The Best Films of 2014

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin


Of the 350+ films I saw this year, these are the best ones. Some of them were released last year and I’ve been a bit slow getting round to them. Some of them were released even longer ago. The criteria are – I watched them in 2014 and I liked them. That’s it.




The Best


Computer Chess (2013, dir: Andrew Bujalski)

Andrew Bujalski, inventor of mumblecore, proved there’s life in the old beast yet with this retro-verité drama about geeks meeting in the 1980s to pit their programs against a chess-playing computer. Shooting on original video cameras in fuzzy-edged boxellated black and white, Bujalski catches the moment when the let-it-all-hang-out era died and our brighter, geekier world was born.


In a World… (2013, dir: Lake Bell)

A comedy of modern manners strung onto a plot about voice artists vying for the throne of the newly dead king of the hill. The savviest, screwballiest Hollywood comedy in years came from left-field, from writer/director/star Lake Bell, playing the daughter of a famous voiceover artist trying to get out from under dad’s reputation. It’s sentimental in all the right ways too.


The Canyons (2013, dir: Paul Schrader)

The sensational Lindsay Lohan’s “right, I’m back” movie is also Paul Schrader’s best for decades, a turning over of the paving slab to see what low-lifes slither about beneath. It’s The Canyons, not The Hills, so don’t expect Hollywood to come out smelling of anything but bad drugs, mercenary sex and broken dreams.


Stranger by the Lake (2013, Alain Guiraudie)

Don’t watch if you can’t take the sight of gay male sex. If you can you get a remarkable French drama about a killer at large on a nudist beach where homosexual omerta guarantees him a free ride, in any way he fancies. It’s beautifully composed, dramatically as taut as you like and even the soundscape is a thing of wonder.


Under the Skin (2013, dir: Jonathan Glazer)

How odd that Scarlett Johansson suddenly cornered the female sci-fi market (with this, the Avengers movies, Her and Lucy). This is the best of the bunch, with ScarJo playing a killer (in every sense) alien who cruises round Glasgow, Scotland, enticing men into her white van and then taking them back to her lair. Shot painstakingly with real, unsuspecting Glaswegians picked up off the street playing the dupes, it’s a triumphant return to movies for writer/director Jonathan (Sexy Beast) Glazer.


Of Horses and Men (2013, dir: Benedikt Erlingsson)

There are scenes in this elemental Icelandic movie that you will never have seen before, some hilarious, others just jaw-droppingly wha? It’s a unique rural drama that seems to suggest that people are at their happiest and least stressed when they behave most like animals. Watch that young woman swish her tail when the visiting Spaniard shakes his mane. Brilliant.


Norte, The End of History (2013, dir: Lav Diaz)

A four hour epic shot in long continuous beautifully framed takes, about a rich young law student and the poor street-pedlar woman whose life he affects maximally without even realising what he’s done. Wait two hours for the first “what the hell just happened” moment, and then another 90 minutes for the second, while a new (to me) master Lav Diaz casts his spell.



Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, dir: Jim Jarmusch)

If you were going to cast the supercoolest vampire film ever, you’d want Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in it. And you’d want Jim Jarmusch to direct it, wouldn’t you? That’s exactly what you get with this aching paean to immortal hipsterism shot in crumbling Detroit and labyrinthine old Tangier. No one ever says “I feel so very very tired,” as they do in cornier movies, but that’s the spirit. Plus jokes, hipster jokes.



Goodbye to Language (2014, dir: Jean-Luc Godard)

At one level Jean-Luc Godard’s boy-meets-girl drama of collaged visual styles and overlapping dialogue looks like the result of using every preset on Final Cut Pro software; at another it’s a brilliant exercise in trying to reformulate film syntax. Genius.


Edge of Tomorrow (2014, dir: Doug Liman)

Tom Cruise as a soldier repeatedly being killed, each time back to life a little bit tougher, sharper, wiser in Doug Liman’s sci-fi extravaganza that looks, feels, smells like something Arnold Schwarzenegger would have graced in the 1980s.


Welcome to New York (2014, dir: Abel Ferrara)

Abel Ferrara’s drama about/not about Dominic Strauss Khan and his sexual escapades in New York looks like it was shot entirely on one camera, stars Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset and suggests obliquely that the people who run the planet are sociopaths.






Honourable mentions


Gary Bond sinks a beer in Wake in Fright
Gary Bond sinks a beer in Wake in Fright


Wake in Fright (1971, dir: Ted Kotcheff)

A restored 1971 Australian classic about a nice schoolteacher having a wild weekend of up-close Ocker masculinity out in the Outback of the Outback.


Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013, dir: Abdellatif Kechiche)

Lesbian sex was its big sell but it’s the acting that’s the thing in this slow (as in Slow Food slow) French drama about a young girl’s sentimental education.


Klown (2010, dir: Mikkel Nørgaard)

The Danes do comedy in this road movie about two inadequate blokes and a ten-year-old boy on a “tour de pussy”. Inappropriate comedy fans, this is for you.


All Is Lost (2013, dir: JC Chandor)

Robert Redford is all at sea on a sinking yacht in the virtually wordless thriller from JC Chandor, who made the banking business sexy with Margin Call and proves lightning does strike twice here.


Fossil (2014, dir: Alex Walker)

A British couple in trouble are befriended by a lovey-dovey twosome in this four-hander that looks good, hits a few deep notes and goes as badly whacked-out as outsider-couple dramas generally do.


Back to the Garden (2013, dir: Jon Sanders)

Really? A film set in Kent (the “Garden of England”) and made for nothing? Yes, and you won’t find a better recent film about confronting that moment when you realise your parents’ generation are dead and your lot are next.


Dallas Buyers Club (2013, Jean-Marc Vallée)

Part of the McConaissance, with Matthew McC as the homo-hating cowpuncher who discovers he’s HIV+ and breaks the law to fix himself. A brilliant exercise in Hollywood storytelling economy.


The Past (2013, dir: Asghar Farhadi)

Asghar Farhadi casts The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo as the woman about to marry for the third time, to a man with a wife in coma. How the wife ended up in the coma is what this subversive, complexly plotted drama is all about.


The Lunchbox (2013, dir: Ritesh Batra)

A Mumbai desk jockey gets the wrong lunchbox at work and starts up a relationship with the neglected wife who prepared it. Life-changes all round in this lovely romance made with a very light touch.


An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (2013, dir: Danis Tanovic)

A dirt-poor Roma man tries to get medical help for his pregnant wife in this immensely sweet drama that comes with this seal of authenticity – it really happened, and to this lovely couple.


The Lego Movie (2014, dir: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller)

The incredibly smart Lego people got Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of 21 Jump Street to script/direct their movie, a fast-moving Star Wars-y affair with Liam Neeson and Will Ferrell its standout voices. Four viewings necessary.


Starred Up (2013, dir: David Mackenzie)

The best British jail drama since Scum, all those years ago, with a starry turn by Jack O’Connell as the new lag running into all the usual bad stuff inside. Spectacular.


Locke (2013, dir: Steven Knight)

Tom Hardy sitting inside a car for 90 minutes and making phone calls. That’s all there is to this super-high-concept drama that screws more tension out of the situation than you could imagine possible.


Blue Ruin (2013, dir: Jeremy Saulnier)

A hillbilly milquetoast is forced into an unlikely revenge-driven killing spree in a drama that grips from the first second and holds you there till the grisly end.


The Counselor (2013, dir: Ridley Scott)

Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy’s loquacious drama about a high-flying lawyer who hasn’t realised he’s swimming with the sharks (Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt). A sleek, ratchet-like thriller of pitiless inevitability.


Sofia’s Last Ambulance (2012, dir: Ilian Metev)

So simple, so effective, a documentary that follows a Bulgarian ambulance team and focuses entirely on them, never the people they’re treating. Tight, unusual, very humane.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014, dir: Bryan Singer)

The best of the X-Men movies gains a position in this list because of director Bryan Singer’s sheer ability to keep so many stories, characters and settings constantly in play. And his observation that the 1970s might as well now be an alien universe is interesting too.





The Underrated


Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris in Kelly + Victor
Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris in Kelly + Victor


Kelly + Victor (2012, dir: Kieran Evans)

A nice lad falls for a totally fucked up girl in this brilliantly acted, nicely observed Liverpool drama about a boy, a girl and a lot of bondage gear. No “ferry across the fucking Mersey” (the director’s words) visible. Hoo-fucking-ray.


Seduced and Abandoned (2013, dir: James Toback)

An exquisite and slyly clever documentary that’s not really a documentary at all, about old mates Alec Baldwin and James Toback talking to the movie world’s money men at Cannes. Fascinating, proper inside-Hollywood reveals.


Bad Grandpa (2013, dir: Jeff Tremaine)

Johnny Knoxville deserves the Sacha Baron Cohen award for bravery for the audacious stunts he pulls off as the titular grandpa, and Jackson Nicoll – what, 10-years-old maybe? – even more for his turn as the grandson. Yes, it’s a Jackass movie and that ship has sailed, but it’s also a very funny, one-of-a-kind affair.


