In no particular order here are FIFTEEN moments, actors, scenes, characters, set-pieces, dialogue etc. which stuck in my noggin during the year of 2014.
SET-PIECE OF 2014 – QUIKSILVER SCENE IN FORT KNOX DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
VISION – JONATHAN GLAZER – UNDER THE SKIN (2013)
Glazer showed that with a low budget, vision and powerful concept you could genuinely move, surprise, creep and capture the imagination of an audience. Sparse and enigmatic this film was my best of the year while scene on the beach was one of the most harrowing I ever seen. I hope this filmmaker doesn’t leave such a gap following the under-rated Birth (2004) ten years prior.
VILLAIN – MARTON CSOKAS – THE EQUALIZER (2014)
This okay-Denzil Washington-violent-80s-remake was lifted above the parapet by a stunning turn by Marton Csokas as the main evil Russian stereotype. I had a lot of fun with his actoring as he scoffed not just the furniture but the upholstery as well.
KICKING ASS – EMILY BLUNT – EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)
Doug Liman’s very entertaining sci-fi movie turned the gender tables with Blunt playing the action hero. Of course, the universe could not sustain such a polarity and in the final act Cruise’s initial anti-heroism was blown away. But it was good while it lasted!
FUNNIEST USE OF AIR BAGS – BAD NEIGHBOURS (2014)
BEST FIGHT SCENE IN A LIFT – CAPTAIN AMERICA: TWS (2014)
WORST BEST MAN’S SPEECH EVER – TRUE DETECTIVE (2014)
Take it away Nic Pizzolatto and McConaughey in the best monologue of the year.
HAIR – AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)
A funny and suspenseful character-led con story found Bale, Lawrence, Cooper and Adams chewing up the scenery. However, their scenes were quite often stolen by their hairstyles and toupees.
STYLE – INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)
Not much happened in this story of a failed folk musician grieving for a lost friend. But the whole design, look, colour, cinematography, music, period setting and cast made it an utter joy from start to end.
AWE-INSPIRING VISUALS – INTERSTELLAR (2014)
I have only seen this film once but had very big problems with the script but there is no taking away the incredible visuals on show. It was the storytelling and what the humans were saying I took issue with.
DEPICTION OF ADDICTION – THORIN OAKENSHIELD THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE 5 ARMIES (2014)
Peter Jackson dug into his box of magic tricks to pull off ANOTHER Tolkien-inspired series of battles. But it was Thorin’s battle with his addiction to gold which I connected with most.
BEST WAR – DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
Arguably one of the most enduring images of the year was Koba riding into battle with fire burning behind him capturing the passion and anger of the character and intensity of battle raging at the time.
ONE TAKE – TRUE DETECTIVE (2014)
MOST COMPELLING CHARACTER LOU BLOOM/JAKE GYLLENTHAL – NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)
Me and my son Rhys have a Christmas tradition (well of the last 3 years) which involves going to the cinema to watch an action-packed if overlong adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s classic novel The Hobbit. After all watching Elves, Men, Women, Wizard, Eagles, Dwarves etc., slaying Orcs are what Christmas is all about! And while I munch on my popcorn and slurp my diabetes inducing soda my son falls asleep. It’s a comforting bonding experience between father and son and I just don’t know what I’m going to do NEXT year! Oh wait, the new new new Star Wars: A Force Awakens (2015) comes out. Problem solved!
Peter Jackson is one of my directorial heroes because made his own way up the cinematic ladder. On zero budgets he made cult classics such as: Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles (1989) and one of the best films ever made Braindead (1992). He then made the exquisite Heavenly Creatures (1994) which also introduced us to the ample talents of one Kate Winslet. Following the under-rated ghoulish horror-action-comedy The Frighteners (1996) he immersed himself in the world of Tolkien and delivered a brilliant vision of the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy reaching a peak as a director of epic proportions. Of course he has now returned to the king of fantasy in the last few years with The Hobbit trilogy and I’ll be honest there was absolutely no need, in terms of story, to make THREE films out of the book. But hey, he’s done it and the final film is arguably the best of the lot.
