Monday, February 23, 2015

Top 10 Films of 2014

2014 was an amazing year for film. Plain and simple. The big award season pictures normally are films that try to invoke emotions and nothing more. It makes it hard to re-watch them. As good as films like 12 Years a Slave are, let's face it, you aren't going to be watching them in a hurry. 2014 changed this. So many of the big films this year are re-watchable classics that still leave an impact. They do more than just exploiting our emotions and create engaging films with a variety of acting talent. Now, we're going to take a look at my personal top 10 of the year.

10. Gone Girl
I admit it was hard to pick between Gone Girl and X-Men: Days of Future Past however I ultimately picked the film that made the bigger impact. As fantastic as Quicksilver's scene in X-Men was, Gone Girl has Rosamund Pike leave us with a chilling performance as well as Ben Affleck winning back his recognition as a good actor. The story is gripping as I had no idea what direction it was going to go and highlights everything wrong with modern day society. Along with The Hunt and Watchmen, Gone Girl joins the list of films that anger me yet are just too good to pass up. Social commentary at its finest.

9. Big Hero 6
A surprising choice for best animated feature at the Oscars but I suppose that there is good reason for this. Big Hero 6 has the very same vibe that The Incredibles had and follows its example of what makes an engaging film: the characters. Disney deliver us a great cast of characters so enjoyable that it's actually hard to pick a favourite. Baymax would be probably be mine as he is a loveable companion who Scott Adsit's voice fits perfectly. Hiro proves to be one of the more complex Disney heroes with Yokai also proving to be a complex villain. Disney have been doing immensely well since The Princess and the Frog and show no sign of stopping. I can consider this part of a new Disney Renaissance.  

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Apes riding horses...with machine guns. That is one of the best visuals we've seen all year. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes kind of seems like a forgotten film for 2014 and that is a shame. Andy Serkis acts his heart out as the ape Caesar who is now the leader of a tribe of apes who have now encountered humans after several years of absence. The complexities that go into trying to negotiate peace between cultures is what holds the film together with strong characters on both side of the fence. Tony Kebbell excels as Koba, an ape who wants the apes to live on their own with the eradication of humans. This is a deep, deep film that engages audiences with a very strong story and some wonderful performances.

7. The LEGO Movie
I know! It's one of the biggest Oscar snubs in recent film history. Honestly, the fact that it is kind of proves that this film works. The LEGO Movie knows that it's different and embraces this. No-one knew what to expect when the time came to see a film based entirely on plastic bricks but we were given pure joy and surprising depth. It's important to note that this isn't just film told through LEGO people, it is a film that dedicating itself to WHY we love LEGO and why it has made such a huge impact on us while delivering a hilarious, and I mean hilarious, adventure with fresh jokes, an enthusiastic cast and one of the best twists of the year. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson has a very unique approach to film making that I admire. He even managed to convey his style in his animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox so, at this point, I was looking forward to his most recent offering. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the more enjoyable films of the year and easily the best comedy with smart humour and a more subtle tone. Ralph Fiennes is delightful as the hotel manager Gustave accompanied by newcomer Tony Revolori playing his lobby boy Zero. It's a zany film with many fun quirks. Wes Anderson hands us a delightful romp displaying the mad adventures of Gustave and Zero. Also everyone is in this film. Just everyone. Think of an actor and they're probably in this film. 

5. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After aside, Dreamworks are great at sequels. Shrek 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madagascar 2 and 3 and now How to Train Your Dragon 2 prove to be some of the company's best works. This film's strengths are found in the idea that the film builds strongly on the foundation that the first one provided. It's good to see the characters we already know grown up, the animation is just gorgeous and the relationship between characters is strengthened. The score is just as good as the original's (which was already beautifully put together) and I was incredibly invested in where the plot was headed. I actually look forward to a third instalment.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Another year, another million Marvel films. Where Captain America: The Winter Soldier's pros lie are in its story. The plot of this film could've very easily been used for the next Avengers film however they restrained it and instead we are left with a tightly written espionage film. The ensemble cast do a wonderful job of reprising characters we've come to know as well as new additions such as Anthony Mackie as Falcon fitting in perfectly. The tone is perfect and the action is just a joy to watch. Secrets about the Marvel Cinematic Universe are spilled and delivers us some much needed depth to the universe as a whole. A big step up from Captain America: The First Avenger.

3. Birdman
As you may know by now, this was the best picture winner for this year's Academy Awards and it is very clear to see why. I am curious as to what the script is like for Birdman because the main idea that drew me in was that there were very little cuts. It flows as one long take and keeps things coming in order to keep the attention of the audience. Michael Keaton makes a bombastic comeback into stardom as a washed up super hero actor trying to tackle Broadway. Keaton is also accompanied by some great performances from the likes of Emma Stone, Edward Norton and Zach Galifianakis. Birdman gives us a twisted look at the world of acting and, as this is my background, I can see some of the dilemmas that the film addresses. It's just good to have Michael Keaton back!

2. Guardians of the Galaxy
The worst thing about Guardians of the Galaxy is that it came out the same year as number one on this list. I really wanted to put this as number one'll see why next. Guardians of the Galaxy continues to prove that the Marvel Cinematic Universe can do no wrong (although Ant-Man looks like it could be a first) as we are thrown across the stars in a music filled joy ride. The cast mould into their characters perfectly and deliver some of the best characters we've seen all year. Incredibly quotable, memorable, hilarious, action packed and even some heart is squeezed in. It's amazing that Marvel Studios continue to deliver hit after hit especially with what was originally seen as a rather stupid idea.

1. Whiplash
Guardians of the Galaxy had secured my number one place for the entire year...until Whiplash came along. All I have to say is: J.K. Simmons. Simmons carries this entire film and delivers hands down the best performance of the year. You hang onto every word that he throws at an also great Miles Teller as we see the highs and lows...and further lows of what it takes to be the best in the music industry. Wonderfully performed and gives from great insight into a harsh reality that J.K. Simmons lingers over. It's his film and no-one can tell him otherwise. The music is implemented beautifully as we are delivered nothing short of a spectacular film.

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