THE BEST FILMS OF 2014

 

11: Gone Girl     11 Gone Girl

Directed by David Fincher

Built around two absolutely stunning central performances from Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, Gone Girl has an energy and intensity that makes short work of its 145 minute run time. It’s all about what lies beneath the surface, the image that people present of themselves and what they are really like.

To talk more about the storyline would be to give to much away but when surface appearances crumble and their real personalities revealed the audience will be shocked and one violent encounter will live long in the memory. This would have been higher up the list but for an ending that will prove divisive to audience members.

10:Lucy   10 lucy

Director: Luc Besson

Besson doing what he does best, making a film featuring an empowered female who takes no prisoners. Scarlett Johansson is the woman in question (and she will appear on this list again later) spending time in Europe and unwittingly getting caught up in a dodgy drug deal with her morally dubious boyfriend. Before long she has a bag of a new experimental narcotic sewn into her stomach which splits causing the substance to leak into her body.

This is where the director goes to town as the substance grants Lucy incredible powers and abilities, heightening her senses and making her an all round bad ass. However it’s unstable and she has to call on the help of a professor played with the required gravitas by Morgan Freeman.

What sets this apart are some pleasingly philosophical ruminations and character evolution you really don’t see coming. One of the freshest sci-fi action movies for years.

9: X-Men: Days of Future Past  9 X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_poster

Director: Bryan Singer

Bryan Singer returns to the directors chair of the X-Men franchise for the first time since 2003’s X-Men 2 and keeps up the exciting fast pace with a period flavour that was established in X-Men: First Class. Bringing together the cast of the original trilogy and the prequels for a time travelling story that ends up resetting everything allowing the return of several characters long since killed off. While the reset switch can often feel like a cheap get out of jail free card for fantasy and sci-fi here it is just about acceptable as it rights the wrongs that were done to the series in Singer’s absence.

An ensemble cast with a great guest appearance from Peter Dinklage (Elf, Game of Thrones, The Station Agent) as Trask the scientist who brings the robotic sentinels to life so they can hunt down our mutant heroes. The movie also introduces new heroes most notably Quicksilver who gets the stand out action scene. This expanded group bodes well for future instalments that are no longer held to previous films and can go anywhere they want.

8: The Monuments Men  8 monu

Director: George Clooney

The trailer sold this as a light hearted caper but the film itself while having plenty of humorous moments turned out to be a more rueful look at the effect war has on art and why culture is something to savoured, not eradicated or made exclusive for those who would rule.

Beautifully shot and recreating in great detail the devastating effects of war it also features a strong ensemble cast including Bill Murray, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

7: Under the Skin   under-the-skin

Director: Jonathan Glazer

A film about, well that’s pretty much up to you. A truly fresh viewing experience finds Scarlett Johansson’s alien prowling the streets of Glasgow picking up unsuspecting pray to, well to do something with them. It’s all left very ambiguous as to what she is up to and what she is gaining but through the course of the film her contact with human beings changes her and she begins to reject the tasks she performs.

Built around a central performance from Johansson who is nothing short of mesmerising even though she is dialogue free for large parts of the film. Beautiful location work add to the otherwordly feel and the sound design is also memorable with a haunting soundtrack. The kind of movie you sit around and debate afterwards and one that bares repeat viewings to make sure you didn’t miss anything the first time round.

6: Godzilla Godzilla-Poster 

Director: Gareth Edwards

Hiring Gareth Edwards, the director of cult 2010 movie Monsters was the smartest thing Hollywood could do as they looked to reinvent the big G after their disastrous first attempt in the 1990’s.

Edwards bought with him an attention to detail and design that helped to populate the world with believable human characters while we waited for the giant monsters to show up and start wrecking entire cities. When Godzilla does appear he is often kept in the background or glimpsed through closing doors so when they monster on monster carnage is fully glimpsed at the finale it does not disappoint or feel like a never ending slog of a battle scene (The Hobbit could have learnt some lessons here).

Also featuring one of the most memorable scenes of the year as a squad of soldiers perform a HALO jump from the back of a plane into a crumbling city the film pulled in the crowds and a well deserved sequel is on its way. The western world had finally gotten Godzilla right.

5: The Wind Rises   the wind  

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Miyazaki’s final film as director and perhaps his most heartfelt yet (and that’s saying something if you look at the love poured into his previous films). A fictionalised account of aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi who designed the AM61 fighter plane which was known as the Zero in World War II.