If Lord of The Ring’s was Tolkien’s allegory for World War II then The Hobbit is clearly his response to the first ‘Great’ war; and not a chocolate bar or game of football in sight. Because the rise of Sauron echoes the rise of Fascism and the battle at Lonely Mountain — following Smaug the Dragon’s desolation of Laketown — mirrors the ruling classes battle over land rights (amongst other complex issues) which led to the disgusting loss of life during World War I. Thus, with Thorin Oakenshield holding the mountain Dwarves, Elves, Men and Monsters congregate for one hell of a battle.
While it took a while to get there with two half-decent films afore Peter Jackson’s Battle of the Five Armies is a tremendous, staunch and bruising finale to Tolkien’s amazing vision. There is not much plot but rather incredible action and great visual storytelling. The images created showing Thorin’s descent into gold madness as he battles his addiction and greed were most memorable for me; especially at this time of ultra-consumerism. Moreover, the final battle sequences involving Thorin, Legolas, Kili and Tauriel were incredibly exciting and I had my heart in my mouth at moments. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) once again plays his part attempting to make peace and stop the folly of war plus the romance between Kili the Dwarf and beautiful Elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) added some unexpected pathos.
Overall this is a film to watch on the biggest screen you can find. Take your brain out, sit back and watch as Peter Jackson commandeers his units and soldiers from one lusty death blow to another. There was absolutely NO need to make three films out of Tolkien’s adventure but in a way I’m glad he did because there’s nothing I like more that to watch a great piece of orchestrated action at the cinema. At the end I turned to my son and found him snoring in the seat next to me and thought yes: Christmas is here!
To accompany the list of my most entertaining films I saw last year I’ve also compiled a few nominations for best this and that!
**** CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
BEST PHOTOGRAPHY – ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013) What it lacks in plot it makes up with one incredibly designed scene after another. And the violence is something else!
MOST HEART-WRENCHING SCENE – FLIGHT (2012) The film opens with a tremendously staged plane crash. However, the scene where Denzil battles a miniature bottle of booze has almost more riding on it dramatically. Tension, suspense and the agony of human frailty are all in this scene. The moment we’ve all been through where we are battling our demons and trying to do the right thing is centre to the scene. Will Denzil pick up the bottle? Will the angels or demons win out?
BEST CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE – GRAVITY (2013) All I can say is wow! This film was just wow! Some have criticized a lack of plot and characterisation but this is a movie which just takes your breath away. As I said, wow!
MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENE – RUST & BONE (2012) Marion Cotillard’s Killer Whale trainer reconnects with nature in this serene moment from a compelling drama. It’s a beautiful moment for the audience visually and also the character.
BEST ENDING/BEST CAST – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) Whether the film is truth or fiction Tom Hanks’ acting throughout is superb. He’s none better than in the final scene when he reaches the medical bay. The way he releases the tension it so memorable. His co-star Barkhad Abdi has to get an Oscar nod too for Best Supporting Actor.
BEST MOVIE PLOT + TWIST – SIDE EFFECTS (2013) This film genuinely pulls the rug from underneath your feet! Fantastic storytelling! It starts seemingly as a critique of the pharmaceutical industry but then becomes a nasty, lurid Hitchcockian thriller with great performances from Jude Law and Rooney Mara.
BEST BRITISH FILM – BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2012) Both a tribute to Italian Horror and the Foley Artist this is a disturbing arthouse horror which generates its’ scares through the sound. You think you’ve seen something scary but haven’t. Incredibly constructed and recommended for cinephiles all over.
BEST GAG – ANCHORMAN 2
I couldn’t find a clip but Brian Fantana’s gag was the funniest joke I heard at the cinema all year. The News Team’s attempt at 24 hour News has seemingly failed and in the scene Brian is asked what he will do next. He replies:
“I’m going to cruise round with my friends O.J. Simpson, Robert Burke and Phil Spector. We call ourselves the LadyKillers!”
