One of the most high-profile biopics of the year, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs seems like one of the ‘sure things’ of this year’s awards cycle. Featuring a bevy of Oscar-friendly performances, a snappy and funny screenplay with some key highlight reel Big Quotes, the newest account of the divisive tech figurehead is bound to feature in many of the major award categories. Yet, there is also something missing at the core of Steve Jobs. While individual parts of the film are rarely less than good and quite often excellent, it doesn’t really coalesce into anything particularly moving. For Apple geeks, this detailed if mythologised look at the rocky history of some of the company’s products accomplishes just that, but for everyone else, it’s an effective prestige piece that is never quite the sum of its parts.
Birdman, the latest effort from distinctive director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárittu, is a particularly bold film. Not only is it very technically impressive, but it deals with risky themes like the differentiation between pop culture and art and the inherent impotence of critics, which when handled poorly can make a film look self-conscious and above reproach. Luckily for both the movie and the audience, Birdman negotiates these incredibly complex and substantial themes deftly and with a sense of scope and proportion, touching on modern pop-culture, egomania, self-delusion, and the fundamental purpose of art; no small order for a film so immediately accessible. Beautifully written and performed, with a striking and unique soundtrack alongside genuinely breath-taking cinematography, Birdman is a strong contender for the best film of 2014.
Taking a marked turn from Gareth Edward’s survival film Monsters, Monsters: Dark Continent feels like Pacific Rim smashed into Hurt Locker with all the best bits taken out, ending up as a gritty depiction of modern warfare with, hm, twelve-story-tall shuffling tentacle monsters from space. Though its technical prowess makes it a seemingly worthy sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent is severely hampered by its inconsistent focus, shallow characterisation, and bizarre racially-charged mysticism.