complete with career best work from a gifted muse. “Magic in the Moonlight” is certainly a cut below, although it packs enough old-timey chutzpah to carry the period larks tolerably for 97 minutes. Allen lets his stars and the gorgeous French scenery do the talking, allowing for a mild but fabulously produced helping of cinematic sorbet.

Successful stage magician Stanley (Colin Firth) divides his professional time between wowing audiences and debunking fakes. When peer and friend Howard (Simon McBurney) arrives with news of a young girl supposedly in possession of psychic abilities, Stanley agrees to help expose her, his devotion to rational and science undiminished by Howard’s confession that the act seems genuine.  Stanley arrives in France to find the medium, Sophie (Emma Stone), adored by a selection of foolish expatriates, the girl collecting their financial support in exchange for her talents. Stanley is initially resistant to Sophie’s impish charm, but when her shtick proves fool proof, he finds himself unexpectedly contented by the revelation.  

After the set-up, upon the characters’ arrival in the Cote d’Azur, there is a magnificent panning shot as a motorcar rides the crest of a hill. The vehicle moves across the frame, the camera pausing to imbibe the beautiful shoreline, dappled by a glowing sun. The golds, the blues and the greens combine wonderfully to paint a picture of natural radiance, at which point I slunk down into my seat, fully prepared to enjoy the scenery and spiky Allen asides. These are exactly the positives one gets from a viewing of “Magic in the Moonlight”, revelling in the elegance of Allen’s wit, Darius Khondji’s compositions and the effervescent stars.  The conceit isn’t without substance, but Allen jettisons the deeper philosophical pangs in pursuit of a coy romance, allowing his characters to dilly-dally across the gorgeous countryside as if the entire project were a vacation. Usually I’d bemoan such indulgence, but here it sort of works, thanks to the care taken with production values (the 1920s wardrobe is superb), and the fact any holiday would be vastly improved by Emma Stone’s smile and Firth’s way with a dryly delivered barb.

The drama at the heart of “Magic in the Moonlight” is inconsequential, indeed it’s practically trivial. How does Sophie operate her parlour tricks? Can Stanley overcome the obsession with fact which has rendered him such a grumpy bastard? Will the pair shake off previous romantic arrangements to find joint adventure? All of these questions are answered with the predictability of an obsessive-compulsive’s morning routine, but thanks to the visual splendour and relaxed charisma of the performers, Allen just about pulls the damn thing off. I expect something a little more ambitious from next year’s untitled project, but in a career full of misses, “Magic in the Moonlight” is a pleasant placeholder. 

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014

6 September 2014

Review: Sex Tape (Jake Kasdan, Sony, 2014)



It's been a brutal year for comedy. Yes, the summer got off to an encouraging start with the appealing combo of “22 Jump Street” and “Neighbours”, but boy howdy, have things elsewhere been dreary. “Tammy”, “That Awkward Moment”, “Walk of Shame”, “The Other Woman”...the list goes on, and in “Sex Tape” finds its latest offender. Re-teaming the stars and director of 2011's “Bad Teacher” doesn't sound hugely enticing, but somehow “Sex Tape” finds a way to tumble below even that low bar. It's a staggeringly empty movie, a fact made inexcusable given its topical week of release in the UK, during which the security of our digital secrets have been questioned, and our fellow man's perverted need to ogle potential leaks damned. Yet, even in a relevant climate, “Sex Tape” is a gormless farce, no more erotic than a wet fart, and decidedly less funny.

“Sex Tape” is the classic age old tale of two boring middle-class people who in a bid to spice up their marriage, film a sex tape. As is normal, this particular couple also happen to hand out Ipads like balloons, even taking the time to muse on the device's improved specifications, indestructibility and general awesomeness during regular conversation. Their sex tape syncs up to all the Ipads they've distributed around, the owners including two-dimensional friends, a potential business associate and the mail-man. Yup, the friggin' mail-man. Bet the Christmas bonus you slipped your postie four years is starting to look pretty meagre now, eh? So yeah, our two hapless protagonists spend the rest of the movie trying to recover those oh-so fantastic Ipads, doing a little blow, nearly killing a dog and helping to endorse uPorn along the way.

If you can't identify with that, well, what are ya doin' with your life?