BEST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK – WORLD’S END (2013) Pegg and Wright’s highly entertaining apocalyptic comedy is touching, action-packed and amusing. It gets a bit silly by the end but there’s a great energy and some funny dialogue and physical humour throughout. The soundtrack is a cracker featuring the Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Sisters Of Mercy and the Soup Dragons to name just a few. It’s like the perfect Indie Disco in the cinema!
BIGGEST MOVIE LET-DOWN – MAN OF STEEL (2013) A great cast and stupendous effects could not save the broken-backed Superman story crash and burn. Henry Cavill was a terrific Kal-El but the filmmakers ruined the whole piece by cramming too much into a few hours of screen time and not allowing the cast, characters or story to breathe. It was sensory overload and bogged down with too much exposition. The Batman v. Superman film under Zack Snyder’s direction could possibly signal the end of the comic book boom of recent time. The bubble is going to burst at some point I tells ya!
FILM MOST F*CKED BY THE CRITICS – LONE RANGER (2013)
This mega-budget update of the old radio/TV show from yesteryear was nowhere near as bad as the critics made out. It followed the ‘PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN’ template but perhaps the problem was Johnny Depp playing deadpan rather than drunken Pirate. The critics didn’t go for it and nor did the audience as it kind of bombed as well. However, Gore Verbinski directed with verve and energy and the final set-piece on the train is one of the best action sequences of the year.
BEST SCREEN CHEMISTRY – SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)
I was tempted to say BREAKING BAD but Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were electric in David O. Russell’s bipolar romantic drama/comedy. The whole cast were great in fact including Robert DeNiro as the bookie father and Chris Tucker as a friend of Cooper’s character. But Cooper and Lawrence made the film their own with their portrayals of damaged but very human couple finding each other in a crazy world.
BEST MOVIE WITHOUT A SCRIPT – WORLD WAR Z – (2013) Brad Pitt’s travelogue around the World avoiding a zombie plague was actually really entertaining in places with some great set-pieces but it had a lousy script with essentially no story or plot. They genuinely feel like they’re making it up as they’re going along. Having said all that I really enjoyed it at the cinema even though Pitt was miscast and this really needed a decent action-hero like Schwarzenegger in his prime to really boost the movie.
BEST FEMALE ARCHER – THE HOBBIT 2 (2013)
I love an action women especially one with a bow and arrow and this award came down to a toss-up between Jennifer Lawrence in HUNGER GAMES 2 and Evangeline Lilly. In the end I came down on the side of Tauriel the Elf in Peter Jackson’s behemoth production of THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. Jumping, spinning and diving about firing and killing Orcs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What a woman!
BEST DOUBLE ACT – RUSH (2013) RUSH was indeed a big rush cinematically but the casting of Daniel Bruehl as cool Nikki Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as fiery James Hunt motored this movie along off the track too. The characterizations dealt solely in binary but provided much entertainment along the way. Of course Ron Howard and his creative team served up some wicked action as well.
BAD-ASSEST REVENGE – DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Tarantino’s fantasy Western saw Jamie’s Foxx’s eponymous hero rise from that of a chained-in-pain slave to a kill-crazy-bounty-hunting-dancing-horse-riding-bad-ass-mutha-fuKKKa! Everything about this film was a hoot and so entertaining! It also has arguably the funniest scene I saw all year too with the racists on horseback including Jonah Hill arguing about the quality of their hoods.
BEST VILLAIN – DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) Calvin Candie was a horrific character and played with genuine charm by the masterful Leonardo DiCaprio. HE should have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in my view as Christophe Waltz already had one! Candie’s character was not only a vain, insane, murdering slave trader but there was a sense of an incestuous relationship with his sister. He got his just desserts in the end but alas DiCaprio didn’t from the Academy.
BEST FRANCHISE SEQUEL – IRON MAN 3 (2013) 2013 was big on Franchise equals, sequels and prequels including FAST & FURIOUS 6, THOR 2, HUNGER GAMES 2, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and THE HOBBIT 2. They were all really really entertaining but my favourite was the ever dependable Robert Downey Jnr as Tony Stark. It had some cracking one-liners and decent villains plus a lovely little twist which had all the fanboys up in arms because of Director Shane Black’s irreverent treatment of the Mandarin character.