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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Movie Retrospect’s Top 10 Films of 2014

Edge of Tomorrow Movie Poster
2014 was a year of change from a personal point of view, so my total list of films viewed during the year was just 71 titles. However 25 of these films had a mainstream release in the UK during 2014 and those are the important ones that count towards my Top 10 Films of the Year 2014.

This is a very personal list that not everyone will agree with, so by all means leave your Top 10 in the comments below. If you want to see my complete list of films watched in 2014 you can find it over on my IMDB profile here.

10. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - 7/10

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Movie Poster
It’s well documented that I like comic book films and Spider-Man is my favourite superhero from my childhood, however, that did NOT work in this film’s favour; in fact I was extremely sceptical going into the cinema to see this film and feared the worst, especially having seen the trailer, I was worried they had tried to cram too much into this film like the old Spider-Man 3.

Don’t get me wrong, this film does have it’s problems, but in spite of that, I enjoyed it way more than I expected too, in fact, I enjoyed it enough for it to scrape into my top 10. For me, it was The Green Goblin who stole the show even above Jamie Foxx's Electro. I didn't really enjoy Dane DeHaan's Harry Osborn too much, but once he became the Goblin he was perfect. A much darker Green Goblin than Willem Dafoe's brilliant Goblin from the 2002 Sam Raimi film and that’s no bad thing.

True, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not going to be for everyone but give it a chance, and like me, you might be surprised to find you actually enjoy it.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 8/10

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Movie Poster
Despite being a comic book movie fan, I can honestly say I'm not really an appreciator of Captain America. I wasn't overly impressed with the first movie, but as someone who is invested in the Marvel Avengers franchise I was committed to seeing this regardless.

I really had very little interest going in to see this but I shouldn't have worried. I was totally blown away. I had a great time with this film and that's coming from someone who couldn't give two turds about the main character. Imagine how much I’d like this if I was a Cap A fan!

The action is brilliant, Scarlett Johansson returns to kick ass as Black Widow and who would have thought that Samuel L. Jackson would get one of the best action scenes of the entire year with a great car case and fire-fight. Brilliant.

8. Under The Skin - 8/10

Under The Skin - Movie Poster
Lets be clear, this is what we might call in the UK a ‘Marmite film’. Most people will hate this, but some will love it. This was a brave roll for a big name like Scarlett Johansson to take on. She spends most of the film with just a single expression on her face and apparently did the nude scenes herself.

There is hardly any dialogue in the film at all really and long scenes with not much really happening, for example, staring blankly into a mirror, or long shots looking at Johansson's eyes in the rear view mirror while she drives that feels like it lasts for minutes. The film attempts to look at our world - specifically Glasgow - from the perspective of an alien. How would they see our world?

We spend much time cruising the streets just watching the public go about their daily business - most of which was filmed on hidden cameras with the the unsuspecting public having no idea they would be in the film.

It’s fair to say there is something of an art-house feel to this film, which I found to be highly engrossing throughout. There is some freaky stuff going on at times and overall it left me with a few questions too.

This is one of those rare movies where I feel like I want to go and read the book afterwards to find out more. This is definitely a film that can lead to some interesting discussions after its viewing. Check it out if you have an open mind and appreciate film-making.

7. Gone Girl - 8/10

Gone Girl - Movie Poster
When David Fincher makes a film - I watch it. It's that simple. Fincher is my director of choice, I just love his style of film-making. Fincher is a rare kind of director who will consistently use solid camera shots and angles from tripods or steady and deliberate tracking shots keeping hand-held to a minimum and only used for impact on very rare occasions. Fincher is an artist who makes films you can really get on board with.

Having not read the book and knowing nothing about the story of Gone Girl was the way to go as I really got sucked into it in a big way. I totally forgot I was sitting in a cinema watching a film until a particularly shocking moment that literally caused the audience to gasp loudly and remind me I was watching a film.

I really enjoyed this film and even appreciated the way it ended, unlike some other people, who came out of the cinema grumbling. For me I love it when a film can generate a reaction from it’s audience than can lead to a debate.

