2014 turned out to be a pretty good year for films, there were the big blockbusters we were expecting but also the little films we didn’t know about, that provided big surprises. Some of the films didn’t live up to the expectations, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, was a very long and overblown mess, I have enjoyed the previous films at various levels, but this forth instalment bored me, and if I see another city being destroyed! Even one of my most anticipated films was a bit of a let down, Insterstellar had all the ingredients to be one of my favourite films and yes it looked good but to be honest it left me really cold. I will give it another try on blu ray as I love Christopher Nolan’s work.
So onto my top 10, there were a couple of great films that didn’t quite make the 10, David Fincher’s Gone Girl came very close, I thought it was a brilliantly tense and at times darkly funny film, and not having read the book, I had no idea where it was going, Rosamund Pike really showed what a good actress she is.  X-men: Days of Future Past, also just missed out, with Bryan Singer back in charge of the franchise he started we had a real solid comic book movie with some amazing set pieces, especially the Quicksilver kitchen scene. Jonathan Glazer provided another visual treat with Under The Skin, a very odd but beautifully shot film that stays with you long after you finish watching it. Then there was the return to the Planet Of The Apes and also a new Godzilla which easily washed away the taste of the 90’s one. Also the return of everyone’s favourite cute dragon Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon 2, even Spider-man had a few good moments.

10. Pride

Like most people, I hadn’t heard the story of the gay rights group who decided to help out the Welsh Miners during the strikes of the early 80’s. On paper it looks like it could be made up for a British Comedy film, but knowing it is based on real life made it all the more compelling.  It is full of great performances from the always reliable Bill Nighy to Dominic West and Imelda Staunton. It is a very funny film as you have the culture clash between these two groups, but it is also very touching and makes you realise the hard times both groups went through in the early 80’s. It obviously gives a slight one sided opinion of the times and  you do get a few clichéd scenes, but overall it was a very enjoyable film, which also had one big effect on me, until I saw this I had not been on the electoral register, but seeing what the Tories did back then made me want to be able to vote this year and stop them getting back in, a bit of politics there!

9. The Wolf of Wall Street

I know it’s a bit controversial to say, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Martin Scorsese’s films, I appreciate what he has done in the film world and he seems an interesting man, but some of his films leave me a bit cold and I don’t get the hype that some of them get. I really need to go back and watch a few again I think, as I loved The Wolf Of Wall Street. Probably the biggest compliment I can give the film is that it was 3 hours long but didn’t feel like it all. I was engrossed in this story of greed, from start to finish. DiCaprio plays Belfort with a mixture of charm and repulsion. This guy ruined the lives of many people, but you enjoy watching the ride he goes on. Jonah Hill also again shows that he can really act outside of comedy, though this film is really a very dark comedy. Margot Robbie is just stunning and looks to have a successful career ahead of her.

8. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal has had a bit of a rollercoaster career, from Donnie Darko to Prince of Persia, and in the last few years he has popped in a few really good films, such as End of Watch and Prisoners. I heard a few reviews coming in about Nightcrawler so thought I should check it out, and was glad I did. It tells the story of Lou Bloom a man always trying to find a new money making scheme, who when he witnesses a traffic accident, is intrigued by the camera crew who turn up to shoot footage to sell to news channels.  Starting with a small camera he soon starts building up his business through various immoral routes. Bloom is such an unlikeable character near the end but you can’t look away, and it was great to see Rene Russo back on the big screen, as the news channel boss who’s morals are almost as dubious as Blooms. Gyllenhaal has created a real watchable psychopath along the lines of Travis Bickle, he should really be among the nominees for best actor this year. Mention also has to go to the look of the film, LA hasn’t looked so good since Drive and Collateral.

7. Next Goal Wins

I love a good documentary, they can both inform and entertain and in some case bring about big change as has been shown by Blackfish. This film will not bring about any chance but it is damn entertaining. It is about the small island nation of American Samoa’s football team, who in 2001 suffered a record 31-0 defeat to Australia during the World Cup qualifiers, and were rooted to the bottom of the FIFA world rankings.  The documentary makers joined them as they prepared for the qualifiers for the Brazil 2014 World Cup and having never won in 17 years and only scored 2 goals. It was decided to make some changes and after answering an advert a new coach was brought in, in the form of Thomas Rongen who had played with Cruyf and Best and brings in a tough new training regime.  The team members themselves have their own stories with the 31-0 goalie coming back to try and wipe out that nightmare game that still haunts him and Jaiyah the first ever transsexual international footballer. I’m not gonna tell you what happens, you really need to check this film out, you don’t need to be a football fan at all, just a fan of a great story.

6. Frank

I was never that knowledgeable about the work of Mr Frank Sidebottom, apart from his nasal tones and papermache head, but when I starting seeing pictures of Michael Fassbender in the head in film magazines I was intrigued. I never managed to catch it in the cinema, but on blu ray at home. It’s a funny little film with quite an odd sense of humour but with great songs.  Following Domhnall Gleeson’s keyboardist as he inadvertently finds himself in a band with the worlds weirdest frontman, the eponymous Frank and trying to take them in a new direction. Despite not being able to see his face, Fassbender manages to give an expressive performance, even if he does have to say what his face is doing at times. Frank’s most likeable song has been stuck in my head ever since, all thirty odd seconds of it!

