Still mourning the loss of their son, the Peterson’s get an unexpected visit from recently discharged David Collins (Dan Stevens). Having told the family that he was a close friend of their son, they offer him a room to stay in until he finds his feet. Determined to keep his promise to their son, he takes it upon himself to make sure everyone in the family is living a happy life. Despite his good manners and charm, something doesn’t seem to add up.
The Guest is a characterization of everything I want in a film. It may not offer anything groundbreaking or deep in its storytelling, but what it does offer is an incredibly fun ride. It’s neither just a thriller, horror or comedy, but a combination of all these genres. Taking familiar tropes and mashing them up to make a film that keeps you guessing. At times it’s campy and in others purely badass, but never over the top. It finds the perfect balance between a comical and ominous tone, which keeps it fun but suspenseful at the same time. Dan Stevens known for his role on Downton Abbey, totally gets his character. He doesn’t just play him as a soft spoken badass, but gives the character a comic element. There’s something about him throughout the film that makes you smile even when he’s threatening another character. For a period where blockbuster films are starting to blend into each other and originality is becoming scarce, it’s nice to veer into the indie side and actually be surprised by a film.
Every element of The Guest blends together perfectly to succeed in its vision thanks to director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett who have brought us numerous films in the past. Most notably Your Next, which has become a cult classic of sorts. It’s shot and edited stylishly keeping the action exciting and tense, even getting a sneaky spaghetti western sudden zoom shot in there during a bar fight. A lot of the scenes feel like homages to old school films, just from the electro-pop music alone. It’s easy to tell that inspiration has come from Wingard’s and Barrett’s personal 80’s favorites.
The soundtrack may be one of the best of this year. It’s not only infectious but aids each scene immensely, setting the tone and atmosphere of each moment. When David Collins gets out of the shower and Anna Peterson (Maika Monroe) is standing there totally swooned, you can almost feel her start to sweat. There’s something about the music that feels unconventional in such a barren environment, but it works so well.
The Guest is fully engrossing from start to finish, blending genres and gore to give a film that’s heaps of fun. It’s self aware and by no means takes itself seriously, with a protagonist that would give Ryan Gosling’s Driver a run for their money.
A decade after the fight of San Francisco, Ceasar and his following of intelligent apes have adapted to life in the Redwoods. Suffering the consequences of developing the drug which created these apes are the humans who have spent the last 10 years surviving a Simian Flu epidemic.The apes are convinced that the humans have lost their battle against the disease, until a member of Malcolm’s (Jason Clarke) group runs into two apes and shoots one in excitement. Ceasar still faithful to his no killing rule lets the humans escape, unaware that they are searching for a power source to get San Francisco running again.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes joins the ranks of great sci-fi blockbusters this year among the likes of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow and Godzilla. Films which could really prompt the rise of genuinely good sci-fi films. For a sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes completely trumps its predecessor in all departments. Keeping Ceasar central to the story was a masterful decision and because of it we get a far more compelling story than that of the humans. We’re ultimately trying to get our way to the climax which is the planet of the apes, and it wouldn’t have felt right if Franco was still there fighting for screen time. Of course he is a massive part of Ceasar’s origin story which is where Ceasar’s compassion and empathy for the humans comes from, also a reason why Rise of the Planet of the Apes works so well, but telling the majority of the story from Ceasar’s perspective was definitely the right way to go. This way we have a protagonist who is unbiased and has an impartial view towards the world, a character we know we can trust in a broken society.
During Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we see Ceasar grow up among humans, absent to life with his own kind outdoors where he belongs. He doesn’t know what humans are capable of or where he came from, but asking the questions gives him answers he finds hard to swallow. Ten years on he and his family of intelligent apes have formed a sophisticated society living as one. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is great in so many ways, it could have easily turned into a cheap action crapfest but instead it’s an intelligent film not short of the human element. I think I join a large group of people who were attracted to this film purely because of apes with guns on horses, I mean I’ve never heard of anything as awesome as that. Anyone expecting 2 hours of apes with guns may be disappointed but I’d like to think that they’d be pleasantly surprised at the same time. We spend most of the film with Ceasar amongst his family contemplating how to deal with the humans. We learn their way of life and how they all live as one and care for each other, living without the modern necessities that we live with nowadays such as electricity and internet. It makes us question how we are as a modern society, everything that is wrong with it and everything right with it. Ceasar genuinely believes that Apes are better, but as the film unfolds he learns that ignorance and indifference is something you can’t prevent and maybe conflict is all but inevitable within nature.
This film not only shows us the potential of sci-fi but also how far performance capture has come. Andy Serkis has revolutionized the film making tool and proves that it shouldn’t be ruled out as a legitimate method of performance. A lot of buzz has gone around saying that Serkis deserves an Oscar nod after this performance, and I’ll have to agree. It’s amazing to even think that a man is literally playing Ceasar, all of his facial expressions, his movements, all these details which bring the character to life. Serkis expresses so many emotions just from these delicate details which is pretty amazing since Ceasar’s dialogue is quite limited. I’ve never felt such a strong connection with a non-human protagonist. That being said, Serkis is only one of many who use performance capture to play the ape characters. The likes of Toby Kebbell and Judy Greer prove that Serkis is not the only actor who can master performance capture. Kebbell especially puts in an absolutely terrifying performance as Koba, an ape who can’t forgive the years of torture ensued by the humans.
