Top 10 Best Movies of 2014
I decided to post the negative first and end on a positive note. I saw a lot of good movies in 2014 so this was a hard list to narrow down to just 10. Ultimately I went with the 10 that made a bigger impression on me than the others. As with my other list there might be some fluctuation between placement here and the original scores but it should more or less stack up. So, here we go with my Top 10 Best Movies of 2014.
10. Edge of Tomorrow
This is the result when you cross Groundhog Day with Starship Troopers. Tom Cruise proves that he’s still got it as a leading man even playing against type this time out and Emily Blunt manages to be one of the toughest action heroes around. Watching Tom Cruise being repeatedly killed in creative and hilarious ways is oddly satisfying and the action scenes are really well put together. It’s just a solid and fun sci-fi action movie with engaging characters and a tightly paced story. A lackluster ending caused this film to be downgraded slightly to a 7/10 but I’d heavily reccomend this to anyone who likes -or hates- Tom Cruise. The studio might not be able to figure out what to call the film long after release but a rose by any other name smells as sweet. My original review can be found here.
9. What We Did On Our Holiday
Kids say the darndest things don’t they? This entire film pretty much rests on that and it works really well. The 3 children characters are excellently written with plenty of hilarious dialogue as well as a realisitic exploration of a family being torn apart from the perspective of the children affected. An innocent perspective really helps this film stand out by showing how petty adult arguments really are and how easily problems can be solved. Billy Connolly dials down his usual comedic persona for a more wise and contemplative character eager to share his extensive life experience with his grandchildren. David Tennant and Rosamund Pike are hilarious as a separated couple trying to pretend that they aren’t for the purposes of a family party. Very occasionally would a joke be stretched beyond the point it was funny but not too often. This film was given a strong 8/10 and my review can be found here.
Everyone’s favourite marmalade addict finally gets the big screen treatment and it was very much worth the wait. Ben Whishaw’s excellent vocal performance as the titular Paddington is an inspired choice. He gives the character a gentle nature as well as great outspoken integrity. Paddington’s well mannered nature is used as the core of the film and cleverly modernises the story by putting him at odds with a more cynically minded modern London. The entire cast are well used and bring plenty to the table in acting out this genuinely hilarious script. The CGI on Paddington is astonishing throughout and really helps make him feel believable. A slightly better villain story would have risen this above an 8.5/10 but it’s still a very strong film and very worth your time. I originally reviewed it here.
A great story is told based on the true story of a group of LGBT activists who support the families of those affected by the 1984 Miners’ strike. Full of strong characters and clever writing, this film manages to be non judgemental while not preaching to the audience. The facts are presented at face value and the viewer is encouraged to make up their own mind about the situation. Like the situation itself this film is all about the people and it does a great job of fleshing out the people from the LGBT group and the Mining community. It’s equal parts funny and moving when it needs to be with an abundance of entertaining moments. A solid 9/10 means that according to me you shouldn’t miss this one. You can read my original review here.
6. The Lego Movie
Everything is awesome about this movie. The voice cast are all terrific in bringing their little plastic characters to life and the story is so ridiculously tongue in cheek that it can’t help but be charming. Any and all plot contrivancies are explained away by a surprise twist ending that manages to make dramatic sense and be a really moving experience for the audience. Beyond that most of the jokes work on multiple levels and no member of the audience can claim to have their intelligence insulted by anything in here. Kids who play with Lego and adults who secretly still play with Lego (don’t act like you don’t) will love it. I didn’t review this due to it predating the existence of my website but it would have been a 9/10.
