Here it is, the final part of my review of 2014 (that’s, for various reasons, taken me a little longer to write than anticipated, seeing as last year I posted a third of the whole list a day for three days straight). You can read part 1 of the list here, and part 2 of the list here. Or, you can skip them entirely because really, the only important part is here, with my Top 20 Films of 2014:
I think Chef might have ended up a little higher on my list if I hadn’t heard so many great things about Jon Favreau’s self-made, self-starring, self-everythinged movie about a chef who, being sick of making the same dishes at his boss’ restaurant every day, has a Twitter break down and heads out onto the road in a food truck. It’s sweet and charming, if a little directionless and rambling, but there’s more than enough heart here to get you through. I still think that, like Fading Gigolo, Favreau wrote in that his ex-wife is Sofia Vergara and his current squeeze is Scarlett Johansson simply so he could hang out more with two of the hottest women he knows.
19. Cuban Fury
OK, so Cuban Fury, a small British rom-com in which Nick Frost’s sad sack office schlub has to get back into salsa dancing to win his new boss’ affections, as played by Rashida Jones, isn’t exactly ground breaking, but I liked it. Ian McShane is always on form, here playing Frost’s cantankerous former dance instruction (think Dodgeball‘s Patches O’Houlihan, only played by Lovejoy), but Chris O’Dowd steals the show as Frost’s dickish rival for Jones’ heart. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a great cameo in the car park.
18. Starred Up
One of the most brutal and serious films of the year, Starred Up starred Jack O’Connell as an incarcerated youth deemed too unruly to survive in his juvenile institution, so he’s been upgraded to adult prison, and it just so happens to be the same one his Dad (Ben Mendelsohn) is also locked up in. Mendelsohn is an actor I’ve been approving of lately, having been impressed with his diverse work in the likes of The Dark Knight Rises, Killing Them Softly and The Place Beyond The Pines, and he does some great stuff here as a guy trying to do the right thing by his son, he just has a spectacularly wrong idea of what the right thing to do is.
17. Fruitvale Station
UK Release Date: 6th June 2014
We finally got Fruitvale Station in the UK in June of last year, despite it being released in America almost a year earlier. It’s a very simple film, depicting the last day of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a young man gunned down by the police in 2008, and it’s grounded by some stellar performances, particularly Jordan’s. This is a film that will probably leave you angry and, seeing as it’s less than 90 minutes long, the fact that it can draw you in within such a short time that’s really saying something.
16. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
I loved the previous two Hobbit movies, but this was something of a disappointment for me. What should have been two and a half hours of climax, with a dragon to be slain, a town to be destroyed and the mother of all battles to be fought, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. That being said, it was still a terrific end to a slightly less mature but only slightly less impressive follow up trilogy to the Lord of the Rings. The fight atop the frozen waterfall had me in a fit of laughter, and I’m still not entirely sure why.
15. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Two dragon movies in a row, completely by chance. My partner and I (more her than me, to be honest) love the first movie and watch it quite often, so we were both looking forward to this follow-up. When we saw it in the cinema (on my birthday I might add) I wasn’t all that fussed, but now I’ve watched it again (twice) since she got it for Christmas it has definitely grown on me. The characters have all grown up and advanced a little, there’s some excellent comedy I missed first time around (one of the dragons seems to always be playing a game of fetch) and the touching moment of emotion midway through hits me a little harder each time. I still feel that pacing-wise it’s very uneven, with what should be the climax taking place long before the end, but overall that’s OK.
14. The Raid 2
Back in 2012, The Raid was awesome. It was a live action video game, with a kick-ass hero making his way up a building full of people trying to kill him. Also, it was possibly the first ever martial art film I’d ever seen. The Raid 2 heads in a different direction, swapping the very limited setting and linear plot for a sprawling crime drama which, instead of being one huge fight scene, was instead interspersed with a lot of intense, gruelling smaller ones. I’ll admit, I got a little lost in the labyrinthine plot at times, but the fight scenes are just phenomenal. Whether it’s the one-guy-versus-a-hundred from inside a bathroom stall, the massive mud massacre, the kitchen scrap, the barroom brawl, the hammer/baseball bat hallway fight or any of the other bouts here, they’re all amazing, with some incredibly inventive camerawork to boot. One scene involved three cameramen, one of whom was pretending to be a car seat.
