So, as promised in my previous post here is the list of my Top films of 2014.
Some notes before we get started – I am not a critic and these are just my opinions! I am only ranking films that I saw in 2014. My list will no doubt be different to many others – but they will have seen a lot more films than me. You won’t find The Imitation Game, Only Lovers Left Alive, or the Grand Budapest Hotel on this list as I am yet to watch them. Similarly, Her makes the list despite its 2013 release date, as I watched it in 2014. Some films, such as Nightcrawler, and Birdman, were released last year yet I only watched them in the last week, in 2015. They may appear on 2015’s list – but they won’t appear on this one. But without further ado… Here’s the list:
- X-Men: Days of Future Past
Adapting what is possibly the most famous and well-loved storyline from the X-men’s 50+ year history is a difficult task – especially when you have the added challenge of blending the two casts of the original X-men trilogy, and the soft-reboot of First Class – it could have been disastrous. But it wasn’t. Bryan Singer created a solid film, mixing the two casts expertly, combining the two timelines with skill, mixed with solid performances and stunning special effects means X-Men: DoFP males # 10 on my list. The fact that it essentially retcons X-Men: The Last Stand out of existence is a definite bonus, too!
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
After Rupert Wyatt’s departure following Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I had some trepidation of what was next for Caesar and the apes – but my worries were unfounded. Matt Reeves excellently continues the story in this sequel set a decade after Rise, dealing with the aftermath of the simian flu, and the simultaneous rise of the Apes, and decline of humanity, masterfully building the tension until the inevitable clash between the two civilisations.
The mixture of award worthy performances and stunning special effects, combined with memorable characters and locations, and a tense, action packed script, make Dawn a film that surpasses its predecessor on every level.
- Edge of Tomorrow
Seeing Earth invaded by aliens, Cruise’s propaganda officer stumbles into the ability to reset time after his death, whilst retaining the day’s memories. Teaming up with Blunt’s bad ass veteran, he tries to stop the invasion, and save Earth. Edge of Tomorrow’s time loop plot might sound by the numbers and gimmicky, but it remains fresh throughout. The performances are excellent, even from Cruise – who I sometimes feel can’t act his way out of a paper bag, as are the special effects and action set pieces.
Edge of Tomorrow looks likely to be one of the most overlooked films of the year, and that’s a shame – more than just a way to see Tom Cruise repeatedly meet his doom, Edge of Tomorrow is one of the better time-loop Sci-fi films of the last few years. Do yourself a favour and watch it.
Snowpiercer may have an unbelievable premise – that scientists attempting to stop global warming inadvertently cause the next ice age, and all that remains of humanity now survive on a huge train, that circles the world on the railway tracks, complete with a class system placing elites in the front and the lower downs at the back. Snowpiercer follows the tail inhabitants’ rebellion, as they work their way forward to capture the engine, and take the train as their own.
What sets Snowpiercer apart from other post-apocalyptic dystopian films isn’t just the unique setting – it’s the script, direction, cinematography, action and acting. Tilda Swinton’s performance as the villainous Minister Mason may stand out amongst the international cast, but all are excellent. Likewise the action sequences – particularly one brutal set piece as the train enters a tunnel, are immaculately planned and executed. All in all Bon Joon-ho’s first English language film is an overwhelming success.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Russo brothers take over the reigns from Joe Johnson in this comic book sequel, tackling the Winter Soldier, one of Captain America’s most famous story lines, adapting it into a blend of political thriller and superhero action movie. Winter Soldier sees Cap facing an enemy from his past, whilst trying to find a role in the modern world that seemingly has no place for a super soldier any more – and its twists and turns forever changing the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Winter Soldier has all the staples of a Marvel film, the underlying humour, great acting, and excellent special effects, but that is not what makes the film great – it’s the suspense, intrigue and character moments that make Winter Soldier not only one of the best films of the MCU, but one of my favourite films of the year.
- Lone Survivor
Find my full review here – if you can bear reading the same phrases over and over – despite my bad editing, the point I was attempting to make is a valid one. Lone Survivor is brutal. It is intense. And it is shocking. Given the stars, and director, you wouldn’t expect much of this film. I expected a film like Shooter, mindless entertainment. Instead what I found was a brutal look at war, and the cost of war. I claim in my review that Lone Survivor is one of the greatest war films ever made, even surpassing Saving Private Ryan. I stick by this sentiment. To this day, I am yet to see a same reaction in an audience watching a war film – a stunned silence that lasted till we left the cinema.
Her is the story of Ted, a lonely divorcee who finds love with his new digital assistant – OS1. Her is refreshing in its portrayal of Ted, Spike Jonze could have presented Ted as a loser, someone to pity, ridicule or laugh at, but instead gives a touching romance with a surprising amount of depth and realism.
Find my full review here.
- The Lego Movie
The Lego Movie follows Emmet, an average, everyday guy. He is not special, but when he fumbles his way into finding the ‘piece of resistance’ and is sucked into a battle between the evil Lord Business and the Master Builders, Wildstyle, the blind wizard Vitruvius, and Batman. What sets The Lego Movie apart from its seemingly generic heroes tale is its turning of genre tropes on its head, and its simple message – you don’t need to be special, even the smallest, most average person, can change the world.
Taking full advantage of Lego’s vast back catalogue – everything from 1980’s spaceman Benny, to Superman, Gandalf, Dumbledore and Milhouse featuring in the film – Co-writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have created a masterpiece, with stunning scenery, great characterization, and constant humour, and an annoyingly catchy soundtrack, The Lego Movie succeeds as one of the best films of recent years – Everything really is awesome.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
With Guardians of the Galaxy James Gunn had the monumental task of introducing both the cosmic-side of the Marvel universe, and the relatively unknown superhero group – The Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring a talking racoon and walking tree. At the start of the year many were worried about GoTG, seeing it as a true gamble for Marvel, maybe their first real flop in years. The trailers showed promise, but trailers can lie – as my comments on A Million Ways to Die in the West details… Despite this, Guardians was released to critical acclaim and commercial success – what many saw as a risk went on to be the second best grossing film of 2014, only surpassed by Transformers: Age of Extinction (Side note: how? It is shockingly awful.)
Guardians of the Galaxy is a rip-roaring success, a blend of action, comedy and space opera, with a dash of superhero and a whole lot of heart – with one of the best soundtracks for years. Gunn surpasses all expectations, not only introducing a new team of players to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but cementing their place as a mainstay in its future.
What can be said about Richard Linklater’s Boyhood that hasn’t already been said? Its critical acclaim is entirely deserved. Boyhood follows Mason (the previously unknown Ellar Coltrane), from a 6-year-old boy to a 17-year-old college attendee. Unique for a coming-of-age film, Linklater uses the same actors, filming for a few weeks each year over a 12 year period, examining the lives and experiences of Mason and his family as they grew up. Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason’s father, puts it best –
‘Doing a scene with a young boy at the age of 7 when he talks about why do raccoons die, and at the age of 12 when he talks about video games, and 17 when he asks me about girls, and have it be the same actor—to watch his voice and body morph—it’s a little bit like time lapse photography of a human being’
Boyhood is a true masterpiece, a groundbreaking piece of cinema, intimate despite its epic scope, masterful storytelling and drama rolled in one, it deservedly sits as my number one film of the year.