Hello there – welcome to Screen Machine, the ultimate place for semi-coherent film and TV ramblings (I knew you were looking for one!).
Since it’s coming towards the end of the year, with 2015 looming on the horizon, it’s time to completely refuse to acknowledge the future, and instead look back at the past. 2014’s been an interesting year for movies – from the sublime to the ridiculous (hi, The Amazing Spider-Man 2!), and everything in between. Below, in no particular order, are my five favourite films of 2014 (and no, I’m not exactly a film critic, so there won’t be too many indies):
The LEGO Movie
It sounded awful. A bunch of colourful toy bricks made into a movie whose primary purpose was to sell more toys? Surely it couldn’t have worked, thought everyone. Somehow, it did – with a terrific voice cast featuring Chris Pratt (who will appear again in this list, because one Chris Pratt is not enough) and Will Ferrell, a hilarious portrayal of Batman (who’ll be getting his very own LEGO movie) and a plot that not only made sense, but managed to be surprisingly heartwarming – with a neat twist in the third act to flip the entire movie on its head. Most of all, however, The LEGO Movie was funny. Really, really funny. From Batman to Liam Neeson’s Good Cop/Bad Cop, The LEGO Movie managed to be funnier than any completely corporate movie had any right to be. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, we salute you.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
From a movie everyone thought would be terrible, to a movie that looked (and was) fantastic from trailer one. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a solid sock to the jaw for the franchise back in 2011 – and Dawn expanded on it in all the ways you’d want and more. The stunning motion capture work improved (complete with Andy Serkis’ and Toby Kebbell’s performances), the direction improved, and the movie managed to do some genuinely new things, such as a 15-minute prologue consisting of only sign language. It may have scuffed up the human characters a little, but Dawn was an excellent, thrilling blockbuster that often felt nothing like a blockbuster.
Interstellar has been a divisive one on the internet – it almost divided my brain, such is the mix of triumphant highs and irritating lows in Christopher Nolan’s latest. There’s no doubting the ambition that’s gone into the movie – the outer space scenes are breathtaking, the plot is something genuinely unique and there’s some genuinely unexpected twists (including the emergence of a familiar actor who had been completely absent from trailers). The emotion is far improved from Nolan’s usual work, too – scenes such as Matthew McConaughey tearfully reacting to decades of messages from his daughter feel very far removed from Nolan’s usual cerebral work. There’s flaws aplenty – underdeveloped characters, predictable deaths and an ending that drowns in confusing technobabble – but Interstellar remains something quite special.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
I had heard pretty much nothing about Budapest when I went into the cinema, and as such my expectations were pretty low. Two hours later, I emerged slightly confused and very impressed (it may have been the other way round). Budapest is a madcap, fast-paced caper that often dips a little too far into ‘wacky’ territory – but it’s continually saved by the flurry of genuinely funny moments and a strong central performance from Ralph Fiennes (who, despite being ingrained in my head as Voldemort, is a great comedic actor) that help make Budapest one of the most purely fun movies of the year. Add in some stylised direction from Wes Anderson that lends the film a properly unique feel and a whole host of cameos from famous faces, and you have a film worthy of the great honour of being on this list. Yes, great honour.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Oh yes, I am mainstream. And to be saying that about Guardians of the Galaxy, a previously obscure comic about a team of bizarre characters that many presumed would be a flop, is quite saying something. Guardians, however, rocketed straight into the mainstream world – and it’s hard not to see why. The central performances are all great fun – with Dave Bautista’s Drax a surprise highlight – and it all feels very fresh for a superhero movie. It does slip into the superhero formula a tad (with a wishy-washy MacGuffin plot that’s ripped from the Generic Book of Marvel Plots), but Guardians manages to be a quirky, funny hit that stands head and shoulders above some of the Dark Und Gritty fare we’ve been fed lately, and lays some intriguing groundwork for later events in the Marvel universe.
The Amazing Spider Man 2
I’m kidding. Or am I?