I'm kidding. If any of that sounds remotely routine, then you should probably buy a bible or at least consult your local GP. Expect the phrases “ignorant” and “delusional” to be bandied around.

I think Cameron Diaz missed her true vocation in life. In an ideal world, she'd be putting that killer smile and bubbly loveliness to use reading meteorological predictions on TV. She's always been a rather pleasant screen presence, but as the years flit by, it becomes increasingly obvious she's not much of an actress. Certainly, landing punch-lines isn’t her forte. Jason Segel lost a lot of weight for his role. I guess that's where he kept all his funny, because he seems flat, tired and disengaged with what's going on around him. I'd normally chalk that up to an actor recognising the screenplay's deficiencies during principal photography, but he helped write the damn thing. Together they have average chemistry, the sort of slight, Hollywood rapport that might appear passable alongside smarter, sharper material. On this occasion though, such service isn't on the menu.

Ultimately “Sex Tape” is wasteful because it's boring. I could forgive the lack of thoughtfulness, humanity or visual panache ( it looks like an episode of your least favourite sitcom) if the thing was as wild, debauched and uproarious as it wants to be. It never gets close though. In fact, it's a fairly prudish movie, largely bereft of raunch, earning its R-rating through moderate cussing. Small, redeeming moments arise from an amusing Rob Lowe, a strange gag involving Disney caricatures and a chubby, precocious child who is destined to become a super-villain (I predict big things for you Harrsion Holzer!). Otherwise, it makes vanilla ice-cream exciting by comparison.  

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014

4 September 2014

Review: The Guest (Adam Wingard, Picturehouse, 2014)



The Guest 
2014, 99mins, 18
Director: Adam Wingard 
Writer: Simon Barrett 
Cast includes: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Ethan Embry, Joel David Moore, Candice Patton, Leland Orser 
UK Release Date: 5th September 2014 

Stranger danger. We tell children never to talk to them, to avoid getting in unfamiliar cars and to reject each and every offer of mysteriously sourced confectionery. Yet, with the passing of youth, fear of the unknown still never subsides, even when it comes in the form of an impeccably groomed, rigorously polite Adonis like David (Dan Stevens). I was fortunate enough to travel through childhood sans any direct contact with alien menace, but I do recall a chill when stories of local children being harassed by men behind blacked out windows emerged. It put everyone on red alert, and for weeks incurred fifty warnings before you so much as went out to kick a football. Even now, when the news blares out stories of abduction, I can't help but shudder. Not just because of the inherent tragedy or suffering it forces upon the victim's loved ones, but rather to mourn the nightmarish sentiment that they've vanished into nothingness. Adam Wingard's “The Guest” takes our mistrust of the interloper, and uses it to different effect. Like Hitchcock with “Shadow of a Doubt”, Wingard forces the unwanted presence into that safest of domains, the domestic, upsetting the protection which falsely defines this space in our minds. Powered by a clinical 9/11 subtext, “The Guest” isn't afraid to make us laugh, and Stevens certainly ranks as one of the modern cinema's more enigmatic creeps, but that doesn't override the foundation of fright endorsed by the feature's premise.

The Petersons are grieving the loss of their son Caleb, killed in action whilst serving his country overseas. Out of the blue arrives David, an attractive, refined and ostensibly considerate colleague of Caleb's, carrying out a duty to visit the deceased soldier's family. Each member of the clan slowly warms to David as he's invited to stay; helping to smooth out their lives, sometimes using unorthodox practice. Eventually daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) decides to inquire about David's past, finding most avenues closed. Within days bodies begin to pile up, Anna suspicious their guest might be culpable.

