It was a bit of a hit and miss year for movies. Some of the most anticipated and heavily promoted films failed to live up to the hype. We had the now normal slew of Superhero movies of varying quality. As usual there were more films than time this year so the list below did not take into consideration some notable releases including Don Jon, The Hobbit and Thor.
10 Pacific Rim
For some Pacific Rim was one of the disappointments of the year. Plot holes, hokey dialogue and racial stereotyping were all mentioned in putting the film down. I was able to overlook all of this and enjoy the film for what it was, Giant sea monsters battling with robots. You really can’t ask for more. The film looked spectacular. It was pretty much non stop action and the sight of a robot hitting a monster with a passenger ship is one of the best images of the year. The score deserved a mention for the way it helped to ramp up the tension during the fight scenes.
9 Fast & Furious 6
Alongside Pacific Rim this is another ‘just go with it’ film. For fans of the series this was everything they could have wanted with the usual mix of high-octane stunts, fast paced shootouts and one liners. Nothing particularly new is tried here which is no bad thing. The film makers understand their audience and give them exactly what they want. The recent tragic events have pushed the production of the seventh instalment into shutdown but it is expected to be back in 2015. Thomas’s review can be found here.
8 The Kings Of Summer
On paper the film looks like any other coming of age drama. Three teenage boys go to live in a shack in the woods in order to get away from their overbearing families. The film is so much more than the premise. The central performances are exceptional. Surrounding them are supporting turns from a variety of well-known faces and a tight, humorous and touching script. It is one of those films that you find it is a joy to be in the company of the characters and it leaves you wanting to know more about them.
7 Captain Phillips
Using a mix of established Hollywood actors and first time unknowns Paul Greengrass was able to bring to the screen a tense and engaging drama. Tom Hanks is excellent in the title role. His everyman persona is used to great effect here as the Captain who is caught up in a nightmare scenario. The steadicam work adds to the dramatic tension and is perfect for the film. The biggest surprise was the depiction of the Somali pirates. These were developed and rounded character studies. Not portraying them is just evil was a bold move that raised the film to another level.
6 Star Trek Into Darkness
Not anywhere near the disaster that many of the hard-core fans moaned about. For some to vote this as the worst Star Trek film ever is nothing short of ridiculous. The film gave us everything we now expect of a Star Trek film. The visuals (including the lens flare) were all there in abundance. It had an engaging story that barely paused for breath, spectacular action sequences and touches of humour to keep thing light. The key to Star Trek movies is a convincing antagonist. In my opinion, Benedict Cumberbatch turned out to be one of the best. Jason’s review can be found here.
5 Love Is All You Need
A bit of an odd set up for a romantic comedy / drama. A Danish woman is battling cancer. She loses her hair to the treatment and her husband to his secretary. Meanwhile her daughter is getting married in Italy to the son of a man who has been bitter and twisted for years over the death of his wife. Danish director Susanne Bier skillfully weaves a bittersweet tale of life and love together under the Tuscan sun. The central performances from Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm are subtle and believable. It is refreshing to see a film that deals with a well-worn subject in a slightly different and engaging way.
4 Behind The Candelabra
Steven Soderburgh’s apparent swan song from the big screen. The film, deemed too niche by film studious, was financed and shown in the US by HBO. It received a cinema release everywhere else. Michael Douglas is superb in the role of Liberace and his performance takes the film above the usual warts and all biography. There is real heart and affection in the screen relationship between Liberace and his lover (played by Matt Damon) over the course of their tumultuous partnership.The full review of the film can be found here.
3 Only God Forgives
The most divisive film of the year. You either loved it or hated it. Basically it is a tale of reluctant revenge told in a meditative way. The film is more art piece than movie. It is slow, lingering and has an absence of any real dialogue from two of the main characters. Visually it is superb. The setting of Bangkok lends itself to the over saturated and invasive colouring. Ryan Gosling is a study in minimalist acting counterbalanced by the astonishing scene stealing performance from Kristen Scott Thomas. Anyone who expected another version of Drive were left disappointed as this film recalls the director’s previous film Valhalla Rising, in both tone and pace.
The one movie that lived up to the hype this year. Gravity had been discussed and teased for the best part of the year and when it finally hit the screen it was almost a relief that it was so good. It is a simple, single idea story told in an efficient and spectacular way. With a ninety minute run time the film seems to rush by. Basically a two hander , the performances from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are excellent. Space has never looked so good as it does here. For a film that was four years in the making it was worth the wait. Jason’s review can be found here.
This was the surprise film of the year for me. I missed it during it’s cinema release as I wasn’t expecting too much from it. I am a fan of the director Park Chan Wook but as this was his first English language film I feared his style and vision would be compromised by Hollywood in the same way that so many of his fellow film makers were in the past. I needn’t have worried. Stoker is a film that has the directors touches all over it. The story is teased out along the film’s running time and just enough is revealed to keep you totally engrossed. The basic story revolves around a family coming to terms with the loss of the father figure and the introduction of his mysterious and sinister brother. The central trio of Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska are all superb, under playing their roles to create tension and drama. As expected the film looks great and the house in particular comes across as almost a character in its own right.