Metro Manila (2013, dir: Sean Ellis)

A poor Filipino family moves to the big bad city and what looks like a drama about the innocent getting monstered turns into one of the best heist films of the year. Brilliantly made, brilliantly acted.


Safety Not Guaranteed (2012, dir: Colin Trevorrow)

Aubrey Plaza, one of those girls who can go from hot to not in the blink of an acting eye, dominates this no-budget smartly written mumblecore sci-fi about a rookie journalist chasing down a pudgy middle age guy who claims to have built a time machine. Fabulous.


Oldboy (2013, dir: Spike Lee)

Hated because a) it’s not as good as the original and b) people like to kick Spike Lee, who proves here he’s an intelligent, accomplished gun for hire, while Josh Brolin excels as the asshole incarcerated by person(s) unknown for 20 years and now wanting payback.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013, dir: Ben Stiller)

Ben Stiller’s brilliantly crafted reworking of the story that Danny Kaye made a hit film with in 1947 – about a geek whose rich fantasy life starts to invade his real one – is too unclassifiable to hit the “best of” lists.


8 Minutes Idle (2012, dir: Mark Simon Hewis)

A simple British comedy about a Bristol call centre that’s clearly been written by someone who’s worked in one – the cameraderie of the drones is palpable, their maddened boredom too. And star Tom Hughes is great as a post-Uni slacker working out what to do next.


The Monuments Men (2014, dir: George Clooney)

OK, so it’s not a Tarantino movie. But George Clooney’s amiable comedy about a crack team saving art before the Nazis destroy it isn’t meant to be. It’s meant to be Von Ryan’s Express/Hogan Heroes reimagined. Job very much achieved.


The Invisible Woman (2013, dir: Ralph Fiennes)

Felicity Jones is surely going to get an Oscar one day, but this film actually belongs to Ralph Fiennes (who also directs) playing her lover, Charles Dickens, as the world’s first media celeb. It’s a sweet film about love, in the end, with intelligent digressions.


Felony (2013, dir: Matthew Saville)

A gritty Oz cop melodrama written by its star, Joel Edgerton, the supercop who fucks up one night and spends the rest of the film getting further and further in the shit as he tries to wriggle free. Tom Wilkinson contributes another of his sneakily intelligent peformances as Edgerton’s superior.


All This Mayhem (2014, dir: Eddie Martin)

If you’ve never heard of the Pappas brothers, Ben and Tas, this excellent and shocking documentary about their 1990s rise and fall is well worth the ride, even if you’ve no interest whatsoever in skateboarding.


God Help the Girl (2014, dir: Stuart Murdoch)

A strangely 1960s-ish and intensely cute love letter by Belle and Sebastian frontman/director Stuart Murdoch to his star, Emily Browning, here fetishised in a boy-meets-girl Scottish musical recalling – if you’re fanciful – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.


Chef (2014, dir: Jon Favreau)

Jon Favreau is one of the great under-revered directors of our era, and Chef – a road movie about a celebrity chef getting his mojo back – is exactly the sort of easy-looking, effortlessly digestible charmer he seems to be able to knock out at will.


Mystery Road (2013, dir: Ivan Sen)

An Aborigine cop tries to find out who killed an Aborigine girl – with stone-faced resistance from his white co-workers – in a beautifully shot Down Under cowboy thriller with one of the best shootout finales ever committed to film.


The Congress (2013, dir: Ari Folman)

Waltz with Bashir director Ari Folman pushes animation even further this time, with a psychedelic meditation on fantasy and reality starring Robin Wright as an actress who is digitised and inserted into any set-up the imagineers fancy. Highly highly unusual.




The Overrated


Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd in Prince Avalanche
Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd in Prince Avalanche


Prince Avalanche (2013, dir: David Gordon Green)

Two guys paint a road and David Gordon Green swerves back into George Washington territory in a film that’s Waiting for Godot with Girl Trouble. Tim Orr’s camera is lovely, 1970s and sun-dappled, but there’s a hole where the meaning should be.


Blue Jasmine (2013, dir: Woody Allen)

Another of Woody Allen’s overhyped “returns to form”, this time featuring a relentlessly over-acting Cate Blanchett as a super-entitled bitch whose ship has sailed. Watch instead Sally Hawkins.