Deploying the War on Terror as a means of informing story is hardly revelatory, but “The Guest” never lets itself become laden with sombre acts of contemplation, unlike recent fare such as “Godzilla” or “Man of Steel”. The commentary is always decipherable, but it never invades or undercuts the movie's various other joys. For a start, “The Guest” has a delightfully sardonic sense of humour, a twisted and unsympathetic funny-bone open to black feats of comedy. It merges well with Wingard's love of exploitation-tinged violence, particularly during some early set-pieces. A sequence in which David dispatches a host of testy bullies is expertly mounted, commencing with crisply penned barbs and culminating on a burst of contained but well choreographed action. In a lot of ways that's the picture's winning formula; do as much as you can with as little as possible. The budget's been enhanced since Wingard's last outing (the intermittently inspired “You're Next”), but we're still some distance from big, Hollywood bucks. Instead Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett find cunning ways around their limitations, perhaps best evidenced by the integrated use of a shonky, but atmospheric Halloween light show during the movie's finale. Not only does it allow the film-makers to work sprightly kitsch into the exteriors, but admits a fun exploration of cinematic influence. “The Guest” literally ends amid smoke and mirrors, with a baddie who'd give Michael Myers a run for his money in the resurrection stakes. That's genre film-making.

The guilt of contemporary America is explored both through the Peterson's uncertain welcome and the deadbeats who cohabit their community. Ethan Embry (“Can't Hardly Wait”) and Joel David Moore (“Avatar”), depicting pot-smoking reprobates afraid to enlist, make for fine scapegoats, a nice detailing of the lazy, uneducated mass who drum up support for war, sending soldiers to their demise. The film's final twist perhaps provides the cream on top, explaining in the craziest terms possible that after the conflict David hasn’t been the same. It's not exactly subtle, but then neither is the film as a whole. Its leading man, the destined for stardom Stevens, certainly isn't adverse to overt nods and wry double-takes, filling the screen with what can only be described as immense charisma. As the family moan and do battle with their various demons, David gets about completing the mission, his fixation and Stevens' prowess forming the best sort of smirking, uber-functional anti-hero. It gets a bit maniacal and blood-lusty by the finish, but for the most part David is the alluring tour-guide helping us peer through Wingard's suspenseful orgy of sex, violence and conspiracy. Frankly, I was content to travel with him.

The supporting characters are barely worth talking about, foils for the plot and ciphers for the picture's social conscience. No, “The Guest” is Stevens' and Wingard's show, a slickly executed and oft probing throwback to when heroes were nasty, blood spurted gratuitously and strangers stared to exude that seedy aura of mistrust. It'll make your inner child wince and chuckle in equal measure.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2014

3 September 2014

Summer 2014: In Remembrance

About a month ago I penned some articles  examining the financial standing of this summer's cinematic slate, rounding up its bigger hits and misses, before, importantly, making a few predictions of my own.

I'll deal with those first.

BREAKING: Mel Gibson no longer box-office star
On the red end of the scale, I foresaw big things for “The Expendables 3”, now understood as the season's defining under-performer. Granted , I made the call prior to a DVD rip of the film leaking online, but even that pre-release nightmare can't singularly explain such a lacklustre showing. I anticipated the film would top out at around $300 million. Three weeks into its release and “The Expendables 3” is actually totalling only 27% of that number. Yikes. I also underestimated “Guardians of the Galaxy”. The well-reviewed sci-fi is now the season's biggest domestic victor, with $280 million state-side and a worldwide total that healthily doubles the haul. I expected the movie to close at around $400-450 million globally, but it's now on track to finish well north of 600.

Get your digs in now.

On the other hand, I was one of the few people brave enough to anticipate “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” might not flop (which was the common consensus for months leading up to release). The feature held the #1 spot for two consecutive weekends, a rarity for a poorly reviewed, specialist demographic release. It hasn't done “Guardians” levels of business, but with $274 million accumulated and a lot of international markets left to exploit, a sequel seems likely.

With “The Expendables 3”, everything that could have gone wrong did. The third entry in the action franchise not only marked a qualitative low-point for the series (an impressive limbo when you consider parts one and two were met with what could generously be described as mixed notices), but also appears to be the precise juncture at which the punch-line fuelling this nostalgia blast flattened. What was funny in 2010 & 2012 now feels trite, like a comedian undergoing a third arena tour with the same jokes that carried his initial forays. You can fool the public once, but you won't get them a second time. Viewers often vote using their wallets, and with “The Expendables 3” the consensus read “been there, done that”. Time to move on. Of course it doesn't help that the film's core audience had the opportunity to see it for free nearly a month before theatrical exhibition.

