2014’s Top Films

I know this is a TV blog , but it’s the end of the year and I wanted to do a little retrospective for best films of the year as well as TV shows.
Besides, it’s my blog, my rules. I can do what I like.

BEST ANIMATION: The LEGO Movie

 lego movie

Everything (in this film) is awesome. Bursting at the seams with creativity, wit, silliness,  unexpected satire, and charm, The LEGO Movie was one of the first new films I saw this year and it’s easily one of the best. If you saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you’ll know what to expect. The writers of that film wrote this one, too, and you can tell – it has the same sense of humour, surreal moments, gleeful wackiness and plenty of heart.

The animation is CGI, but is made to look like stop-motion, like it was made with real LEGO, and, impressively, the effect is completely convincing. I often found myself missing jokes and lines of dialogue as I was looking at the sets in the background (where there’s often even more gags) or admiring a part of the scenery.

The film takes a typical hero-saves-the-world plot and messes with it relentlessly, acknowledging cliches, subverting standard tropes (The prophecy, the ‘special one’, etc) and packs as many visual gags, slapstick moments, sly satirical jokes, one-liners, and action scenes as it can into a 90-minute running time that whizzes by.

It’s as colourful as a Skittles explosion in a Crayola factory, funnier than most recent comedies, full of excellent voice acting from an all-star cast (including plenty of cameos), and it has a brilliant and surprisingly sentimental third act that could easily have been eye-rollingly sappy but isn’t. Worth a watch, no matter your age.

BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE: Guardians of the Galaxy/Captain America: The Winter Soldier (TIE)

gotg

This is a tricky one. Spring and Summer were stuffed with superhero films, and the two best ones couldn’t have been more different, which makes choosing which is better quite difficult,

Captain America has always seemed like a dull superhero to me. He has a shield and he’s really tough and noble and yawn yawn yawn. I didn’t see his first outing until the day before I saw the second one, and it was thoroughly mediocre, the second-worst Marvel film I’d seen (Iron Man 2 is the worst, if you’re wondering). I wasn’t planning on seeing the second one at all, but the heaps of positive reviews and praise that it received piqued my interest.

What a surprise it was when I discovered that all the praise and the hype was entirely justified. Almost more of a political thriller than a superhero movie (until the obligatory everything-gets-destroyed action climax), the film examines the effects of a seismic change in the Marvel universe and shows that Captain America can actually be interesting, especially when he’s supported by Black Widow, Nick Fury and the Falcon, who each get plenty of cool moments, quips and character development.

Entrusting a big-budget sequel to the Russo brothers based solely on their direction of some action-heavy episodes of a low-budget sitcom was a bit of a risk for Marvel, but it really paid off.

Even riskier was their decision to make a film out of an obscure bunch of characters that no-one except the most die-hard comic fans had heard of. This bunch of characters also happened to inhabit a part of the Marvel universe that had barely been seen in the films so far and featured some particularly out-there ideas. The Guardians of the Galaxy film was a litmus test. If audiences reacted well to this bunch of nobodies and their deep-space adventures in weird alien civilisations, then it boded well for future films that could be equally weird.

Thanks to an offbeat sense of humour, great performances from the entire cast and an oddly-fitting ’70s soundtrack, everyone loved it, myself included. It’s easily the funniest and rudest Marvel film so far and the plot rattles along at a good pace. Director and writer James Gunn skilfully weaves bits of necessary exposition to this strange part of the universe between jokes, character introductions and fights. Despite being the least heroic heroes in Marvel, it’s difficult not to like and root for them.

It also has a maniacal weapon-obsessed talking raccoon and a strong sentient tree with a limited vocabulary and an adorable smile. They, quite rightly, steal the show.

The sweeping starry vistas, the bizarre aliens, the crazy costumes… it’s Marvel doing Star Wars. But after seeing this in cinemas twice, I’m – whisper it – actually looking forward to the Guardians sequel far more than Star Wars Episode VII.

So yes, it’s a tie. Guardians was more fun, but Cap 2 was a seriously good thriller. Both were well-directed and well-written, both had well-choreographed fight scenes and great final battles. I just can’t choose.

For my favourite comedy and sci-fi of the year, click ‘Read More’!

BEST COMEDY: 22 Jump Street

jump street

A little self-awareness goes a long way. Shamelessly repeating the same plot of the first film would normally be seen as lazy and money-grabbing, but in 22 Jump Street it works. The film relentlessly mocks itself, and the movie industry in general, by repeating the same formula as 21 Jump Street with its tongue firmly in its cheek, and tweaks the plot just enough to get away with it.

It also helps that the film doesn’t rely solely on self-referential meta humour to get by. It also uses Tatum and Hill’s excellent chemistry to get most of the laughs.

After a quick briefing that tells them, and the audience, why this sequel to a reboot that nobody wanted exists in the first place, and a quick tour of the new, bigger-budget HQ that’s just across the street from their old one, Schmidt and Jenko are sent to college to find the supplier of a new drug that’s spreading through campus.

It’s goofy and entertaining from start to finish. Even the credits at the end are full of jokes – they’re a highlight of the film, which isn’t something you can say about many end credits.

It’s funny. Comedy sequels are often a disappointment, but this is as funny as the first one.

BEST SCI-FI: Interstellar

interstellar

Interstellar packs one hell of a punch. It mixes together jaw-dropping spectacle, intense emotional moments and soaring, deafeningly-loud music to create the best experience I’ve had in a cinema this year.

It’ll definitely lose something on the smaller screen, but the (inter)stellar performances (I’m sorry) from McConaughey et al make it worth a watch when it ends up on BluRay. McConaughey is Cooper, a former pilot living with his daughter and son on an Earth that is rapidly running out of food and the environment is playing havoc with the crops.

He stumbles upon a secret NASA base where Michael Caine tells him all about their last-ditch attempt to find a new home for humanity, how long they have before it’s too late, and why Cooper could be the one to pilot the rocket and save the future of the human race (Michael Caine? In a Nolan movie? Explaining the plot? It’s hard to believe, I know).

Soon, after a tearful goodbye to his children, Cooper’s off into space with a crew and a couple of robots to fly through a wormhole and explore the universe.

Cue lots and lots and lots of special effects – including vistas of Saturn, a trip through a wormhole and new planets with unforgiving environments – interspersed with family drama, crying, explanations of concepts that the crew probably should have known before going into space in the first place, a couple of twists and a loud bang.

Watching it in IMAX was a draining experience, and not just because of the lengthy running time. It was almost overwhelming and though this effect may be diminished when watched at home without the gigantic screen, the wall of sound and the seat-shaking bass, for me it was one of the cinematic highlights of the year.

So there we are, my top five of the year.

My film-watching resolution for 2015 is to watch a wider variety of films in the cinema. I tend to only watch big blockbusters and comedies at the cinema and wait for the award-winners or the quirky indie films to show up on Netflix or Sky Movies before I give them a go. That’ll change next year.

I’ve missed out on seeing some of the most highly-praised films of this year, like The Imitation Game or Boyhood or Nightcrawler or The Grand Budapest Hotel, and I regret not going to see them, even if I would have had to go the cinema alone. Well, that won’t happen next year.

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