So with the New Year rolling around, any movie reviewer worth his salt is obliged to make at least two “Top 10” lists, one of his favourite movies of the last year and one with his most anticipated movies for the coming year. (A “Top 10 Worst Movies” list is optional unless you’re on Youtube, in which case you are required to do one by international law.)
So here’s my Top 10 Movies of 2014. It was really hard choosing between about two dozen movies that absolutely blew me away when I saw them, but I managed to get the list down to ten. Anyway, first, here are some honourable mentions:
“Snowpiercer”: Probably one of the biggest surprises of the year. I didn’t quite know what to make of it when I first saw it, but since then, the more I think about it, the more fascinated I am by it. I can’t wait to get it on DVD and watch it again.
“The LEGO Movie”: Animation really isn’t my thing, but this one impressed me. It was funny, heartfelt and insanely creative. The same goes for Lord & Millers other movie of the year, “22 Jump Street”, which also narrowly missed a spot on my list.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”: While I loved the movie and it was definitely one of my most anticipated movies of the year, a lot of that is because of it belonging to the Middle-Earth saga and while each of the “Lord of the Rings” movies would have easily taken the top spot on my list, the Hobbit films just aren’t on that level. Doesn’t keep me from loving them almost as much as the original trilogy though.
“Calvary”: Probably not a lot of people saw this, but I did and it was such an impressive film. This was the hardest decision to make, but in the end, it’s on 11, narrowly beaten out by:
Number 10: “Locke”
This is quite simply one of the most impressive performances of the year, if you ask me. Tom Hardy is probably the best young actor working today, with a huge range, and he shows it here, all alone in a car, only playing off of people on the phone.
The plot is simple: Ivan Locke has made a mistake and he is driving to London to fix it. What we see is the ninety minute drive it takes him to get there. It’s a fascinating journey and Hardy anchors it with his calm acting style.
If you want to read my complete review, it’s right here.
Number 9: “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jonah Hill did this movie almost for free, just because he wanted to work with Martin Scorsese so badly, and he was right to do so, as it gave him his second nomination at the Oscars. It also put him into an amazing movie, one of the funniest of the year.
Scorsese’s films often deal with characters with a shaky moral compass, and this is no difference. Following the exploits of corrupt investment broker Jordan Belfort, Scorsese makes you enjoy his antics in the first half only to do a complete 180° turn and make you realize what a horrible person you have been actively rooting for for the last 90 minutes.
Number 8: “Guardians of the Galaxy”
The fact that this film is on the number 8 spot on this list speaks volumes about the quality of films we had in 2014. With about a dozen relatable and loveable characters (and let’s be honest, one bad guy who was more forgettable than his henchmen) and a million quotable lines, this is one of Marvels funniest films so far.
Summarizing the plot for this seems kind of redundant, as I know of no living person that hasn’t seen it, but anyway. The movie follows a bunch of misfits, led by earthling Peter Quill, who calls himself Star-Lord, hunting for a mysterious artefact called “The Orb”. However, they are by far not the only ones hunting for it.
You can read more in my review right here.
Number 7: “Gone Girl”
Have I mentioned that we had a good year in movies? There are six movies that I liked more than a David Fincher film… Anyway, the film follows Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne, who returns home on his wedding anniversary to find his wife, played brilliantly by Rosamund Pike, missing and the house showing signs of struggle. What follows is an incredibly clever cat-and-mouse game, a lot of commentary on public perception and the media and a lot of twists and turns.
The performances are great, the direction is precise, my review’s over here.
Number 6: “Edge of Tomorrow”
I think this film surprised a lot of people. Not that many though, because not nearly enough people have seen it. But while it underperformed at the box office, possibly due to bad marketing and people being somewhat weary of Tom Cruise these days. Whatever the reason, it’s a damn shame, because in a year with some incredibly high-quality blockbusters, this came out of nowhere and gave the rest of the field a run for their money.
It follows Tom Cruise’s Cage, who is a publicity manager for the army during an alien invasion. However, he is demoted to being a grunt after trying to weasel his way out of a front line mission. He ends up at the front anyway, strapped into an exoskeleton that he has no idea how to control and promptly gets killed. But he doesn’t stay dead. Instead he finds himself back on the base, a day before the invasion. Armed with the knowledge of the previous day, he is again part of the attack and dies again, finding himself stuck in a time loop. The film follows a certain video game logic, and Cage soon unlocks a trainer in the form of Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, the ultimate badass, who has been through the same experience.
