Top Ten Best Films of 2014

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What a fantastic year to go to the cinema. We were had an awesome blockbuster season including superhero classics such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Science fiction blockbusters such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Edge of Tomorrow, Lucy and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. We also had brilliant films from my favourite directors such as David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. We also had outrageous comedies such as 22 Jump Street and Bad Neighbours. However there were some misses such as the disappointing Transformers: Age of Extinction, Hercules, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Let’s Be Cops. There was also a guilty pleasure for me in the reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I said it was a fantastic year for cinema and one that I will look back on fondly. Below are my top ten films of the year however please note I have not seen; Boyhood, Birdman, Whiplash, The Babadook, Foxcatcher, and many others. As I am still a full time teacher it does get hard to catch up on all the latest releases however I may update this list early next year. As of now I will be taking the summer break and won’t be updating this blog for the rest of 2014. In saying that thanks so much for reading it has been an absolute blast starting this blog and beginning my career as a film critic and blogger.

My Top Ten

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10. Chef

A charming small film filled with wonderful performances, a charming script and beautiful cinematography (especially of the mouth watering food). A return to his indie roots for Jon Favreau and he reminds us of what made him such a talented filmmaker.

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9. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Although we were inundated with superhero films this year we still had excellent entries into the genre including this time travel adventure reuniting the original cast of the X-Men trilogy with the First Class crew. An enjoyable scifi adventure with top knotch performances from Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Hugh Jackman.

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8. Guardians of the Galaxy

“Marvel can do no wrong”. In 2014 this statement was definitely true. A comedy disguised as a science fiction space opera, Guardians was the biggest film of 2014 and much deserved with a great cast, special effects and a feel good air throughout. Guardians proved that Marvel are the kings of the summer blockbuster.

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7. 22 Jump Street

The best comedy of 2014 and also an excellent entry into the buddy comedy sub genre. I love buddy comedy films and this one ranks with the best such as Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys, all while parodying the genre itself and providing real bro chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.

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6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

After 2012’s brilliant Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson is on a roll. With the Budapest Hotel, Anderson has mixed his quirky visual style with an interesting caper filled with his usual band of eclectic characters and superb actors. Visually stunning throughout a true gem.

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5. Interstellar

A breathtaking piece of work. Visually stunning with excellent acting from Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. It is Christopher Nolan’s unique vision that ultimately shines through. This film is not as exciting as Nolan’s previous films such as Inception or The Dark Knight Trilogy however with this film he wears his heart on his sleeve and not only looks at space travel but also digs deep into the relationship of a father and his daughter. A personal piece of filmmaking which was amazing to watch.

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4. Gone Girl

I always imagined what it would be like to sit in the theater in the 50s and 60s and discover one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thrillers and being surprised and shocked throughout. Sitting in the cinema watching Gone Girl I believe I captured that feeling as I sat in suspense and shock throughout the entire film. Brilliant thriller which is up there with the classics of the genre. Watch it without any prior knowledge and you will have one hell of an experience.

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3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

A brilliant science fiction epic delivering everything from amazing special effects to biting social commentary all disguised as a fun summer blockbuster.

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2. Under the Skin

A brilliant piece of art from filmmaker Jonathan Glazer. Disturbing and hypnotic with a daring portrayal from Scarlett Johansson. This is unlike any film you’ve watched before and it will haunt your dreams.

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1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Possibly not what you would expect on a top ten film list, let alone making it to number one. The sequel to a Marvel film. However Marvel have upped the game and produced the most fun spectacle of 2014. No other film I have seen this year left me so excited and in love with cinema as this film did. Excellent performances from Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, and Sebastian Stan. Breathtaking action, fun twists and excellent direction from the Russo brothers. The most fun I had in the cinema all year and the most re-watched film of the year. I love this film! Bring on Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Peace

PLANET OF THE APES RETROSPECTIVE: BEST TO WORST

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What a great series to review this year. Brilliant characters, excellent commentary on real life events and news headlines. Amazing costumes and later special effects. Crazy plots and twists. Excellent set design and imagination. The Planet of the Apes series has endured decades and has had many highs and many lows. In 2014 with the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I decided to look back at the series from the original 1968 classic Planet of the Apes all the way to 2014’s Dawn. It has been a great experience reviewing this film and below I’ll list the best to worst in the series.

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1. Planet of the Apes (1968)

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2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

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3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

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4. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

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5. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

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6. Planet of the Apes (2001)

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7. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

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8. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Although I love Dawn of the Planet of the Apes dearly I still find the original 1968 film to be the best of the series. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent reboot for the franchise and introduced us to Andy Serkis mo-capped Caesar. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was an excellent thriller and showed the beginning of the Planet of the Apes. Beneath the Planet of the Apes was a fun sequel to the original with a completely insane ending. However with a (mostly) absent Charlton Heston the film ultimately struggled. Tim Burton’s remake was disappointing but had some fun elements and excellent costume design. Escape and Battle were pretty forgettable entries in the franchise. All up a great series and I had a lot of fun watching them all.

