Beasts of the Southern Wild
Synopsis: Living on the fringes of conventional society, on an island off the southern states of the US we see the impact of hurricane and flooding through the eyes of six-year old girl Hushpuppy who lives with her dad Wink.
Why: Both epic and intimate in scope and subject matter, melding fantasy and reality this film is subtle, spectacular, funny, warm and moving but never sentimental. I dare you not to be charmed.
End of Watch (BFI London Film Festival general release this month)
Synopsis: Fly on the wall style about two LA cops in the course of normal police duties inadvertently rile the local criminal cartel who put a hit out on them.
Why: The relationship between the two cops is genuinely warm and the banter very funny but underneath it, throughout, you never lose the sense of how dangerous their day to day job. Fab combination of tense, emotional and funny.
Synopsis: Based on true events around the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980, the CIA concoct an elaborate plan to rescue six US embassy staff who are hiding out in the Canadian embassy in Tehran. Having escaped there when the US embassy was stormed by angry Iranians it is a race against time before the unforgiving Iranians work out where they are.
Why: This film is a masterclass in creating tension. Edge of seat, sweaty palms, my nerves were jangling by the end even though I knew what the outcome would be. The entire cinema audience stayed in their seats at the end, that's what type of film it is. It's also fantastically made, the grainy film and attention to 70s detail it could almost be of the time it is set. It is far from a relaxing watch but blimey you won't see a film that is as gripping as this for while. It's going to do well in awards season, I can guarantee it.
Synopsis: Drunk ex-marine stumbles into the company of The Master (think Scientology's Ron Hubbard) who is determined to put him on the right path.
Why not: While leads Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix acted their socks off I just couldn't see what the purpose was. Overly long, it failed to make any impact, mildly interesting as a psychological study of the power of cult but that's about it. I'm sure a far better vehicle from which to showcase these two great actors talent could have been found.