6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - 8/10

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Movie Poster
I was a big fan of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which actually made my Top 3 back in 2011.  I was looking forward to the sequel and was relieved when it turned out to be this good.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an almost perfect sequel that follows on nicely from the first film, continues the story and 'up’s-the-ante' with some great action and effects. Despite it’s human actors like Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke, it’s the Apes that are the real stars of the show here.

The story mainly focuses on Caesar and Koba who have very different views on their human counterparts that leads to some pretty dramatic action scenes including apes riding horses while dual-wielding machine guns, which is pretty friggin' awesome.

5. 12 Years a Slave - 8/10

12 Years a Slave - Movie Poster
It feels like a long time ago that I saw this 2014 Oscar winning favourite now and it naturally feels like the exact type of film that Oscar voters fall over themselves for. This is an exceptionally well-made film, the quality is obvious to see on screen, particularly in emotional scenes like the long single-take whipping sequence.

Overall, the performances are great and the true story is fascinating and sometimes shocking. Its unimaginable today and shameful to think that this is how the world was back then. It’s easy to see why the Oscars loved it, it is a very, very good film but it’s not what you'd want to watch if you need a pick-me-up film.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy - 8/10

Guardians of the Galaxy - Movie Poster
What can I say about this film that hasn't already been said? For just about everyone who saw it, this was the big surprise of the year. Like most people, I didn't really have much, if any prior knowledge of the Guardians of the Galaxy comics and even the trailer did a poor job of selling the film… What the hell is this and why would I want to see it?

But see it I did and “Oh your God” am I glad I saw it. In short, Guardians of the Galaxy was absolute quality. After all the other more serious and dramatic comic book movies we've had in recent years, this was just what the doctor ordered. A ‘leave-your-brain-at-the-door-yet-smart’ comic book space adventure, comedy, Star Wars alike (of sorts).

Great action, great comedy, great characters, great film. I can’t speak highly enough of this film, I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it. Lets hope the inevitable sequel can live up to this standard.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street - 8/10

The Wolf of Wall Street - Movie Poster with Leonardo DiCaprio
I saw this way back at the start of the year and it sat in my number 1 position right up to the last few weeks of the year. Yes it’s long, but for me, it didn't feel as long as the 3 hour run time suggested it would. And yes there is a lot (I mean a LOT) of swearing, but who gives a f***?

This was a great piece of work by Martin Scorsese, with some great performances from Jonah Hill and probably the best performance of Leonardo DiCaprio's career. He had me in stitches in the isle of the cinema as he tries to get back in his car after the drugs kick in.

I found this highly watchable from start to end and can’t believe it didn't win anything at the Oscars.

2. Interstellar - 8/10

Interstellar - Banner Movie Poster
By no means a perfect film, but here was the space science-fiction film that was here to save the day this year, and scratch my itch for this genre of film, which happens to be my favourite genre. And who better to direct it than Christopher Nolan - one of only a few directors working today who can pull in a huge audience no matter what film he is making. He has a stellar track-record of quality films and seems to get the extra freedom and creative control that his films require.

I'm not going to go into any details here about the film's weaknesses (and there are some) as that would spoil a lot of the film for those who haven’t seen it yet. Any problems with the film are probably left for another discussion and there are plenty of other sites or videos out there that have already covered this anyway.

Interstellar was arguably the most epic film of the year. There is some heavy science, both fact and theory in this film, which is great and there is also ‘some’ science which is arguably complete poppycock. But lets not forget, this is ultimately a Sci-Fi movie so that's alright.

Ultimately, Interstellar is not going to be everyone's 'cup of tea' but it was certainly mine. I loved it all they way through, even the more poppycock science-fiction toward the end of the film.

1. Road (Documentary) - 9/10

Road - Documentary Film Poster
It's not unusual for a good documentary film to make it into my Top 10 Films list at the end of the year, I had at least one every year for the last few years and even two in the top three back in 2011.

I thought long and hard about this film afterward, and where it belongs in my Top 10, but in the end, for me it was the best film of the year - and that is coming from someone who doesn't even follow the sport that this film is based on.

