2014 IN REVIEW – MY LOOK BACK AT THE YEAR IN CINEMA

2014 has not overall been any worse or better than other year; like any other year, 2014 has had its fair share of good, bad and mediocre films. The main reason why I find that sometimes the feelings of each year being predominantly dominated by bad or mediocre films is that these are the films with the biggest marketing budgets, and so as we go about our daily lives we unfortunately find ourselves surrounded by images of these films. However there are plenty of great films out there, it sometimes requires a little bit of effort to find them, but that makes their discovery all the more rewarding.

None of the films mentioned here feature in my top 10 best films of the year, and only one mentioned features in my worst ten films of the year. However, for a variation of reasons, I feel they all most certainly deserve a mention, whether that happens to be a mention that is honourable or dishonourable.

Guiltiest pleasure: Pompeii

POMPEII-MOVIE

Never a director that goes for subtlety, Paul W.S. Anderson’s story of one of the most famous volcanic eruptions in history was always unlikely to be either historically accurate or particularly deep with him at helm. By definition, Pompeii is a bad film but yet it has so many likeable qualities that it is impossible not watch its (appropriately) brief 105 minute running time without a permanent smile on one’s face. There are different realms of bad when it comes to films, there are films that are infuriatingly bad, but also films that a hilariously bad; Pompeii very much fits into the latter for me. Every year a film comes along that is so bad it actually goes beyond the realms of actually being bad and becomes somehow, well, good. Pompeii is very much that film.

To read my full review, click here

Biggest disappointment: The Expendables III

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It gives no me pleasure whatsoever to say this, but as a huge fan of the first two films (for admittedly various reasons), the third adventure for Stallone and his aging mates was just a total disappointment. Now entering franchise territory, number 3 seemed to forget the whole point of what The Expendables is about and so is an overlong, under violent bloated mess of a film. It has the occasional decent moments and Mel Gibson certainly goes for it, but the action is dull and the focus on younger additions to the cast is a total own goal.

To read my full review, click here

The film that had no right to be good but was: The Lego Movie

2014 review 3

Who didn’t love Lego as a kid? A film was always inevitable, but in this day and age of lazy and cynical writing in mainstream cinema there was a high likelihood it would be rubbish. Well, thankfully The Lego Movie is written and directed by the team that put together Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller). Though it may have a little bit of schmaltz at the end, most importantly the film is genuinely funny from start to finish with endless visual gags and sharp and witty dialogue throughout.

To read my full review, click here

The most unnecessarily intense performance: Aaron Paul (Need for Speed)

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Aaron Paul can be a very charismatic actor, and though he tries to add some serious brooding intensity to give some kind of backstory and emotional investment to his protagonist in Scott Waugh’s terrible overlong bore-fest, it is wasted by a bland story, horrible dialogue and some very poorly written characters. At least Michael Keaton played it for laughs.

To read my full review, click here

The most self indulgent film: Chef

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Having made a few friends in Hollywood and films that have made a fair amount of money, an actor/ director can then often get the funding for a film which is very much theirs. Many directors do the whole ‘one for them, one for me’ thing and others use the new found creative freedom to truly unleash their imagination and talent to make some exceptional films. While others like to make the occasional self indulgent vanity project, and for me Chef was exactly that to Jon Favreau; Enjoyable enough and made with just about enough good intentions, but there was no doubting that Favreau made Chef first and foremost for himself.

To read my full review, click here

The most audaciously ludicrous plot: Gone Girl

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A vast majority of people loved Gone Girl, and I fully expect it to appear in many top 10s of the year, and though it is good, it is not that good in my view. It is a film that caused great debate; is it a serious discussion on relationships? It is a commentary on media manipulation? Is it misogynistic in its depiction of women? Well, it can be all of those of things, one of those things or none of those things if you want to it to be (Though for me it is too silly, contrived and obvious to be any of those). What it most certainly is however, is completely bonkers, (As if Paul Verhoven decided to remake Ingmar Bergmann’s Scenes from a Marriage) and for that reason alone was extremely entertaining and for me, often laugh-out-loud funny forgettable pap. Once we receive the truth behind ‘Amazing’ Amy’s disappearance the film just goes into hyper drive with a succession of increasingly preposterous and silly plot twists and it produces a final third that is often absolutely hilarious. I am pretty confident that David Fincher was in on the joke; I am sure you enjoyed making Gone Girl David, but can we have another Zodiac next time please?

To read my full review, click here

The migraine inducer: Transformers: Age of Extinction

2014 review 7

Though I would argue that there were many far, far worse films in 2014 than Michael Bay’s fourth Transformers instalment, at 165 minutes, in 3D and being directed by Michael Bay I cannot deny the fact that seeing Age of Extinction at the cinema was not only exhausting, but headache-inducing. A director that tends to overstuff his films, with every film he seems to be trying to outdo the previous one in terms of running time (and the audience’s patience). Though there is some kind of plot in their somewhere amongst all the metal-smashing carnage, there were way too many moments of ‘bayhem’ for most people’s eyes, ears, minds and indeed, souls.

