Best 2015 Films/Horror/Drama/Action US and International
by Sherif Awad
Before I start to watch the films of the New Year, I thought about nominating for the readers some films I have seen during 2014 during my festivals’ travels or through digital media. The list includes:
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Written for the screen and directed by Scott Frank, this thriller has Liam Neeson playing the role of private investigator Matt Scudder who is hired to looking for the kidnapped wife of drug dealer. Outstanding work by screenwriter- director Scott Frank that surpassed his own 2007’s thriller The Lookout. The character of Matt Scudder was portrayed once before Jeff Bridges in the 1986’s movie 8 Million Ways to Die.
Guardians of the Galaxy
I was not that enthusiastic to watch this movie in cinemas maybe because of the bad trailers that promoted it before its international release not to add the flux of superheroes films that invaded us from DC and Marvel Comics. Watched it at home, the film is smart, fun and more enjoyable than many other 2014 films. Before director James Gunn began the preparation for a sequel to be shown in 2017, The film's star Chris Platt already became a new star appearing on top film and fashion magazines around the world.
Maps to the Stars
Although Canadian director David Cronenberg does not offer here his best work, this film takes the viewer to the complex labyrinths of the distressed Hollywood society who starts to losing it when limelight fade away. The ensemble cast Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson delivers top performances.
Sensationalistic violence across US and international news has invaded not only our TV sets but it is also popping up from social media and internet websites with photos of extremists’ crimes hurting our senses. Louis Bloom, brilliantly played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is one of the numerous unemployed young men whose destiny led him to meet a news team hunting down accidents across the road in order to sell it to the highest bidder. Louis thinks he can do it better so by using his small handcam, he starts to become a Nightcrawler looking for crimes and accidents to shoot and sell. Bit by bit, the young man becomes obsessed by his job to the extent of fabricating scenes that might get him extra money. I saw Louis as not only a sociopath but more of a victim of the culture of violence that predominated our media.
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
In addition to this thriller, the directing duo of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani made another one called Amer in 2009 so both films should be looked at with the same approach as both a tribute and a revival to the exciting detective and psychological Italian films of 1960s and 1970s known as Giallo. Using stylish photography, unconventional lenses and hot colors in set decorations and film mode, the directors tells us the story about a man who is looking for his missing wife within the spiral corridors of his apartment building in which they used to live.
A film that also relies on colors as a cinematic tool as it unfolds in an apparently utopian yet empty of emotions society where humans are being controlled by injection that suppress their feelings. In order to keep the heritage alive, a young man called Jonas is selected to be the pupil of the old wise man they call The Giver, played by Jeff Bridges. However, the more Jonas knows about the reality behind his perfect life, the more he sets himself to escape. Although the film’s premise is similar to Christian Bale’s 2002’ starrer Equilibrium (2002) (which had also elements from the 1966’ Fahrenheit 451, it eventually takes its own curve to deliver a satisfying conclusion. Of course, it is based on the famous novel that has three more spin-offs.
The Good Lie
Reese Witherspoon is top-billed on the poster of this enjoyable drama directed by the Canadian Philippe Falardeau. The screenplay is based on real stories of some Sudanese refugees who were fortunate to come to America and settle down. The African actors of the films were real-life survivals from refugees’ camps and armed genocide. Although Witherspoon’s role as the social worker who helps the refugees is some kind of supporting role, it is one of her best performances in recent years.
The Children's Republic
Speaking of Africa, the aforementioned film was shown at the opening of the 3rd edition of Luxor African Film Festival in March 2014 as it was written directed by Bissau-Guinean master Flora Gomes who also succeeded to persuade Danny Glover to participate. The story imagines a country being ruled by children soldiers after the adults left either as fugitives or as deceased. The premise is not compelety a fantasy if we look at the news surfacing about terrorist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria or Daesh in Syria.
After The Blair Witch Project (1999), “Found-Footage” became new cinematic subgenre not only of horror films but to some other drama like the 2012’ thriller End of Watch. I liked watching VHS at home in Cairo which drove me to watch VHS2 in the 2013’ edition of Tribeca Festival. (While I enjoy it, some scarred audience started to leave the theater midway). VHS Viral , however, went straight-to-video few weeks ago and I can say it doesn’t rise up to the quality of the previous parts but it is equally fun for fans of chilling anthologies.
The Possession of Michael King
Like many films belonging to the horror genre, this film unfortunately went straight to blu-ray and cable maybe because there were lot of products revolving around exorcism and diabolical presence. Michael King, the main character, does not believe in inhuman forces then gradually become a victim of possession. Nevertheless, The Possession of Michael King can be considered as a powerful Exorcist or Entity of the year 2014.
This Russian drama by Andrey Zvyagintsevwill be a prime contender for the upcoming Oscar as it tells analyzes the vast complexities of Russian communities and the gap between the central power in Moscow and the other Russian cities. The story revolves around the lawyer Dmitriy who travels to a remote area in order to help his friend and brother-in-arm Nikolay to retain house before it is demolished by the governor, who is acting like one of Russian Mafia.
As a member of the jury of the FEDEORA Critics Association of the Mediterranean, we decided to give the Special Jury Award to this Russian debut by writer-director Ivan I. Tverdovsky who succeded in presenting this stories about mentally and physically challenged young people and how they mistreated in Russia. Lena, the main character, is assigned to a special class that would be later qualified by school commission in order to prove that its handicapped students merit the return to a "normal" class. Her enervated teachers, however, show absolutely no desire to motivate the students and help them improve. However, Lena find some affection from her classmate but soon they face the consequences..
Happy New Year and more films.