Hq’s Top Ten – Top Ten Superhero Films of the 2000’s

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Top Ten Superhero Films of the 2000’s

2014 will be another year full of blockbuster superhero films, starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier in April to the epic X-Men: Days of Future Past this July. From 2000 to 2009 films based on comic book superheroes became huge global blockbusters. Most of them easily grossing over $100 million. Beginning with the popularity of Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000 and ending with the dark Watchmen in 2009, superhero and comic book films have become the genre of choice for most studios who wish to have a hit. Over the next couple of weeks I will look back at my favourite superhero films from the past decades. Today I will look back at my personal favourites from 2000 to 2009 where most of today’s hit franchises had their beginnings.

MV5BMTYxMTEzNTgzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjg1MzAwMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR11,0,214,317_10. X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)

Plot: In the near future, people have developed mutant superhuman powers such as psychic abilities, healing abilities and weather control. Professor Charles Xavier runs a school to help these people control their abilities and use them for good.

Review: The first Marvel Comics film of the new millennium. Many people overlook this film as the first major hit featuring comic book characters. The film is expertly crafted by comic book fan director Bryan Singer. The X-Men pop off the page and onto the screen with relative ease, Singer tones down the colourful comic costumes with black leather military style costumes. The action scenes aren’t the best however the performances are top notch with the breakthrough definitely being Hugh Jackman as the popular Wolverine. Jackman created his signature career role as the indestructible loner. Also performances from Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Ian McKellon as Magneto help keep this superhero film feeling as realistic as can be. The film introduced a new aesthetic to the superhero genre and helped get other Marvel Comics off the page and onto the screen with great success.

Blade_II_movie9. Blade II (Guillermo Del Toro, 2002)

Plot: Blade is a “Day-Walker” a half human, half vampire who can walk in the sun but keeps his vampire strength and spends his nights fighting vampires with his samurai swords. In this sequel Blade must make an uneasy alliance with the vampires as there is a deadly threat to vampires and humans called ‘The Reapers’.

Review: Wesley Snipes returns as Blade in a blood soaked adventure that mixes horror with action. Incredible action sequences and Guillermo Del Toro’s imaginative eye for monsters and make up effects make this a sequel that easily surpasses the quite boring original.

MV5BMTc0NjI2OTYxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTcxMjkyMg@@._V1_SX640_SY720_8. Watchmen (Zach Snyder, 2009)

Plot: In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.

Review: An excellent adaptation of Alan Moore’s epic graphic novel ‘Watchmen’. Snyder brings his visual flair from 300 to this dark more adult comic book film. One of the first superhero films to be rated R in America and to feature high impact violence, blood, language, nudity and sex scenes. Top performances from all involved especially Jackie Earle Haley as the tormented Rorschach. Costume design, special effects and direction are all brilliant. However clocking in at almost three hours it did test the patience of most of its viewers. One of the more underrated films of the 00s which should have had a stronger audience.

Ironmanposter7. Iron Man (Jon Fareau, 2008)

Plot: Billionaire arms dealer Tony Stark is kidnapped in Afghanistan and forced to build weapons for the enemy. He instead secretly builds himself a super suit and escapes. Upon his return he decides to change his past ways and become a hero.

Review: The film that brought Marvel Studios and Robert Downey Jr. to extreme success. This is a very tight, fast paced story that set the tone for the numerous Marvel adventures yet to come. Jon Favreau’s sharp direction matched with Robert Downey Jr’s confident portrayal of Tony Stark made this film endlessly watchable and enjoyable for all film lovers. The film became a financial hit and helped Marvel establish their own studio and follow up with other hits such as The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor and the all star ensemble The Avengers. Looking back it all started here with a relatively unknown superhero compared to Spiderman and Batman, Favreau and Downey were able to transition Iron Man into the mainstream with a realistic and modern take on the character. Mixing real world politics with excellent special effects and playful dialogue it’s hard not to love Iron Man.

X2 ONE SHEET A • Art Machine Job#5263 • Version A •  02/28/036. X2: X-Men United/X-Men 2 (Bryan Singer, 2003)

Plot: The X-Men reunite to confront a new threat in the form of a mutant assassin and a deadly politician behind a conspiracy to end mutant life once and for all.

