EIFF 2014 Round-Up

Here are some quick rambling thoughts on the films I had the opportunity to see at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year:


 

Life After Beth

Amusing and charming little rom-zom-com, though perhaps a little too indie for its own good. Some fun and unexpected performances from Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza and certainly a unique take on the zombie apocalypse, but could have done with some better pacing. If you though Warm Bodies felt too tame, perhaps you might enjoy this take on an undead love story better. 8/10

 

Palo Alto

Yet another Coppola, Gia, has taken up the directing gig, and unfortunately it makes some of Sofia’s worst efforts look like Francis’ best. Adapted from James Franco’s collection of short stories, the film is a meandering contemplation on teen angst but with nothing new or interesting to say about it. The actors try their best and the cinematography is admittedly pretty, but beyond that there was nothing to keep me interested in this flat piece of celluloid. 2/10

 

Intruders (Jo nan-ja-deul)

Fun little Korean horror film. Good use of suspense, location and dark humour. Genuinely didn’t know where it was going, especially the seemingly out-of-nowhere but actually well foreshadowed ending. Perhaps a little too drawn out though; could have been trimmed to speed up the tension. 7/10

 

The Skeleton Twins

Funny and heart-warming dramedy with a warped sense of humour. Some of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig’s finest work, held together by good supporting work from Ty Burrell and Luke Wilson and a fantastically witty script. Definitely one to watch. 8.5/10

 

Snowpiercer

Bong Joon-ho’s long-awaited sci-fi action extravaganza certainly lives up to the hype, even if it’s not the most original piece of work. Fantastically imaginative production design and action set pieces surrounded by Bioshock-esque satire and some wonderfully broad performances from the likes of Tilda Swinton and John Hurt contrasted against Chris Evans in one of the finest performances of his career. The echoes of Brazil can clearly be heard in this picture along with plenty of other obvious influences, but it has enough it can call its own to be certainly worth a look. Overall, Snowpiercer is just a lot of fun. 8.5/10

 

Castles in the Sky

Inoffensive but ultimately very dry historical drama that feels less like a movie and more like something that would air on BBC Four on a Monday afternoon. Eddie Izzard is perfectly serviceable though I still found his casting somewhat questionable, whilst everyone else is a broad caricature (see Tim McInnery’s performance as Winston Churchill, which basically consists of him jutting his lower lip and slurring his words). Not bad, but not much good either. 4/10

 

Set Fire to the Stars

Interesting if somewhat full-of-itself little film. Gorgeous black and white cinematography, some good performances from Elijah Wood and Celyn Jones, and a few cool scenes both funny and tragic. Found it somewhat unfocused and self-important at points, as the pacing does tend to drag and lengthen a film that isn’t actually that long. Good, but if you want something similar but better, I recommend Kill Your Darlings. 7/10

 

Coherence

Cool and inventive indie sci-fi flick. Grounded but witty script combined with unique and interesting concepts as well as some fun black humour. Saying much more would ruin the fun. I went into this one completely cold, and I think that’s the best way to watch it. If you liked Primer, you’ll probably like this. 7.5/10

 

Cold in July

This one is now in cinemas, and I highly recommend you check it out. Gripping and tense old-school thriller with plenty of twists and a retro synth soundtrack. Fine acting work from Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and a scene-stealing Don Johnson. Possibly my favourite film of the festival. Give it a watch. 8.5/10

 

The Anomaly

Noel Clarke makes his directorial debut with this sci-fi action flick with an interesting premise but terrible execution. The pacing is spotty, the script is plagued with forced exposition and on-the-nose dialogue, and whilst the fight scenes are well shot and choreographed, they overuse the “speed up, slo-mo” effect so much that even Zack Snyder would say it was too much. Plus, apparently the only thing you have to do to make your film look futuristic is slap superfluous blue lights on everything. 3/10

 

The Infinite Man

Humorous and touching Aussie sci-fi rom-com; like Groundhog Day set in the outback. Fun use of repeating and altering scenes. Plus, it gets points for being a sci-fi film that actually, you know, uses science. Also a good example of how to make a high-concept film on a dirt-cheap budget. 7.5/10

 

That Guy Dick Miller

Hilarious and informative documentary; a must-see for film geeks. You’ve probably seen Dick Miller in several films and never even knew who he was, and its great to finally see the story behind the man whose been invading our screen for so long. 8/10

 

Hellion

Touching little indie drama. Strong performances from its kid leads, and good supporting work from Juliette Lewis and Aaron Paul, who thankfully proves he can still act (though I think its safe to say he’s better off as a character actor than trying to be a leading man. Sorry, Need For Speed). 7.5/10

 

We’ll Never Have Paris

Hilarious rom com that doesn’t sugar coat the details; one that feels honest and much closer to real life. A fantastically clever script with fun performances from the entire cast, especially leads Simon Helberg, Melanie Lynskey and Maggie Grace. It’s like a date movie for people who don’t particularly like date movies. 8.5/10

 

X/Y

Occasionally interesting but mostly flat. A series of short stories about the modern concept of romance, but rarely do these people’s problems feel more than just the whining of over-privileged twenty-something Caucasians. Some interesting moments and decent performances, but overall nothing much outstanding. 5/10

 

Joe

Nicolas Cage finally goes back to his roots and gives us possibly his best serious performance since Adaptation; it’s like his answer to Mud, some much so that they actually got the kid from Mud. Also a return to form for David Gordon Green, who has finally escaped the realm of bad studio comedies (still doesn’t excuse Your Highness). Funny, poignant and bleak, often all at the same time, any true fan of His Cageness should certainly give it a watch. 8/10

Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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