13. Gone Girl
Fincher! I love me some Fincher. I read Gillian Flynn’s source novel a few months before seeing the film, so the story was fresh in my mind, and I can’t think of a better director to put it on screen than Fincher. It’s by no means his best work (pretty sure nothing will ever beat Se7en in my ranking) but any year with a Fincher release has to be a good year.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy
After I saw this in the cinema, this was all but guaranteed a spot in my Top 5 come the end of the year. I absolutely loved every aspect of it (other than maybe Lee Pace’s wilting villain Ronan the Accuser), and I was overjoyed that it performed so successfully at the worldwide box office. However, I watched it again after receiving it for Christmas, and I don’t think it held up very well for a repeat viewing. I can’t quite put my finger on it, I just didn’t find it as enjoyable, so it’s slipped down the list a bit. I still love Groot, and Drax, and the soundtrack, and Ronan’s awesome twisty ship, and the cast as a whole, but it just didn’t resonate with me as well as it did that first time around.
11. X-Men: Days of Future Past
The best X-Men movie so far? Maybe. Then again, seeing as I love a good prison break, and time travel always appeals to me, any film that includes both of those aspects on top of some spectacular action set pieces is going to be a winner in my book. I loved the opening, showing a team of mutants working together as a fluid unit, something we’ve not really seen much of in the past, and the joining of the old cast with the new was a stroke of genius. Plus, that kitchen scene. Outstanding.
I’m always intrigued by restricted narratives, so when you set almost the entirety of a film within a car, with just one driver and his phone, that automatically appeals to me as to how it can possibly be gripping for a feature-length amount of time. Well, the Tom-Hardy-in-a-car movie is the first rung of my Top 10, so it must have done something right, and that something was in the character of Ivan Locke, as played by Hardy, who is a relatively ordinary guy having to deal with several intense situations simultaneously, and who is choosing to do so in the most righteous, proper way possible, regardless of the consequences. I loved his passion and enthusiasm for his job – even though it’s essentially pouring concrete – and how he’s made a decision with how he wants to live his life and he’s going to stick with it and see it through. The use of the same shot styles over and over again got a little repetitive – it seems there’s only so many ways you can shoot a car driving down a motorway at night – but this was still very impressive.
9. Muppets Most Wanted
Muppets! Yay! I loved the Muppets’ revival movie a few years ago, and looked forward to a sequel ever since, and they didn’t disappoint with their journey across Europe, putting on shows whilst Kermit had been kidnapped and swapped out with dastardly criminal Constantine. Tina Fey and Ty Burrell were excellent additions (I could have done with less Ricky Gervais, but that’s a general rule that can be applied to anything really, even films he isn’t it) and the soundtrack is amongst my most-listened-to this year.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
UK Release Date: 24th January 2014
As with Fincher, I do love me some Coen brothers. Joel and Ethan combined two of their earlier works, A Serious Man and O Brother, Where Art Thou? to produce a character study of a folk singer who is a bit of a dick to everyone he knows, but who struggles and ambles his way through life regardless. It’s a film I’m looking forward to going back to as, upon first watch I didn’t exactly love it, but it’s stuck in my head ever since, and like Muppets Most Wanted I just can’t stop listening to that soundtrack.