Thor: The Dark World (2013, dir: Alan Taylor)

Everything that’s wrong with bad superhero films in one film – too many characters, too much gobbledegook, a lack of humour, though Tom Hiddleston’s Loki remains a fun watch. More to come (sigh).


The Butler (2013, dir: Lee Daniels)

Lee Daniels’s epic about the black butler (Forest Whitaker) to a whole bunch of POTUSes attempts to square the radical tradition with the gradualist conservative move towards black civil rights. Proficient, nothing more.


Saving Mr Banks (2013, dir: John Lee Hancock)

How Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) strongarmed PL Travers (Emma Thompson) into letting him film her Mary Poppins. The leads are genuinely fabulous and brilliant, but all that Travers backstory? Really?


Frozen (2013, dir: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee)

On my own here, I know, a triumph for lovers of adenoidal singing of the sort of Broadway songs that Eric Idle spoofed so brilliantly with his Song That Goes Like This. The snowman and reindeer are funny but the central characters, what utter drips.


The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, dir: Wes Anderson)

It still hasn’t sunk into Wes Anderson’s head that a) a little whimsy goes a long way and b) it has to be in the service of something, if only a good story. Here, though Ralph Fiennes is joyously funny as a devious owner of an old Mitteleuropean hotel, as a film it’s Sachertorte with cream, then more cream.


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014, dir: Marc Webb)

Marc Webb’s second pop at Spider-Man is immeasurably worse than the first, fails to weld live-action into increasingly cartoonish set-ups, has too many villains, and feels like little more than a franchise placeholder or a sop to fanboys who will buy any old crap.


22 Jump Street (2014, dir: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller)

The jokes were all done in 21 Jump Street – and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s extensive running gag in the closing credits, in which they trail the franchise’s development all the way to 34 Jump Street: Return of the Ghost – shows they know it. Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum remain a hot combo though.


And if you want to watch or buy any of the films, this Amazon link will allow you to do just that – enjoy!


© Steve Morrissey 2014




Wake in Fright

Donald Pleasence and Gary Bond in Wake in Fright


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



19 April


Captain James Cook spots Australia, 1770

On this day in 1770, the British captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour became the first recorded European vessel to catch sight of Australia.

Cook had been commissioned to travel to the Pacific Ocean by the Royal Society, who were collecting data on the transit of Venus across the sun, during which the planet appears as a black dot against the solar disc. It is a rare occurrence and the Royal Society hoped the measurements Cook’s ship collected would add to the sum of scientific knowledge, as well as helping to calculate longitude, which was still difficult to work out in those days before accurate marine timepieces.

Cook also had a secret mission, which he embarked on once the (not particularly successful) collecting of data on Venus was complete: to seek out and locate the rumoured land of Terra Australis Incognita (the “unknown land of the south”).

Cook sailed from Tahiti westward and eventually reached New Zealand, which was already a known quantity. Having mapped the entirety of New Zealand’s coastline, Cook continued west, and eventually came across Australia, finally making landfall at a place now known as the Kurnell Peninsula, Botany Bay, New South Wales.




Wake in Fright (1971, dir: Ted Kotcheff)

Remarkable on many levels, director Ted Kotcheff’s “lost” film is the story of a slightly effete schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond) who, instead of getting a Christmas holiday full of physical rest and cultural recuperation spends five days of booze-soaked extreme masculinity in the Australian Outback.

Telling its story at speed, the film shunts us from the broiling schoolroom on the last day of term, to the flyblown local hotel, then on to a train packed with people steaming through the booze (our fastidious hero turning down the offer of a drink), then into a hick town called Bundanyabba (“the Yabba,” as the taxi driver calls it, “best place in Australia”) where Mr Grant is to spend a night before travelling on to the city. A journey he’ll never make.

The Yabba is where his ordeal of trial by “aggressive hospitality” takes place, first at the hands of local copper (Chips Rafferty) who plies our guy with drink, buys him a steak dinner and shows him the sights, and finally ending up in the company of Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence) – “I’m a doctor of medicine, a tramp by temperament. And an alcoholic” the doctor (surely disbarred) tells him.

The five days are marked by drink, raucousness, rough friendship, sex, gunplay and more drink, the whole thing coming across like The Wicker Man (made two years later) with a lot more sunshine and a lot more lager.

Bond is not a great actor but he’s good enough, his big Peter O’Toole head and shock of blond hair making him the right choice to play a prissy snob who’d actually rather be a journalist and would dearly love to be anywhere else but right here right now. The rest of the cast deliver salty masculinity by the stained shirtload – Rafferty is ocker blokeishness in a cop uniform and a revelatory Pleasence hops about like an antipodean sprite.