The only negative about the film would probably be the human characters, the only character which stands out is Malcolm (Jason Clarke), one of the few humans who see the apes in a much brighter light. He is to an extent quite an important character as he reminds Ceasar that not all humans are corrupt. Characters like Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Carver (Kirk Acevedo) represent how we find it hard to blame ourselves for the downfall of humans, even when the facts are right in our face. To an extent they mirror Koba’s same feeling of indifference.
As for the aesthetics, the CGI is a lot better than its predecessor by a large margin. The apes actually look real this time around, improving from the choppy CGI we had in the first film. The set design is incredible creating a post apocalyptic forest look to both San Francisco and the Redwoods, which sets up some incredible shots throughout the film. It’s just an overall great looking film. Also props to the sound mixing crew who created a genuine ape society atmosphere, sitting in the cinema and being able to hear apes surrounding you was not only awesome but put in perspective how many of them there were.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is definitely one of the best films of the year so far, not for its spectacle but more for its storytelling and direction. We’re being given an intelligent story about war and human nature, a film which makes us think rather than fry our brains, and for anyone who wants their brains fried, well apes on horses with guns!
Rush is based on the true rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the racing season of 1976. It’s a story about two sportsmen with different outlooks on life and racing. Despite their seeming hatred of each other, there’s one thing that set’s them apart from other rivalry’s, they respect the effect it has on their lives.
What makes this film great is the attention to detail given to make this true story as real as possible on the big screen. If you are unaware of this rivalry and Formula 1 in general then I wouldn’t advise to go looking up the story. For me, not knowing anything about these two guys made it a much more thrilling watch. Your constantly wondering how far these drivers will push themselves to win, and whether or not they will go too far. It definitely makes that last race an edge of the seat moment. After the film though, having done some research and youtube-ing, it’s quite remarkable how much detail went into this film. From the costumes to the accents, almost everything about this film is spot on. Of course parts of the film are dramatized but it’s essential to telling this story as effectively as possible.
The casting is great, as a result of this we get two of the best performances of 2013. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl don’t only look like the famous drivers they are portraying but sound like them too. Hemsworth captures the bad boy persona of James Hunt perfectly, with a you-only-live-once swagger. You buy into his character because he doesn’t race because of the lifestyle it brings, he races because it supports the lifestyle he lives. He respects the dangers of F1, therefore sympathizing for the men that get into accidents every season. Niki Lauda of course is the complete opposite. Bruhl presents Lauda as a cold, calculated racing driver, always acting on statistics and not emotion. If a fellow driver spins out or crashes, he shows no compassion but criticize their technique. He may sound like an antagonist but his conflicting behavior between winning and actual happiness gives us a reason to care for this character.
The cinematography is brilliant throughout the film, giving us the perspective of the driver during these relentless races. It makes the racing scenes more of an adrenaline inducing experience. As for it’s overall look, the shiny shades of orange and colour filtering make it great to look at. It feels as if we are in the 1970s as well as watching a documentary about it. Everything from the camera angles and the colours used to the back commentary and interviews.
It’s definitely one of the best rivalry stories I’ve seen on film. I like how the story doesn’t make the rivalry dirty or unpleasant but rather inspiring for both drivers. They use it as a way to push each other harder, a way to learn from each other and ultimately a way to feel alive. During the journey of the season, we realize that there’s a lot more respect within the rivalry than we think. That’s what makes the final scene quite a compelling moment.
Every year I watch a shiz load of films, ranging from the brilliant to the utterly terrible, but there will always be that odd film that some how finds its way to me and strikes the sweetest G-Chord within my heart. The Spectacular Now is that film for me of 2013.
Ever since The Descendants I knew I was an instant fan of Shailene Woodley and had been waiting to see her follow up film for quite a while. And what a film. Just as The Descendants was, this film is down to earth and totally real. Miles Teller plays Sutter Keeley, a kid on the brink of adulthood. We meet him as he struggles to begin his college application, unsure of how to put his life into words. He seems like he has his sh*t together as we indulge in his large personality and his way of words, but once we’re exposed to his constant alcoholism we know something is up. What makes this such a relatable film is Sutter’s predicament. He’s lived in the now for all his life and has struggled to do anything productive with it. He may have heaps of fun but during a time of his life where a future plan matters he becomes stuck. His girlfriend dumps him for the pure reason that he has no ambition. Then Shailene Woodley’s character Aimee Finecky comes along and gives him a bit of a pick me up. Aimee is the complete opposite of Sutter, she’s down the chain on the social ladder and has dreams of finally leaving for college although stunted by her mother. Sutter befriends her in the hope of helping her out.
