Opinion Piece

My Top Ten Favorite Movies Of 2014

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Aside from games movies hold a very dear place in my heart, and over the past year I’ve even written just a few small pieces on them on this very website. Actually finding the time required to sit down and watch a movie, though, is an altogether different prospect. These days I don’t tend to venture forth to a cinema because ticket prices are pretty high, as is the cost of the train ride to get to the actual showing. Instead I tend to pick up whatever film I’m interested in when it arrives on Blu-ray. Of course there are exceptions. I ventured in to see the final two movies on this list, for example.

Before we begin here’s the standard gamut of disclaimers;

Disclaimer 1: It’s all just opinion.  This is a list of the films that I personally loved from the past year, and it will likely be a very different list from your own unless we have a worryingly similar taste in movies.

Disclaimer 2: This is a list of my favorite movies, not what I believe to be the best movies. There’s a huge difference between the two. The movies here simply clicked with me for whatever reason, such as tapping into my love of animation or comics.

Disclaimer 3: only movies I’ve seen can be on the list. Again, quite obvious but worth saying nonetheless. If I never saw the movie it can’t be here, and since I’m just one person with a very tight budget there’s a lot of stuff I missed or am yet to see, including the truly amazing looking Whiplash, the perfect film for a drummer like myself. I never did see Under the Skin, marvel at Big Hero 6 or even witness the climatic events of the final Hobbit movie. Therefore if a movie you love isn’t here it’s likely because I didn’t like it as much or I just didn’t see it.

With all that said, let’s get on with this. No, seriously, let’s get on with this, I’ve got more Dragon Age: Inquisition to play. Ten hours in and loving it.

Snowpiercer

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Note: Snowpiercer actually got released in many places in 2013. However, for the UK and US it arrived in 2014.

Among the circle of friends that I know saw Snowpiercer it has been a decidedly divisive film, with some loving it and others struggling to onboard with the often odd tone of the movie, a feeling that comes to a head during a brutal fight scene where the enemy suddenly stop what they are doing in order to loudly proclaim, “Happy New Year” as the train they are living on completes yet another circuit. I can understand the divide in feelings.

But for me it was brilliant, and I’m patiently awaiting the opportunity to grab the movie on Blu-ray in order to view it a second time. Chris Evans puts in a stunning performance in this rather odd movie about the remnants of humanity surviving within a train which must never stop. The world, you see, has frozen over, leaving the majority of humankind sort of screwed.

That part doesn’t matter much. What matters is the strange society that has grown within the train, mirroring our own vast disparities in wealth. It’s all of Earth packed into a train, with religion and the position of the wealthy exaggerated in an almost funny way.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Marvel struck hard this year. Cap’s debut back in The First Avenger was solid but not exactly spectacular, and his role in the Avengers was fun but somewhat overshadowed by the blistering personalities surrounding him. It’s fair to say that he’s pretty low on the list of favorite Avengers, at least in terms of the film universe. The Winter Soldier succeeds in taking the one Avenger everyone seemed pretty meh about and making him interesting.

There’s definite flaws here, such as Nick Fury not actually being dead continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s irritating habit of not actually killing people and the completely out of place Zolla segment in the underground lair, but for the most part this is a fun movie with some awesome action sequences. That opening sequence on the ship? Ooft. The Winter Soldier makes for a formidable opponent for Cap, and by God does the film look amazing on Blu-ray. There’s just a hint of thriller in there, too, which seals the deal. By time the next Avengers comes around people will know that you don’t screw with Cap.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Despite having an idiotic name worthy of much mockery Dawn of the Rise of the Beginning of the Start of the Apes is a damn fine movie which serves as the perfect summer blockbuster while packing in more substance than usually found in such films. Andy Serkis again proves he’s the current reigning king of motion capture by delivering a breathtaking performance as Caeser. Indeed it’s a testament to the CGI and incredible motion capture that I cared far more deeply about the apes than I ever did their less interesting human counterparts.

Oh, and then there’s an ape on horseback using machine guns to fight a tank. I mean c’mon, what’s not to like?

The LEGO Movie

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Who the hell could have predicted this movie being not just good but fantastic? I mean, really. It’s a never-ending parade of insanity from start to finish and truthfully none of it should work together. It should feel disjointed and stupid and pointless, but it never does.

Instead we have absolute hilarity. I don’t think even one joke failed to elicit at least a smile from me, and the twist ending was absolutely superb stuff. The beautiful visuals, constant sense of movement and slapstick humour will keep kids entertained, but for adults there’s plenty to enjoy and that twist will be even more effective. It’s a true family film in the sense that there’s something for everyone. It’s also a far more intelligent film than it has any right to be.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Time travel seems to almost automatically bring with it plot holes galore, and thus X-Men: Days of Future past has quite a lot of them, beginning with the pertinent question of when Kitty Pryde learned to send people’s consciousness back in time. Of course time travel does also allow the existence of X-Men 3 to be expunged from history, so all is forgiven.

