The Lobster  (2015)    81/100

Rating :   81/100                       Treasure Chest                     118 Min        15

Easily one of the best films of the year, and indeed one so stylistically reminiscent of the equally great ‘Dogtooth’ (09) that it comes as no surprise to learn that it’s from the same creative team – Greek writers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, with Lanthimos once again handling the directing duties. It’s a satirical black comedy examining relationships and the pressure and scrutiny society can put on them, as we watch a committedly overweight Colin Farrell check into a hotel after recently becoming single, a hotel where the guests must successfully pair up with another person or be turned into the animal of their choice and where, to gain extra days in the complex, reality TV style, they go out hunting loners in the forest with tranquillizer guns. Need I say more?

At its heart, the movie explores the concept of sameness, of bonding through commonality and the desire to adapt to become more alike, whether through love or desperation. The idea is wonderful and the filmmakers deliver what is by no means a frequent experience – the feeling that you are actually watching a film; you’re relaxed and yet immersed and slightly excited about the story, aware that you’re being entertained and equally so that this is really what you’re supposed to feel like in the cinema. The acting from everyone is fantastic, with the most recognisable faces being John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Michael Smiley, Ashley Jensen, Rachel Weisz and the lovely Jessica Barden (as nosebleed woman) all with Farrell as the central focus who is nothing short of brilliant, with flashes of his comedic talent displayed in 2008’s ‘In Bruges’ despite playing a much more demure character. It loses a little steam in the final third, but nevertheless one not to be missed.

Senna  (2010)    81/100

Rating :   81/100                       Treasure Chest                     106 Min        12A

An absolutely seminal moment in documentary filmmaking and indeed easily one of the best films of 2010. This masterful film follows the rise to fame of Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, focusing on his time with the sport and, unusually, it only uses footage from the time rather than filming interviews now and cutting back and forth, feeling much more like an unfolding drama than a conventional documentary. Personally, I’m not in the least bit interested in F1, so the fact I loved this already speaks volumes. The story it tells has all of the best ingredients that true legends are made from, with high drama that you couldn’t artificially create and a very, very human element at its heart.

In essence the film asks two questions, what to do when you find yourself in a corrupt environment (as Senna does with the FI setup), whether that be a social group or a place of work, and what does it take to be happy, something which is hammered home by Senna telling us he enjoyed himself the most when he was racing for pleasure, with no money or politics attached to it, and we see him constantly chasing the next title never really seeming completely fulfilled – something which is common in many walks of life, certainly to the average person winning even one world title is enough to be pretty satisfied with and yet the reality for the individual can be quite different. Similarly, we watch him fight against the system, but it invites discussion about how to do that effectively without perhaps it getting to you more than you it – is it better simply to leave and walk away?

Not knowing the details of the story makes this all the more compelling so I won’t say anything more, other than give it a go and let its significance play out for yourself …

The Wolf of Wall Street  (2013)    81/100

Rating :   81/100                       Treasure Chest                      180 Min        18

Martin Scorsese’s latest film once again features Leonardo DiCaprio (after very successful collaborations on ‘Gangs of New York’ 02, ‘The Aviator’ 04, The Departed’ 06 and ‘Shutter Island’ 10) and, as with The Aviator, it has garnered DiCaprio a very well deserved Academy Award nomination. He plays Jordan Belfort, who would later be heralded by the titular moniker after taking Wall Street by storm, starting out with vicious, remorseless and extremely successful penny stock profiteering. The film follows his exploits from his days as a mild mannered and slightly idealistic greenhorn in the industry under the tutelage of a, once more, very on form Matthew McConaughey, through starting a family and his ever surging success along with its associated excess, and I do mean excess.

The film has a very similar to feel to Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street’ (87), reason being that in real life Belfort was inspired by that very film, which probably makes DiCaprio the only person to be Oscar nominated for a role based on someone who was inspired by another Oscar winning role – namely Michael Douglas in Wall Street. It has caused lots of controversy by showing just how careless and ready to completely rip people off Belfort and his employees were – the argument being it sets a bad precedent when they seem to be having such a good time doing it, and given another high profile movie effectively inspired the whole thing it is a fair point. However, the film is simply retelling a true story and really all this venom should be directed at the failings in the justice system and the finance sector that it accurately highlights, and in terms of the filmmaking it is a sterling, engrossing, reflective and highly entertaining piece of work. It would not have been amiss to see more of the effects for the people losing all their savings, but the film is still a lot of fun and features good turns from all the cast, including Jonah Hill and a career launching performance from Margot Robbie (pictured above).

This is the first major feature film to be released to cinemas only in digital form, and currently it also holds the record for the most uses of the word ‘fuck’ in any non-documentary film, although the exact number used varies, perhaps due to the news that the DVD will include a longer and more explicit cut of the film. Unusually for Scorsese, The Rolling Stones cannot be heard playing at any point, though this does not detract from a very good and fitting soundtrack.

The Way Way Back  (2013)    81/100

Rating :   81/100                        Treasure Chest                      103 Min        12A

The trailer for this did not deliver an especially mouth watering premise – a young boy growing up isn’t understood by his parents and he is forced to turn to the fast cracking comedy schtick of Sam Rockwell to find both a friend and a vague sort of father figure. A film like this gets released on a fairly regular basis, and there was little to suggest this was anything other than a standard and predictable coming of age drama, nor were my immediate sympathies with the protagonist who seemed to be a movie version of a troubled teenager, sporting relatively perfect hair and skin – one can’t help but think a British/realistic version would feature some poor young acne ridden soul with pulsating pustules of pus obscuring his vision and his face turning an explosive vermillion whenever a girl so much as looks in his direction. Magically, the film had genuine moments where I’d be surprised if there existed a single person sitting in the auditorium without a smile on their face, or indeed who didn’t feel the same level of empathy with the characters during their more negative travails, and this achievement alone garnered the movie peals of genuine applause come the end.

Liam James plays the central character of Duncan, who is dragged to Cape Cod (the large Massachusetts peninsula that juts out eastward into the Atlantic) in order to spend some ‘quality’ time with his mother, stepfather and stepsister. All hope is not lost though, as he discovers the impossibly cute girl next door Susanna, played by AnnaSophia Robb (‘Bridge to Terabithia’ 07), who prefers reading books and the pleasure of her own company to that of the more shallow girls in town. The adults do a fantastic job of being conceited twats to Duncan, who is shown to be quiet, shy and unsure of himself but by no means weak as he elects to cycle a pink bike around town of his own accord, which in itself takes a certain measure of courage, and then under his own steam he finds himself a job at the local aqua park – an occupation he keeps secret from his family who are preoccupied with themselves and their own internal drama.

Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet play the adults Duncan is surrounded by at home, whilst Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell appear as his co-workers and friends. Janney and Rockwell’s characters are often used in much the same way by the narrative for quick fire comic relief, which does work but is a tad overdone, but other than that this is a well acted, great little film. I’m tempted to draw parallels with last year’s indie hit ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ as another movie where everything combined really well together, but will this one find its way to the Oscars ..? It’s also the directorial debut of Nat Faxon, pictured at the far left above, and Jim Rash, who plays the ‘determined to leave his job’ Lewis at the aqua park. An impressive first time behind the camera from the veteran actors, who also co-wrote the screenplay and each share a best adapted screenplay Oscar with Alexander Payne for 2011’s ‘The Descendants’.

Careful not to confuse the title with Peter Weir’s 2010 film ‘The Way Back’, nor indeed Emilio Esteves’ ‘The Way’ from the same year.