The whole thing culminates in a bloody kangaroo hunt that was done for real, Kotcheff only able to use a few shots from the gruesome footage he shot.

Strangely, the film is often lumped in with Picnic at Hanging Rock, mostly because it is a key work in the Aussie New Wave. Stylistically it has nothing in common with Peter Weir’s gauzy film, Kotcheff and DP Brian West going for an almost expressionist use of camera, with wild angles and odd framings, to suggest Mr Grant’s increasing distance from terra cognita.

It’s a complete one-off, a total success on its own terms, doesn’t put a foot out of place, and uses the dusty locations with the anthropological eye that you see in Get Carter (shot the same year and bristling with similar skuzzy energy).

So why did the film disappear? Possibly because the picture it painted of Outback maleness was out of keeping with the image that Australia wanted to project to the world – these were still the days of the cultural cringe and the  jibe about the only culture available in Australia being a in a pot of yoghurt.

Kotcheff went on to direct Sylvester Stallone’s first Rambo movie, First Blood, and the comedy Weekend at Bernie’s, both very different but full of the off-centre energy on display here. Bond kept plugging away in supporting roles until his early death in 1995. But at least he made this… What a film!


Why Watch?


  • The director of Rambo: First Blood’s surprising history
  • A classic of Australian cinema
  • Great dilapidated Outback locations
  • Brian West’s remarkable cinematography


© Steve Morrissey 2014



Wake in Fright – at Amazon





31 March 2014-03-31

Donald Pleasence does the scary in Wake in Fright

Out in the UK this week


Klown (Arrow, cert 18, DVD)

Spun off from a taboo-baiting Danish TV series of the same name, this comedy sends a couple of mismatched buddies on a road trip, bromance style, with a 12 year old boy in tow. What this dim bulb and his raging egomaniac friend get up to can best be described as shenanigans, with the jokes usually having a sexual focus – I think this has the most audacious and literal sight gag I’ve ever seen. Klown is full of the sort of stuff that you can imagine the writers room on a Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller movie coming up with and then deciding it wouldn’t be wise to use. Would that be the ass-fingering, the buttfucking or the jokes at the expense of the size of the 12-year-old’s penis? All of the above. The film does betray its TV sketch origins, but it is redeemed by the fact that its stars, Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen, are as fearless as they are funny. And they are very funny.

Klown – at Amazon



Wake in Fright (Eureka, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD)

I’d heard good things about Wake in Fright before I watched it, and was intrigued about a film I’d never heard of, from the birth of the Australian new wave. And because it featured Donald Pleasence, whose stary shtick wasn’t yet worn out in 1970. It was even better than I’d anticipated, this gritty Ocker classic with drop dead cinematography follows a prissy teacher who is probably expecting a bit of genteel R&R in the Christmas break. Instead he finds himself in a place called Bundanyabba – “the Yabba”, as a taxi driver calls it, “best place in Australia” – where he is subjected to “aggressive hospitality” at the hands of the locals, who drag him from one testosterone soaked haunt to the next. The Wicker Man with sunshine is the chaotic idea, with director Ted Kotcheff and cinematographer Brian West supplying wonky but beautifully composed visuals that completely add to the mood of disorientation. Pleasence is surprisingly unhammy (which you can’t unfortunately say of star Gary Bond), as “doctor of medicine, tramp by temperament… and alcoholic” (cue big wide-eyed smile) and helps the film towards its gruesome, bloody and brilliant conclusion.

Wake in Fright – at Amazon



Powder Room (Universal, cert 15, DVD)

A simple but pungent British farce set in the ladies toilets at a nightclub one hectic night of sex, confession and tears. Powder Room started life as a stage play, When Women Wee, and it’s actually at its best when it’s left alone to carry on being just that – director MJ Delaney’s occasionally Guy Ritchie-stylistics don’t help it much. But they can for the most part be ignored, leaving star Sheridan Smith to ping about between old friends, an ex-boyfriend, various underage acquaintances, and the trophy friends she is hoping to impress with her entirely made up fabulous new life (no prizes for guessing how that all works out). Smith looks a tiny bit older than the friends  she’s meant to be contemporaries of, but she gets away with it by sheer force of commitment. She’s abetted by dialogue that aims to tell it how it is, sister, the references to “hot sausage”, descriptions of anal sex from the female end, a less than glamorous view of love (“Some guy we went to school with wanked on your leg – that is not love”) being spat out by a cast (Jaime Winstone, Kate Nash, Oona Chaplin among them) who look like they’re having a good time.