It is a great movie, you should watch it, and if this wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s my review.
Number 5: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
I haven’t seen this on a single list the past few days, but I loved this film so much. Ben Stiller shows once again that he is a very talented director and actor. “Mitty” combines a lot of imagination with a sense of adventure and wonder at the world we inhabit. It’s a movie that makes you want to travel and meet new people.
It follows Walter Mitty, an inconspicuous employee at Time magazine, prone to daydreams, who has to man up and seek adventure when he loses a negative that was meant for the cover of the final edition of Time magazine before it becomes an online service. His journey takes him to Greenland, Iceland, Afghanistan and a lot of other places.
It’s a beautiful movie, advocating simple pleasures in life and the pursuit of happiness.
Number 4: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Where “Guardians” was funny, “Captain America” was serious. It blends the incredible entertainment value of the Marvel movies with serious 70’s spy thrillers, gaining credibility simply by the fact that Robert Redford is in it. To that add some amazing performances by Chris Evans, who finds the right approach to Captain America, a man who rivals Superman for his boy-scout status, making him interesting by contrasting his golden age morals with today’s morally grey world. Scarlett Johansson made people clamour for a Black Widow stand-alone movie, and although we are not going to get that anytime soon, her role in the Marvel Universe gets bigger and bigger.
The plot sees Cap investigating the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. after Nick Fury gets attacked by the Winter Soldier, a mysterious assassin. What he finds not only makes for an amazingly smart and compelling movie, but also has major implications for the Marvel Universe going forward. Also, social commentary in a comic book blockbuster, who would have guessed that.
Number 3: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
And here’s another smart blockbuster with lots to say about escalating conflicts, leadership, humanity and all that good stuff. But this one also has ground-breaking motion capture work and amazing special effects.
The follow-up to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” shares with it a certain chunkiness of the title, but apart from that surpasses its predecessor in almost every way. It follows a small group of humans that comes into the area that Caesar and his smart apes inhabit after the simian flu almost eradicated all of humanity. While it seems like apes and humans can coexist peacefully in the beginning, forces within both groups push for conflict.
I can’t begin to describe my amazement at the amount of detail that shows in the apes. There is CGI that just seems lazy and then there is this. And you can’t talk about motion capture without mentioning Andy Serkis, who might finally get some awards recognition this year. But even if he doesn’t, that won’t diminish the work he has done on this movie and in his other roles.
My review is right here.
Number 2: “Nightcrawler”
The story revolves around Lou Bloom, a thief who spends his nights drifting through L.A., selling fences for scrap. That changes however, when he comes across a traffic accident and sees Bill Paxton’s character filming it with the intent of selling the footage to morning news shows. Lou decides that this is the right job for him, hires an intern and goes into business. Very soon, he starts crossing lines and becomes more and more successful.
What else can I say, it’s not necessarily a comfortable watch, but it’s going to stick with you for it’s great performances and direction. My full review is over here.
Number 1: “Interstellar”
Critics have found flaws in this movie, and I can’t argue with them. It’s extremely exposition-heavy, and some of the characters suffer for it, but since this is a list of my personal favourites, the number one spot goes to the movie that literally left me speechless for about five minutes when it ended. It might not be perfect, but it was an experience alright.
The plot is slightly complicated (hear the sarcasm?), but I’ll try anyway. The basic setup is that earth is dying. Crops are failing and humanity is on the brink of mass starvation. In a final attempt to save humanity, NASA sends a mission through a wormhole to another solar system. There they try to find a suitable planet. Piloting the ship is Matthew MacConaughey’s Cooper, a family man who left his son and daughter back on earth. There’s also a whole lot more about the relativity of time, black holes, multiple dimensions, robots and a whole lot of other things.
It’s complicated, intelligent, spectacular and did I mention complicated? But most of all, as I’ve said, it is an amazing experience. MacConaughey’s performance continues his incredible streak and Nolan shows that he is ambitious enough to challenge his own boundaries, delivering a much more personal movie than any he has done before.
So that’s it, my favourite movie of the year, the review’s over here.