Review: The epic sequel to X-Men is bigger in every way than the original. The characters all have more at stake, the themes are richer, and the action bigger and better and the direction and performances are all at their peak. Possibly the best X-Men film yet as each actor is more confident in their roles. Singer is more confident in his directing, staging epic battle sequences like the airplane chase and the final in the secret bunker. The threat is greater also as the mutants have to fight each other and politicians who wish for them to be gone once and for all. This film changed the way superhero films could be with a bigger budget and more confidence from the studio, the age of the blockbuster superhero film really began here.

unbreakable-pstr5. Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan, 2000)

Plot: An average family man begins to discover he may have supernatural powers after surviving a dangerous train crash.

Review:The first film on this list not to be adapted from a comic book however it deals with the idea and mythology of a superhero. A more realistic take on the superhero genre and a quiet, understated film that is often overlooked as director Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, which came out a year before, was so successful and audiences were expecting another horror story. However looking at it from a fresh perspective one can find an emotional drama filled with fully realised characters, excellent understated performances and a slow and carefully moving narrative that builds to a very satisfying conclusion. Excellent performances from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson and assured direction from an early and confident filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan. His films are now notoriously hated however his early works were brilliantly told tales of human drama mixed with a dash of the supernatural.

batman_begins_ver6_xlg4. Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)

Plot: After the traumatic death of his parents, a young Bruce Wayne plans on ridding crime on the streets of Gotham City forever by becoming a masked vigilante known as the Batman.

Review: After the disaster of Batman & Robin in 1996, the character and films of Batman needed a makeover. Director Christopher Nolan fresh off successful indie thrillers, Memento and Insomnia, proved up for the challenge of handling a big budget production and breathing new life into the Batman mythology by creating a darker, grittier vision of Batman and the citizens of Gotham City. Nolan gave shades of grey to every character in the Batman universe and populated his films with excellent actors such as Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman to give his film a respectability that was greatly needed in the 90s films. Nolan proved adept at bringing Batman into the new millennium and established himself as one of todays most successful and creative directors. This film reintroduced Batman to a new audience and paved the way for a more serious and adult audience for superhero films.

Spider-Man-2-movie-poster3. Spider-man 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004)

Plot: As Peter Parker struggles with his life as Spider-man he must face a new threat from his mentor Dr. Octavious aka Dr. Octopus.

Review: Sam Raimi again excels at bringing Spider-man to the screen. With another excellent performance from Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, we see the downfall of having an alter-ego. Peter must sacrifice his love, his career and his family to help the people of New York and as life becomes increasingly difficult he must ultimately face a choice of whether he is obligated to be Spider-man. An excellent sequel which delves deeper into the character of Peter Parker rather than piling on the action and villains (Unfortunately Spider-man 3 suffers from this). Raimi brings his Evil Dead style to the character of Dr. Octopus especially in the scene where his tentacles begin having a life of their own and attack his doctors. The train sequence alone is worth the price of admission. One of the great superhero films.

082. Spider-man (Sam Raimi, 2002)

Plot: A nerdy teenager named Peter Parker develops spider like supernatural gifts when he is bitten by a radioactive spider on a school excursion. As he becomes the superhero known as Spider-man he must deal with juggling career, love, family and friendship while defending New York City from the villainous Green Goblin.

Review: Although many critics prefer the sequel my heart still belongs to the original feature. Seeing Spider-man come alive on the cinema screen was truly inspiring as I loved the comics as a child and teenager. Sam Raimi showed real appreciation for the comic source as he not only dazzled audiences with Spider-man swinging through the city, he also spent time on the quieter moments and developed the characters of Peter Parker, Mary-Jane, Harry, Norman and Aunt May to add heart to a common origin story. Tobey Maguire excels as a nerdy teenager who grows in himself and realises his full potential as he slowly grows into a man with superhuman abilities. One of the biggest superhero films of the 00s this truly was the dawn of the superhero blockbuster.

MV5BMTMxNTMwODM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODAyMTk2Mw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_1. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

Plot: Batman meets a new force of evil in the Joker a diabolical clown hell bent on destroying not only Gotham City but the hearts of the heroes within.

Review:Truly a masterpiece. Not only the best superhero film of the 00s but one of the best films of all time. Christopher Nolan showed a new side to the superhero genre and proved that they can be ranked with cinema greats such as The Godfather and Star Wars. Building on the aesthetic he created with Batman Begins, Nolan pushes the characters into darker corners with the introduction of the Joker. The direction is flawless and the acting is revelatory. Heath Ledger’s iconic performance will never be surpassed and truly brings this film to another level. Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart also excel in their roles as the heroes obsessed with bringing down the criminals at any cost. A brilliant crime film and impressive in every way. Definitely one of my favourite films and truly a cinematic great.