5. Locke

When you describe the plot of this film it sounds like the most boring film ever, but it is anything but. The film features Tom Hardy driving a car down the motorway from Birmingham to London talking to people on the phone, that’s it! I was a bit sceptical at first when I put it on, and thought I would probably turn it off after ten minutes, but as the calls come in and the drama of John Locke’s life unfold I was gripped.  It’s not a long film anyway, but you are pulled into this man’s life and how one mistake is changing everything for him, I also learned a bit about concrete. It’s a testament to Tom Hardy’s acting skills and a pretty good welsh accent, that it works as well as it does.  I believe it will be on Netflix this month so worth a watch.

4. 22 Jump Street

Funnily enough I watched this again last night, which is probably why it ended up near the top of the list. It’s a very funny film that has a lot more going on underneath it’s mainstream comedy persona. It should suffer from being a sequel, but where Lord And Miller who made the Lego Movie work so well, have succeeded is in making it very self referential. It has lots of jokes about being a sequel, and the usual traps they fall into. It also has one of the best site gags of the year, involving the name of a building in the university campus where Jenko and Schmidt find themselves undercover and even manages to get an Annie Hall joke in as well. To top it all off the best closing credits of the year.

3. Edge of Tomorrow

Since his infamous couch jumping appearance on Oprah, Tom Cruise has been on the end of a bit of a backlash, his films seem to be shot down before they have even hit the theatres. Last year both Jack Reacher and Oblivion got a lot of negative reviews but personally I really enjoyed both. When Edge Of Tomorrow came out, it actually got very positive reviews from the film press, but for some reason, nobody went to see it, I can vouche for this, I saw it the week it came out and had the entire screen to myself, bad for the film, great for me. It’s a shame as it is a great action film, with a unique twist, as Tom Cruise’s Lt Cage experiences the same day over and over everytime he dies in a D-day style battle against alien invaders. Even if you don’t like Tom Cruise it is so worth checking out, especially as you get to watch him die many numerous and even humourous ways. He is able assisted in the film by the lovely Emily Blunt who as the ‘full metal bitch’, kicks many an aliens butt and tries to keep Cage alive long enough that they can maybe find a weakspot in the invaders plan. I can’t recommend it enough.

1. Guardians Of The Galaxy/ Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Okay so I have copped out when it comes to my favourite film of the year. I have really tried to pick one over the other but, really can’t separate them. Marvel are on such a high at the moment, their films just seem to get better and better, I can’t wait to see Age of Ultron.

It’s funny as Captain America was one of the phase one films that didn’t get a huge amount of love and was stuck in Tony Starks shadow, yet was a fun old style action film, so to see the complete change of tone in Winter Soldier is amazing. What the Russo brothers have produced is an old fashioned conspiracy film but with superheroes and have totally shook up the universe that Marvel has been creating in it’s movies. When the big twist came I was as surprised as anyone. There are clever shots hidden in the film as well, I loved the fact that while Cap is in the lift about to have a contained smackdown, they put the Watergate hotel in the background, the symbol of conspiracies and then to top it off get All The Presidents Men’s, Robert Redford in it as well. Not only did he bring that legacy to the film but also a level of gravitas, a recognition that these are not just silly comic book films anymore. The Winter Soldier was a clever twist as well, making us believe that he was the big bad but really he was just a tool for the real villains and also an important part of Steve Rodgers life. I just loved this film from start to finish, I even made a second trip to the cinema to see it again, something I did with my other number one.

I’m not bragging but back at the start of the year when I first saw the teaser trailer I put my neck out there and said it would be the biggest film of the year. There was just something about it that looked like it had elements that everyone could enjoy and most of all it looked really funny. I was almost right as well, It was the biggest film in the US and only just missed out globally to Transformers, what a disgrace! I think in a year where we eagerly waitied to hear about Star Wars, a fun sci fi film had potential to be huge and in director James Gunn we had a man whose films are always slightly off kilter and made the film fit into the Marvel cinematic universe but also made it very unique as well. I had seen Chris Pratt in Parks and Recreation and he always seemed very likeable, but I would never have said he would be a superstar. He has so much charisma in Guardians, that you can’t help but be a fan, from his little dance at the start to his blacklight joke. The rest of the crew are equally as strong, I have never been a wrestling fan, but Dave Bautista is so good as Drax with his literal interpretation of everything, then we have Rocket and Groot, two completely cg characters but so real, and even though she is back in alien worlds Zoe Saldana adds a good foil to the rest of the gang. The fact this film has been so huge isn’t just due to it’s amazing visuals and action, but because it is a funny film that has a lot of heart. Oh and a killer soundtrack!

Well there you go, thank you for taking the time to read this, if you got this far. There were a few films that have been in the presses top lists of the year, such a Boyhood, which I never got a chance to see, but I shall endeavour to catch up.

Here’s to 2015 a film that has so much to be excited about as a film fan.

 

 

 

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