Powder Room – at Amazon



Carrie (Fox, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

The remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic is apparently closer in spirit to Stephen King’s original book (which I haven’t read). But I’m still not convinced it needed remaking at all. Chief problem is Chloe Grace Moretz  as a shrinking violet being picked on by all and sundry at school. Meanwhile at home she’s being tormented by her mad religious mother (Julianne Moore). I just don’t buy Hitgirl – catchline “OK you cunts, let’s see what you can do – being such a wimp. And nor, judging by Moretz’s occasional lapses, does the actress herself. As for the plot, it remains familiar – Carrie discovers she has telekinetic powers of a fearsome sort (much more fearsome than in De Palma’s day of costly FX) and unleashes them after being hideously humiliated at the prom. I won’t say how, though I’m sure everyone reading this knows. Kimberly Peirce is in charge of direction and turns in a moody, well paced product that doesn’t snag as it goes. Even so, the way she echoes so often both the production design and camera angles of De Palma’s original suggests this is gun-for-hire work, the studio presumably having recruited her because of her girl-under-threat breakthrough Boys Don’t Cry, only to deny her the chance to really flex her muscles.

Carrie – at Amazon



How to Survive a Plague (Network, cert E, DVD)

A documentary about Aids in the 1980s doesn’t exactly cause a mad dash towards the bluray player – it’s a familiar story without a happy ending. But this one is kind of different. It tells the story of how gay Americans organised, fought the system (and often each other) and slowly, by becoming the experts in the field, forced a reluctant pharmaceutical and governmental establishment to deliver better Aids drugs. The breakthroughs of the early 1990s, which came about mostly by using a cocktail of already existing drugs, turned HIV/Aids from a death sentence into something more akin to an annoyance. The film’s strength is its abundant archive footage – the fractious meetings, the appalling callousness of certain politicians who seemed more interested in how the disease was acquired than what it did, the relentless protesting, placarding and civil disobedience necessary to get the logjam moving. Talking heads from the drugs industry, particularly Merck, who seemed to lead the way, deliver scientific backbone. And there’s interviews with HIV-positive activists then and now – some didn’t make it – which add emotional piquancy. And how healthy they look, by and large, 30 years on. Well done, everybody.

How to Survive a Plague – at Amazon



Dom Hemingway (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

It seems that every few years Jude Law tries a cockney geezer routine. It didn’t work in Alfie, the woeful remake of the 1966 Michael Caine film. And it doesn’t work here either. Law plays a lairy hardman who we first meet getting a blowjob from a prison inmate, a scene which establishes Dom – “they should study my cock in art classes” – as a swaggering, dangerous firecracker, before he’s released back into the wild. There he reteams with Dickie, an old aide-de-campe, played by Richard E Grant as a Withnail who’s fallen slightly on hard times. These early scenes as Dom and Dickie get re-acquainted are very enjoyable. But more is to come as the pair of them head off to meet a Russian gangster – Demian Bechir again excellent here – where Hemingway’s extreme version of masculinity butts heads with the Russian’s, leading to the film’s outstanding moments of drama and comedy. After that the film simply runs out of gas, introduces by way of a “Plot B” the estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke, of Game of Thrones) Hemingway is trying to become reconciled with, and starts to disappear up the avenue of mawkishness.

Dom Hemingway – at Amazon



Frozen (Disney, cert U, Blu-ray/DVD/Download)

I had heard great things about Frozen. “Disney’s best animation in 20 years” and so on. So it came as something of a disappointment to discover how mediocre it was. The Snow Queen crossed with Pixar’s Brave – feisty girl heads off to save her ice-generating sister in some frozen region – it’s unremarkable as a story, and only really picks up when the comedy snowman Olaf is goofing about on-screen, which thankfully he does quite a lot. Frozen has songs too, which reminded me of that Eric Idle song spoofing generic Broadway “The Song That Goes Like This”, numbers that always rise to an affirmative honking high note before dwindling away to a “little old me” ending. Animation addicts might like Frozen though – it’s a complex mix of various techniques and the 3D is well rendered, the nature and water effects are excellent and there are some lovely touches, such as dandelion clocks floating in the breeze, which left me wishing there’d been more. Its real stumbling block though is how 2D the characters are – unmemorable, drippy even. And considering that they’re meant to be ice hardened, that’s just not right.

Frozen – at Amazon



© Steve Morrissey 2014