And then there’s the question of why Quicksilver is never used again given how effective he clearly is.

But hey, plot-picking aside this really is a great movie.  Hugh Jackman could play Wolverine in his sleep now, and actually quite literally does at some points, but once again it’s James McAvoy who steals the show as a young Charles Xavier. It’s well shot with some great action.

The Raid 2

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The Raid was a low-budget action movie entirely light on plot but very heavy on the hard-core, fantastically choreographed violence. It was beautiful in its own blood-soaked, adrenaline fuelled way, and in the process of being just that it single-handedly demonstrated everything that is wrong with modern action direction by doing pretty much everything right. And then the sequel came along and blew it out the water, adding an actual plot which was quite interesting and taking the main character away from the single tower block location of the first film, opting instead for a variety of lovely locations. The fight scenes are glorious in their execution and the camera work superb throughout.

Interstellar

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I’ve always been very divided when it comes to Christopher Nolan. While I usually enjoy his work almost all of his movies have a strange, cold style that I struggle to get over at times. I can’t pinpoint it, but it’s always there, along with every character’s inability to actually speak like a human being.

But while these flaws are present in Intersteller I was still hooked for the whole thing. Thought I predicted exactly what the mysterious ghost was at the beginning of the movie the journey taken to discover how its existence came to pass was fantastic. Fairly flat characters doesn’t stop the plot from hitting with the force of a sledgehammer to the abdomen in a beautiful blend of science and pure fantasy.

Edge of Tomorrow

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A gamers movie for sure, Edge of Tomorrow is essentially about respawning over and over until you manage to kill the boss. It looks astounding on Blu-ray and Tom Cruise kills it, as he pretty much always does. It’s nice to see him take on a role where he begins as the complete opposite of a hero, and eventually grows into the role.Emily Blunt deserves some serious praise, too.

The plot is simple, but the execution is hard to fault. The brief moments of comedy are well judged and the action is a blast to watch. It’s just a shame that nobody seemed interested in the film prior to launch, and when you throw a messy advertising campaign into the mix you get something of a commercial flop. I highly recommend watching it.

And no, despite what the DVD/Blu-ray cover would have you think it’s not called Live. Die. Repeat. It’s called Edge of Tomorrow.

How To Train Your Dragon 2

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I’ve always had a soft spot for animated films, and an even bigger soft spot for How to Train Your Dragon, a brilliant movie in just about every way. I’ve written before about How to Train your Dragon 2, describing it as a great example of how to build a sequel. After watching it several more times I’ve become even more impressed with the themes running throughout the movie that successfully make it not only fun for kids but also for adults like me.

The decision to jump time forward was inspired, as was choosing to simply make Hiccup and Astrid a couple without going through the standard romance template. The fact that the first movie was about Hiccup being right and his ability to persuade everyone else is neatly mirrored this time in that it’s actually Hiccup who is wrong and won’t listen to everyone else, ultimately costing the life of his father. Then you’ve got the fact that the movie doesn’t go for the obvious love triangle or obvious reactions from Hiccup and Stoick in regards to a certain twist.  The entire movie is funny, touching and action-packed with some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen. I adore this movie.

The Guardians of the Galaxy

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While there will be some who roll their eyes at such a mainstream and obvious choice the simple fact of the matter is that as an avid comic fanatic I adored Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, there’s better films on this list, but the reason Guardians takes the top slow for my favorite movie of the year is because it’s incredibly easy to watch over and over again. I can slide the disc in to my player and then just kick back and relax.

The movie has flaws. There’s a couple of lines of awkward dialogue, for example. Gamora feels like the weakest of the Guardians, her character overshadowed by the rest of the group. Likewise Nebula feels almost superfluous to the plot at times, and Ronan, while physically imposing, is a pretty straightforward villain with a questionable look. And I’m still wondering why such a powerful artifact was left lying around for so long or how Gamora found Quill so easily.

But I don’t care about those flaws. It’s hard to care about them when the move is this funny and fun to watch. Chris Pratt plays the role of Star Lord perfectly, Batista surprises as Drax with his comedic timing and dry delivery, and of course Groot and Rocket steal the show through beautiful CGI and the excellence of Bradley Cooper. Even Zoe Saldana did well with what she had as Gamora.

So there we go, my favorite movies of 2014 in no particular, although if I had to put them on some semblence of order you can be assured that Gaurdians and How to Train Your Dragon 2 would occupy the top two slots. This really was a fantastic year for movies and there’s so many great films that I missed out on, like Nightcrawler. As always I’ll catch up via Blu-ray, but it’ll take time.

Take care folks.

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