Blowing a hole in your wallet. Geddit?
“Guardians” is even simpler to decode, much of my miscalculation stemming from ignorance. I felt the film would fall in line with the 2011 d├ębuts of “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”, but the game's changed since then. The Marvel brand counts for more in a post-”Avengers” landscape, and with its impressive marketing pull and excitable response “Guardians” boasted enviable register on the hype-o-meter. Fundamentally, being a good movie does help with bank, and when quality aligns with brand awareness, the results can be lethal. Audiences are often iffy about opting for fresh material, but when it's presented under the banner of proven comfortability (the Marvel empire), they're more adventurous. Cash gets stumped up for something they know, and word of mouth spreads because the product delivered new pleasures. It's a potent cocktail, tapping at once into people's open desire for familiarity, and innate, often subconscious delight when art playfully subverts expectation. “Guardians” is far from a radical work, but it packed just enough unique tonal deviations and memorable characters to imprint a sense of distinction. People like when that happens. They don't always know it, but trust me, when it goes down they get eat it up. After all, good bar chatter doesn't come around from recounting the mundane, it grows from anecdotes which promote what we understand as remarkable. When a blockbuster opens, and it does something a little barmy, the film gets discussed; often under the veil of a recommendation. It's probably this sort of behaviour that's pushed “Guardians” to such illustrious financial heights.

The real inspiration for this crudely compiled article comes from Variety reporting that 2014 will be the lowest grossing summer since 2006. That was a time before 3D had become widely implemented, and it wasn't a strong year anyway. The big releases included comic-book turkeys like “X3” and “Superman Returns”, unenthusiastically received remakes “Poseidon”, “The Omen” and “Miami Vice”, early evidence of Tom Cruise's declining popularity with “MI:3” and of course the first recorded instance of Pixar dropping the ball in the form of “Cars” (after “Brave”, “Cars 2” and “Monster's University” that film suddenly looks a little under-appreciated, eh?). Was 2014 similarly weak? Maybe. The superhero outings were all at least competent (“X-Men: Days of Future Past” and the aforementioned “Guardians” indeed much better than that) and a few surprises like “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” set up welcome shop for mature blockbusters (even if the former semi-tanked). Family films seemed admittedly weak, the highlight being DreamWorks' over-praised and under-performing “How to Train Your Dragon 2”. Pixar were absent (here's hoping the break leads to a recharge of creative prosperity following a handful of disappointing years for the studio), and the R-rated comedy (a revived summer staple) performed almost directly in correlation with critical opinion. The badly received “Sex Tape” was a major loser, but “22 Jump Street” and “Neighbours” both barrelled toward solid totals. For me, despite the unmentioned presence of several high-profile misfires like “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and Gareth Edwards' preachy “Godzilla” revamp (which many people liked, I just wasn't among them) that's not a dismal year. Certainly no worse than most. So quality can't entirely be the reason.

With no Tony Stark, audiences perhaps stayed at home to watch TV with friends.
A better experiment might be to draw comparison with 2013, which was a record breaking summer at the flicks. What did it have that 2014 lacked? Well for a start, 2014 failed to provide an enormous behemoth of “Iron Man 3” standard. That feature tipped the scales at a massive $409 million domestically (compared to this summer's counterpart in “Guardians, which will likely finish in the States with about $320 mill) and blew well past the billion dollar mark internationally (the big global winner of 2014, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” just about slithered over that line). 2013 also offered an assortment of left-field sleepers, including “The Great Gatsby”, “The Conjuring”, “We're the Millers” and “World War Z”. It's hard to point to any obvious equivalent for 2014 except “The Fault in Our Stars”. Family comedies were at a high standard, with “Monster's University” and “Despicable Me 2” doing vast business whilst franchise favourites like “Fast 6” performed in line with expectation. In 2014 a lot of big releases fell short of initial projections, including the domestic performance of “Age of Extinction”, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and Adam Sandler's “Blended”.