Probably the most interesting non franchise sci-fi movie of the year. Her manages to say a lot about the nature of existence as well as the role of technology in our society and still manages to be a well constructed love story that deals with the complex nature of relationships. The character of Samantha (Scarlett Johannson) has a lot of humanity despite being an artificial intelligence and seeing her look at the world with a childlike innocence brings the audience on a great journey of discovery that encourages looking at things in a new way. Joaquin Phoenix’ Theodore is a little antisocial which probably causes him to identify more with a non human presence in his life but the film never paints this as a bad thing. Relationships in their infinite complexity are celebrated here and it’s hard not to root for the central relationship. People who have a problem with the unorthodox nature of their relationship are represented as well so almost every conceivable angle is covered here. Everything works here from the drama, comedy and emotional connection so definitely check this out. I would have given this 9/10 had I reviewed it.
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise confirms that Fox should never have continued on without him. The classic comic story Days of Future Past is really nicely adapted here and brings together both eras of X-Men cast in an adventure stretching across 2 time periods. Each of the time periods depicted are visually strinking and equally engaging despite the fact that the bulk of the film is focused on the 1973 part of the story. Director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg bring their love for the characters and the franchise to the forefront to craft a film that is both respectful to the material and engaging in its own right. The story is well paced and entertaining, the character relationships are rich and complex and the set pieces are really well put together. I don’t think anyone will be forgetting the now famous Quicksilver sequence any time soon. I originally scored this 8/10 which gives it a lower score than some of the entries lower on this list but I can’t deny my continued enjoyment of this film long after the cinema release has been and gone. You can find my original review here.
3. 12 Years a Slave
One of the best films of the year for me was one that saw a U.S. release in 2013. Steve McQueen crafts a near masterpiece that doesn’t pull any punches in the brutal depiction of the treatment of slaves. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northup is staggering. He brings a great level of integrity and subtlety to his perfomance with his eyes and facial expressions conveying everything he is feeling. The story is well paced, engaging and moving with a talented cast all giving their best. There is a fairly clunky cameo from Brad Pitt towards the end of the film but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this film deserved best picture at the Oscars. No review for the same reasons as before but it would have been a 9/10.
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
An even better sequel to an already great prequel/reboot of the famous Planet of the Apes franchise. This installment has the Apes as the central characters with focus on Andy Serkis motion captured Caeser. The combination of his performance and the visual effects are so seamless that it’s hard to figure out where one ends and the other begins. Matt Reeves constructs a tightly paced story that manages to make a community of hyper intelligent apes entirely sympathetic. Through the apes the audience gets to explore the positive and negative aspects of humanity as they represent both sides. Reeves crafts an internal ape conflict that feels Shakespearean in its execution as Caesar’s character arc involves him overcoming his naivety surrounding the superiorty of apes which puts him at odds with his second in command. He learns how similar the apes and humans really are an it provides a huge amount of growth to his character. Some of the human characters are a little bland but this film is all about the apes so maybe that was the idea. There are some spectacular action sequences that include apes dual wielding machine guns while riding on horseback. It’s impossible to see that and not love that. My original review gave the film a rating of 8/10 and can be found here.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
One of my favourite superheroes gets the treatment he deserves in this well thought out entry to the Marvel canon. Captain America’s character is perfectly translated to the big screen with all of his optimism and principles completley intact, proving a point that I have often made. Superheroes don’t have to be dark and cynical to be relevant in the modern era. The world that Cap inhabits is one full of corruption and subterfuge but he is the one who fights for what he believes in and inspires the viewer to do the right thing even if it’s difficult. It’s a positive message and the film puts it across excellently. Chris Evans brings all the necessary depth to his performance so that Cap’s old fashioned views as well as his black and white morality never come across as cheesy. The Winter Soldier is an interesting villain despite fairly limted screentime and challenges Cap on a physical and personal level. This film boasts some really impressive combat based action sequences showcasing Cap’s speed, strength and tactical thinking. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow serves as almost the secondary protagonist and gets some welcome character development as her clandestine past and skills as a spy become an important part of the narrative. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon is a welcome addition to the cast acting as Captain America’s friend and trusted ally. It’s the breakout role that Mackie was looking for. Originally I gave this film 9/10 and still stand by that rating. My review can be found here.