There’s films out there which make you wanna cry because devastating stuff happens in them with that sole outcome in mind, but then there are some films which make you wanna cry because you connect so much with the characters and the films themes that they are more tears of inspiration than sympathy. I wont lie, by the end of the film I felt quite emotional. It was odd because I’ve never felt so emotional for such a character triumph. Something so simple yet profound. I’m at a similar time in life as this Sutter kid which is why it probably felt so relatable, and because of that I may have left the film slightly a better person.
What I like about this story is that there’s no defining character that helps grow Sutter. From watching past coming of age films there’s usually a father figure or someone that can be looked up to who knocks some inspiration into our lost soul, but in this film, it took getting to his lowest point to finally grow. Sure there were characters along the way which were important but at the end of the day if you can come to terms with your problems then you can look for a solution. That’s what makes the final scene so good, it’s ambiguous but does it really matter? (You’ll see)
The cinematography is earthy capturing the human element of young love and uncertainty pleasantly. Along with the score which slowly develops from upbeat to endearing to melancholy.
As for performances, Miles Teller has the potential to be the next Vince Vaugn of sorts with his natural ability to bring charisma to a character. Saw him for the first time in Footloose then 21 & Over this year. He has no problem with running his mouth rampant and when put in the right film, it comes out positively. Hopefully he sticks to movies such as this and doesn’t over do this type of character as some actors do. Shailene Woodley co-stars and offers another great performance. Really looking forward to her new franchise film next year, Divergent, I don’t care if it seems like a Hunger Games copy, I’m sure she will bring something to the films.
What really makes these performances stand out though is the chemistry between Woodley and Teller. The last time I saw legitimate awkwardness and realism brought to teen love was last years Amazing Spider-Man, maybe I need to watch more films if that’s the case. But everything about their interaction is something I’ve been through, and for that reason it felt so real.
The Spectacular Now is a coming of age tale that starts off upbeat then hits you with emotional substance. It’s engaging and totally relatable with great leads and raw chemistry. One of my favourites of 2013.
Jamie (Michael Cera) and three Chilean brothers plan a road trip in search of rare hallucinogenic drug San Pedro. Before their big trip (PUN) Jamie drunkenly invites mysterious hippie Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann). Soon enough both Jamie and Crystal Fairy clash in personality.
Stoner film of the year, Crystal Fairy brings the stoner stereotypes to life with refreshing realism and raw charm. You get a sense that this is going to be more than your typical stoner comedy as Jamie offers to cook for drag queens he just met from the street. Jamie savors the drugs he takes, he doesn’t indulge in them with excess while Crystal Fairy likes to experience the drug from the mind to the soul.
Going into the film I didn’t know what to expect, I knew it was a low budget indie and I knew it was going to be a comedy. After seeing the film it really was a lot more than that. Doing some research I found out that this was a film that Cera and director Sebastian Silva had not originally planned to do. Waiting for finance for their second film Magic Magic they decided to shoot Crystal Fairy. Despite a thin script, Silva’s clear direction and personal experience make the film a heartwarming piece of Chilean gold. The film is truly down to earth and incredibly raw as we tag along on this road trip. From the tonal changes to the backpackers antics. This is as real as we’re going to get to a road trip film.
Although this film doesn’t concentrate on the road trip but more about the characters on it. When we’re first introduced to Jamie he seems like a chilled out guy. He offers to cook for strangers and even invites a new friend on a planned trip. but once off drugs he is self indulgent and more interested in his own agenda as he reluctantly allows Crystal Fairy to accept his offer. Crystal Fairy is truly a free spirit as she spews idealist views about how the world should be and what is causing its demise. Her contribution to preventing it involves drifting from one place to another and refusing to shave. They may be on a road trip, but the film explores their own journey within themselves.
They are both conflicted with life and don’t really know what they are doing as we see Crystal Fairy take a gulp of Cola after giving a speech about how destructive sugar can be. She lives in her own world putting on this fake exterior. While Jamie fails to accept Crystal Fairy on the trip, he refuses to connect and in the end we see him get isolated from the group. What I liked about the film is that the characters are authentic and their problems are honest. Ultimately the film explores their inner growth, from selfishness to compassion and from a reinvention of themselves to their true self.
Crystal Fairy offers some committed performances from its cast. Michael Cera has played offbeat characters before but nothing as organic as this. I’m not familiar with Gaby Hoffmann but her eccentric and out there performance makes this one of the bravest performances of the year. As for the Chilean actors they did an awesome job largely dependent on improvisation. Juan Andres Silva has a certain look that suits the big screen; hope to see him take on other projects.
I’ve not watched many indies but this makes me want to watch a heap of them. Crystal Fairy may not be packed with jokes and road trip horse play, but it is rich in character development, mesmerizing cinematography and drug play.
Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog. Tim is an author of 5 #1 NYT/WSJ bestsellers, investor (FB, Uber, Twitter, 50+ more), and host of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast (400M+ downloads)