Don’t believe the trailers, this is far better than it has any right to be. I was expecting another Garfield, but I got something closer to an Aardmann movie. It’s inherently British, despite the lead character being from darkest Peru, which may have something to do with why critics over here are eating it up, so I’ll be interested to see what happens when it gets released over the pond. I recommend anyone to watch it, even if they don’t have kids. If, like me, you have a soft spot for more family-friendly fare, then this should definitely be on a Must-See list for you. Ben Whishaw is an excellent replacement for Colin Firth who, in retrospect, wouldn’t have been such a great fit to voice a youngish, curious, naive bear anyway.
6. 12 Years a Slave
UK Release Date: 10th January 2014
Over a year later and Steve McQueen’s masterful Best Picture winner is still stuck with me. It’s the kind of film I don’t particularly want to watch again, given how powerfully it hit me the first time around, particularly Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance, which I’d have easily given the Oscar to over Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. This was beautiful, heartbreaking, intense and, above all, emotional. It’s a must-see for everyone, but only once.
5. The Double
I loved Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, and have been looking forward to whatever he did next, which turned out to be this adaptation of Dostoevsky, in which Jesse Eisenberg’s ignorable office worker finds his life being overtaken by his exact doppleganger, who shows up one day with no explanation. There’s elements of Polanski on show here, particularly from The Tenant, and Ayoade’s brand of humour is right up my street. Plus, he puts Noah Taylor and Paddy Considine in everything, which is fine by me.
4. Grand Budapest Hotel
The funniest live action film of the year, this is thoroughly deserving of all the awards buzz it’s been receiving lately, particularly with respect to Ralph Fiennes’ bravura performance, in which he proves he can do comedy just as well as he can portray vile, sadistic characters. I’m a Wes Anderson fan, so this was bound to be a hit for me (Fantastic Mr. Fox is still top of his pile though), but I didn’t expect to love it quite so much. There’s another prison break in here too, so yay for lots of them this year.
One of the smallest films I saw this year is also one of the darkest, especially when you consider that at heart it’s a comedy. Brendan Gleeson’s all round nice-guy priest is told by a member of his clergy that they will kill him in a week, for something that isn’t his fault, and Gleeson resolutely accepts his fate. It’s an odd premise that isn’t terribly cinematic, as shown by the slow pacing, but there’s an undeniable wit to the script, a beauty to the landscape and a wonderful supporting cast including M. Emmet Walsh, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Domhnall Gleeson and Kelly Reilly.
The film that invoked possibly the strongest emotional reaction from me this year (other than maybe 12 Years A Slave, but if you’re not moved by that film then there’s probably something wrong with you) was Interstellar. The scene in which McConaughey’s reluctant astronaut receives the video messages from his family was just devastating. Yes, there’s some issues with the plot, and the third act revelations aren’t exactly what I’d like them to have been, but I went with them, and came out moved the other end. Plus, the robots. I loved the Kit-Kat design, the humour they brought, basically everything about them.
1. The Lego Movie
I almost feel bad putting The Lego Movie as my number one film of the year, but it’s easily the film I enjoyed the most, and it’s the one that I’ll undoubtedly watch the most times again on this list. It’s so much fun, so innovative, goes places I don’t think anyone expected it to, yet remains so hilariously funny and unique along the way. The time and effort that went into designing the world is palpable, the cast all brings it to a man (Especially Will Arnett, my favourite screen Batman (and Bruce Wayne) ever) and I think I could just gush about how much I loved it all day. I want to go and watch it again and, when I finish, I’ll probably want to watch it all over again, or at least some behind-the-scenes stuff about how they did it all. Yes, I’m a Lego kid. Yes, I’m an animation junkie. Yes, I’ve spent many hours; many, many hours, modelling Lego bricks on the CAD systems on my computer, and yes watching this film brought back many happy memories of playing with Lego, some from just a few days ago. I loved it, and that’s why it’s my number one.
Did I miss anything major? Probably. I’ve still yet to see the likes of NIghtcrawler, Boyhood, Whiplash, Enemy, Blue Ruin and Pride, and I’m hoping to get to them all eventually, but if there’s anything else missing from my three lists, please let me know. Also, what was your favourite film of the year?