Jiro is a sweet young man who loves to design and build even though it will mean contributing to the war and the devastation of his country. He is the protagonist that you have to invest in never loud or bellowing a man of quietness and manners perhaps reflecting the directors persona. Miyazaki usually gives lead roles to females but proves no less adept at making a male his central character. There is a sense of tragedy and melancholia that runs through the film especially in Jiro’s romance with the beautiful Nahoko.

Eschewing the fantastical elements (barring a few dream sequences) to keep events grounded this is a perfect sign off to the careerer of one of the greatest directors of all time.

4: The Raid 2   The-Raid-2-poster 

Director: Gareth Evans

The first Raid proved to be the shot in the arm the action genre so desperately needed. After the Bourne films single handedly ruined American action cinema by making shitty shaky cam the go to way of shooting it took a Welshman living in Indonesia to show us how good action could be.

Introducing audiences to the art of Pencak Silat a fighting style that displayed a level of intensity never seen before. The sequel rather than being a straight rehash expanded the world taking in a gang war between feuding families and how the hero Rama was caught up in this conflict. It worked too, providing depth and context to the events of the first film and proving Evans was not afraid to challenge preconceived notions of what a sequel should be.

Don’t for a second think this means the film scrimps on action, from a mud soaked brawl in a prison yard to a subway based introduction for new character Hammer Girl and a final kitchen based showdown that has to be seen to be believed this was action taken to a whole new level

Evans has said he wants to expand into a trilogy and after the level of invention on display here few would begrudge him the chance. The third film can’t get here soon enough.

3: The Grand Budapest Hotel   grand_budapest_hotel_ver17

Director: Wes Anderson

What happens when you take serious actor Ralph Fiennes, a period drama that flips through different eras and a mountain top hotel?

Answer, you get one of the funniest films of the year.

Fiennes plays Gustave the hotel employee with a fancy for older (a lot older) women who upon the death of one of his dalliances is bequeathed a rare painting. What follows is a grand (pun not intended) farce as he is pursued by his late lovers relatives.

Pleasingly for cinephiles’ the pictures aspect ratio shifts depending on which time period is being depicted. Far from being a distraction this serves to enhance the fictional world that Anderson has created.

Brilliantly designed, hugely original and very, very funny.

2: The LEGO Movie   the-LEGO-MOVIE-poster

Directors: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Featuring possibly the most insanely catchy theme song ever recorded “Everything is Awesome” which serves as a perfect summation for the film itself. In the LEGO world ordinary construction worker and loveable schmuck Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt) is caught up in a chain of events where he is ordained the chosen one who will foil the plans of the nefarious Lord Business.

Along the way he encounters Batman voiced to perfection by Will Arnett who turns him into a narcissistic guy obsessed with his cool persona, the sage like Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and freedom fighter Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks). This motley band encounter a huge cast of characters from various LEGO universes including Abraham Lincoln, Superman and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. There is also a Star Wars cameo which has to be seen to be believed.

A film that celebrates the everyman and the love between a father and son, taking in themes of growth and identity but never once becoming preachy or to sugary sweet. The best written film of the year where every joke is absolutely spot on. A film that can be enjoyed by anyone no matter how old they are.

1: Interstellar    interstellar 

Director: Christopher Nolan

If the world was dying and you could save it but it meant the possibility of never seeing your children again, what would you do?

This is the dilemma at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s latest and definitely one of his greatest. Not that far into the future man has forgotten his pioneering spirit and the population has taken its toll as an unknown blight is slowly poisoning the people and ruining the crops. Our only hope is for a crew to head into a wormhole in space in the hope of finding another word for the population to live on.

This is where leading man and father Cooper comes in, he is to pilot the ship but there is no guarantee he will be coming back and time moves differently on the other side of the wormhole. The worlds we visit are nothing short of awe inspiring, Nolan shows us landscapes that demand to be seen on the biggest screen possible and gives us a third act that is filled with visuals the likes of which have never been seen before.

To say to much would be to spoil what is not just one of the films of the year but one of the great films of the last ten years. Never once though does the spectacle detract from the emotion and the experiences that Cooper and his fellow astronauts go through. A remarkable vision and a stunning achievement in film making.

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