Contrary to popular opinion I found 2014 to be a pretty good year for movie releases. Sure some of the bigger movies failed to deliver but what’s new? There were a number of very well made films that easily filled the void created by the disappointments. I managed to see over sixty films released this year, so pruning the list down to a top ten was a bit of a struggle. There were at least another ten movies that had to be omitted from the list that on another day could easily have bee included. After some thought I came up with the list you see below.
10. Dawn Of The Planet of The Apes
The follow-up to the successful reboot was arguably even better. In a first for the franchise the film told the story from the apes perspective. Large sequences of the action were shown with apes communicating via sign language. Not the usual fare for a summer blockbuster. It was intelligent and thoughtful with just the right blend of drama and action. Andy Serkis once again proves that he is not only the top motion capture actor working today but also one of the best actors period. Time to recognise his achievements, I think.
9. Gone Girl
Based on the phenomenally successful Gillian Flynn novel, the movie adaptation took the story to another level. The performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were superb and the direction from David Fincher created almost unbearable tension at times. Even though I knew how the story unfolded the film was still gripping throughout. More than any other film, it managed to generate a lot of debate about the underlying themes of the story and what the author (and film maker) was trying to get across. It’s not often that a film gets labelled as misogynist and feminist in the same week.
8. The Lego Movie
I didn’t really expect much from this based on the pre-release publicity. It looked good but my suspicion was that I had seen the best of the movie in the trailers. I was so wrong. The film is hilarious from start to finish. For me it was the easily the best comedy of the year. Making full use of all aspects of the Lego universe, the story of an ordinary Lego character called upon to save the world was used to hang numerous verbal and visual jokes that appealed to children of all ages. The film demanded a re-watch just to see half of the moments that were missed due to laughing. Everything is indeed awesome.
7. Only Lovers Left Alive
Like all films from Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive looks absolutely stunning. A story about two vampires who have lived together and apart for centuries. It is as much a love story as a drama. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are the lovers who, like traditional vampires, can only venture out at night. Filmed principally in the run down city of Detroit, the film has a slow pace which mirrors the characters who literally have all the time in the world.
6. Guardians Of The Galaxy
Doubts were cast over Marvel championing the relatively unknown property of The Guardians Of The Galaxy. As soon as the first trailers were released those doubters were silenced. A different type of super hero film with a mixed species cast including a character that only says ‘I am Groot’ was a nice change of pace. The film blended spectacle, action and a rich vein of humour. The film is now a major part of the expanding Marvel universe and a sequel is in its way.
A film about love disguised as a Sci-Fi epic, the Chris Nolan epic was the spectacle of the year. Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway starred as the people chosen to lead an effort to find a new home in the stars for the human race as the Earth slowly dies. A film of outrageous ambition and scope that is a real visual and aural experience.
4. Edge Of Tomorrow
Another year, another great Tom Cruise Sci-Fi film. Based on the novel The Only Way Is Kill, the film sees Cruise as a cowardly army officer sent to the front line against an alien invasion. Due to a quirk of fate he is forced to relive the same day again and again. Cruise gives a great performance as the man force to re-live the day multiple times. Perhaps not the most cerebral of movies but full of action, drama and a great supporting performance from Emily Blunt.
Jake Gylehaal stars as Lou Bloom, a creepy and socially awkward guy who falls into the job of a nightcrawler, A freelance cameraman who spends the night on the streets of Los Angeles looking for graphic footage to sell to TV news stations. Gylenhaal is superb in a role that may just earn him a couple of major awards next year. The most disturbing character on film this year.
2. The Wolf Of Wall Street
One of the first films of the year was also one of the best. The Martin Scorsese directed biography of Jordan Belfort was an exercise in cinema excess. Taking an unsympathetic character, wonderfully played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and showing his debauched lifestyle without any sort of judgement made for fantastic cinema. It would be difficult to see any other director able to handle the material as well. The quickest three hours in a movie house this year.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson returned this year with the best film of his stellar career. Ralph Fiennes leads a cast of embarrassing riches in a tale of a hotel in the fictional country of Zubrowski during the years between the world wars. Great performances and beautifully staged scenes made this the outstanding film of the year.