Yes, I do like Motorsport, so maybe that bias inside me does give this an extra point but ultimately let me just make it clear - I DO NOT watch motorcycle racing, I'm a Formula One fan ultimately.

'Road' (not to be confused with the post-apocalyptic film 'The Road’) tells the story of two generations of the Dunlop family - some of the most successful road racing motorcycle racers ever.

Let's not beat around the bush here, this is probably THE most dangerous sport man can take part in today. Riders race on public roads at ridiculous speeds with absolutely no safety considerations at all… With lamp posts, trees and flint-stoned walls just centimetres from the riders, serious injury or death is an eventual near certainty for anyone who takes part in enough races.

This film puts us in the minds of these racers who risk their lives time and time again and shows us the impact it has on their friends and family. Some of the events in this film feel like something from a Hollywood movie, producing some of the most emotional scenes I've seen all year. Enough to make a grown man cry.

Don’t just take my word for it, watch the trailer here, then watch the film.




Honourable Mention

The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Movie Poster
It’s a real shame that this film was just outside my Top 10, but it’s through no fault of the film itself. Unfortunately I ended up watching this film in two sittings, several days apart. Without a doubt, this would have hampered my enjoyment of the film which I'm sure would have made my Top 10 comfortably otherwise.

It’s a wacky sort of sense of humour which I actually love and Ralph Fiennes is a blast to watch in this madcap comedy from Wes Anderson who is back on top form with this film… I'm looking forward to seeing this again - all the way through next time.

Surprise of the Year

Guardians of the Galaxy - Wide Poster
As mentioned in my review above, Captain America: The Winter Soldier took me by surprise earlier in the year for being so good, but I did at least know this superhero having seen him before in ‘The First Avenger’ and then again in ‘Marvel Avengers Assemble’.

For that reason this award really has to go to Guardians of the Galaxy - a film that totally floored me having known absolutely nothing about it going in and then for it to comfortably make my Top 5. A brilliant surprise.

Disappointment of the Year

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 - Movie Poster
This film smacks of that ‘Third-book-split-into-two-films-to-cash-in’ syndrome. It’s shameless. It feels like not much really happens in this film, which feels really long all the same. It boils down to some propaganda scenes over and over, in which Jennifer Lawrence does very little except show up at places and wave a flag.

It feels like a lazy adaptation of a book into a film, and nothing more than an extended trailer for the final film that we have to wait a whole year for. There wasn't really much to like about this; a real shame.

Most Redundant Film of the Year

Divergent
Divergent Movie Poster
This is one of those films that feels pretty redundant before you even start watching it (thanks mainly to the Hunger Games). But what was the point in the characters taking a test to find out what ‘house’ they belong to when they can just choose whatever ‘house’ they want anyway?

But more annoyingly, the thing that bugged me more than all the other problems with this film was how effin' PERFECT Shailene Woodley’s hair is throughout the film… Do they have top-of-the-line hair salons in this dystopian future?

Scene of the Year

Quicksilver’s stand out sequence in X-Men: Days of Future Past
Quicksilver’s stand out sequence on X-Men: Days of Future Past
The more I thought about this film, the less satisfied I became with it, but that aside, Quicksilver really did steal the show with his slow motion breakout scene. I won’t go into details about the scene here and spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the film yet, but this scene alone was arguably the highlight of the year.

What’s Missing?

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies - Movie Poster
Edge of Tomorrow narrowly missed out on this year's Top 10, but I really liked the film overall, so it’s worth noting here. But once again, for the third year running, my Top 10 is still missing a Hobbit movie. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies was a reasonably good film, but that's about all really. I enjoyed it for what it was, but I can't say I feel the need to watch any of them again really. Oh, and I couldn't get used to seeing a CG version of Billy Connolly as a Dwarf in battle, that was too distracting for me.


Let me know your top movies in the comments below.


About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for films loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his Google+ profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.

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About the Author: Chris Russell has a passion for movies, films and cool TV shows and loves to share that passion here on Movie Retrospect where readers can join the discussion in the comments below or directly to Chris though his profile. If you enjoyed this post, please follow @MovieRetrospect on Twitter.