Still, studios will be the first to point out that 2014 has lacked misses of “Lone Ranger” or “White House Down” stature, blockbusters from last year that posted major losses.”The Expendables 3” won't be making anybody rich, and might even sadly lead to a re-evaluation of several iconic stars' stock in the system, but it's hard to see much being made of the issue beyond 2014. By contrast, both of last year's aforementioned bombs lost enough capital to be considered legendary failures, the sort of colossal duds which fill out pages in the Guinness Book of Records. Enough has been written about the reasons for last year's crop of steroidal flops, but I'm still curious as to why no film this summer replicated their ignoble fates. I suspect it too has something to do with quality in relation to scheduling. In 2013 the alternatives were simply too strong, the tepidly received “White House Down” was scalped by similar genre fare (“World War Z”) and smartly timed counter-programming (“The Heat”), whilst “The Lone Ranger” fell victim to bad buzz and an over-saturated market. There was simply too much other stuff, and it was generally fare with a fresher conceptual hook or sounder critical backing. 2014 never felt that packed. There were some notable clashes (“Edge of Tomorrow” wasn't tracking spectacularly, but it's hard to imagine the film not crossing $100 million more confidently had it avoided an opening spar with “The Fault in Our Stars”), but generally the season gave its releases a little breathing space. In the UK that was tested by the FIFA World Cup (which incidentally 2006 also boasted), but I don't think the soccer proved compelling enough to seriously dissuade cinema attendance among American audiences, even with Tim Howard earning enough plaudits to convince as the nation's temporary secretary of defence. The calendar was kinder this year for sure, meaning that fewer films had to suffer purely on the back of competition. I have no doubt that “The Lone Ranger” would have performed better this year than it did last. I genuinely suspect it and “Maleficent” would be fairly interchangeable. Both packed special effects and a big star, and whilst the latter may have provided a smidgen more brand awareness, they both garnered see-sawing reviews. The financial difference? In 2013 “The Lone Ranger” chugged its way to $260 Million. “Maleficent” has generated nearly three times as much. The latter opened alongside a poorly reviewed, R-rated spoof of the Western genre (aka box-office poison). “The Lone Ranger” bowed beside the staggeringly successful “Despicable Me 2”, and just days after “The Heat”. Doesn't take a genius to understand which window presents a tougher challenge.

Last year there were more tent-pole films crammed into fewer weeks, and thus casualties emerged. For me, that's as simple as it gets.

Cruise ya lose. 
But where'd the extra money go in 2014? Why in a more sensibly structured diary did the box-office drop 15%? That's a better question, and it's here quality enters the equation. Movies this year, generally weren't as good, or at least audiences weren't as beguiled. “Spider-Man” seemed stale, comedy was in a very patchy state (for every “22 Jump Street” we got a “Tammy” or “Let's be Cops”) and punters seemed equally unappeased by both new and old. “Transformers” (whilst still a hit) came in on the low end of expectations and“The Expendables” had to take their hardest rejection since the straight to video market dried up around 2001. It seems audiences have grown tired of formula, but they weren't particularly accommodating to outright change either. “Edge of Tomorrow”, probably the year's best reviewed and most audacious event picture stuttered, and less enthusiastically received stuff like “Into the Storm”, “Earth to Echo” and “Hercules” followed by regrettable example. The key seems to rest in offering something new under the guise of an established brand. “The Fault in Our Stars” turned the frenzy surrounding its paperback source into coin, providing even to the uninitiated something lacking in the market (GOOD YA fiction). “Guardians” rode the James Gunn wave under Marvel's protection and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” continued to enchant by mixing known genre values with remarkable leaps in the integration of technology and storytelling. Audiences clearly want new things, they're just afraid to order them unless its from a tested purveyor.

A lot of this is speculation; it is a thought piece after all. I spent more than a few moments compiling research and data, but ultimately what's spilled forth are my own feelings concerning the stunted 2014 crop. Personally, this class weren't quite clever enough to register a deep impression (despite a few gifted students) and ranked too many in number. Audiences had to move from one dunce to another, unable to distinguish the known offenders from the freshly pumped crap, probably missing a few gems along the way. It doesn't help that the customer currently lacks bravery, letting superlative science-fiction cum critical commentary like “Edge of Tomorrow” flounder, whilst an old shoe with some deceptive polishing (“Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles” anyone?) rolls its way to profitability.

What's the point of all this? I don't know. But what can't be denied is that summer 2014 will thin the pockets of Hollywood notably, and they will want a reason.

Also, I really fucked up that “Expendables 3” predication, didn't I?  

An article by Daniel Kelly, 2014