To read my full review, click here

The most overrated film: Lucy

2014 review 8

Though American Hustle (released on 01/01/2014 here so therefore illegible for a review of 2014) was a very early contender for overrated film of the year and then Under the Skin certainly emerged as one too, the clear winner has to be Lucy. Lucy enjoyed huge box office success and has been regarded as an apparent return to form for Luc Besson. Well, there are those moments in one’s life that you look back at and realise it was time spent that was completely wasted and is now irretrievable; well, not only was seeing Lucy at the cinema that, it was also the longest 89 minutes of my life! It is a film that is infuriatingly bad; a stupid concept that undermines any investment or interest in an already awful plot all put together with no clear cohesion that just gets progressively irritating until its horrible conclusion. The ‘action’ sequences are all terrible, but because of the film’s plot, not only does this allow for some extremely lazy writing, but Lucy is actually an anti-action film. It is a truly arduous viewing experience and Luc Besson needs to stop making films!

To read my full review, click here

The snooze-fest: A Walk Among the Tombstones

2014 review 9

To say Liam Neeson has become typecast in the later years of his acting career could certainly be described as somewhat of an understatement, but he has the right amount of brooding screen presence to pull it off. His choices seem to be increasingly questionable and the unbelievably dull A Walk Among the Tombstones is further proof of this. Director Scott Frank ticks off all the clichés as he attempts to make a slow burn, dialogue-heavy, old school style detective thriller. I most certainly do not have a problem with that, in fact I would love more films to be like that, but not if they have a lazy and contrived plot, awful dialogue and no substance whatsoever to back up the unimaginative and unashamedly plagiarised style! Even Neeson looks bored in this extremely laborious viewing experience.

To read my full review, click here

The blockbuster of the year: Edge of Tomorrow

2014 review 10

As much as I am a big fan of Tom Cruise, I never expected my favourite big budget film of 2014 to be the cruiser’s annual blockbuster. However, despite some pretty big competition from some very established franchises and characters, Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth’s adaptation of a graphic novel (described by many as Groundhog Day mixed with Starship Troopers) was for me the year’s best blockbuster simply because it had the perfect balance that all good blockbusters require. It could have been a potentially frustrating narrative but yet with its fast pace, not too long (113 minutes is just right as it doesn’t even give anyone time to start questioning the potential plot holes) running time and Cruise on his usual charismatic form, Edge of Tomorrow is non-stop thrill ride with the perfect balance of action, humour and slightly silly science.

To read my full review, click here

The film that had to be seen at the cinema: Interstellar

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Being a Christopher Nolan film, the release of Interstellar was a huge event and, being a Christopher Nolan film, it was a subject of great debate and discussion. What however in my view is beyond question is that despite its bum-numbing running time, Interstellar was a truly spectacular visual experience that needed to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Thankfully a director that has never gone over to the dark side and used the tacky gimmick that is 3D, Nolan loves his IMAX and the set design and camerawork created some jaw dropping sequences. These combined with Hans Zimmer’s sublime (and very loud) score proved that cinema can indeed be a unique audio-visual experience.

To read my full review, click here

The film where an actor reminded us just how good they can be: Joe

2014 review 12

Nicolas Cage is frequently the source of mockery, and considering the films he has been in and his performances in those films, it is only deserved. However in David Gordon Green’s superb gritty drama he reminds us that he can be a formidable screen presence. Choosing to be in a good film of course helps, and of course some of Cage’s choices were going to be terrible even if he gave the performance of his life. Despites it’s slightly clichéd outright premise, everything about Joe from writing, directing, camerawork and supporting performances is quality, all held together by Cage’s exceptional central performance.

To read my full review, click here

Just to remind Joe was a one-off, this then came along next from Nic:

2014 review 12 part 2

The Romp: Guardians of the Galaxy

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I know GOTG will feature near the summit of many people’s best of 2014 lists, and though it does not on mine, there is no denying the fact that it is two hours of pure popcorn pleasure and a perfect antidote to the over serious comic book films that we seem to get these days. GOTG played things for laughs from start to finish with an extremely sharp script written by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman and an array of superb performances. I would argue that it is not the most memorable of films and certainly has a few structural and storytelling problems; however there is no denying that it is two hours of pure entertainment guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any viewer.

To read my full review, click here

The Heart Warmer: Pride

Pride film still

With the emergence of the so-called ‘grey pound’ films, there is certainly a surplus of unashamedly feel-good films released these days with predictable storylines and supposed heart warming messages at their core. These films serve a purpose, but often lack real substance due to their extremely predictable and borderline cynical writing. So what a relief it is when a film comes along that gets it exactly right. Basing itself on a true story, Pride blends fact and fiction perfectly and assembles together a superb cast who all are excellent to produce a film that is actually genuinely funny and touching in equal measure, and also one of the best films of 2014.

To read my full review, click here

The Franchise film that only cared about the sequels: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Andrew Garfield;Dane DeHaan

All the big studios want a money spinning franchise (no pun intended) and not too long after Sam Raimi was calling “cut” on set of Spiderman 3 it seems Peter Parker was back again with a reboot that quite frankly there was little demand for. There is no denying that Andrew Garfield is excellent as Peter Parker, but both of The Amazing Spider-Man films have been very messy and 2 has an overkill of villains whose own stories would be rushed anyway, but a constant focus on hints at the villains that will be appearing in future films makes for a film that is even more all over the place, a little overstuffed but actually surprisingly hollow and unsatisfying.

To read my full review, click here

The Mixed Bag: Noah

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Darren Aronofsky is undoubtedly a director of immense talent who has made some incredible films (and of course my favourite film of all time). However only Aronosfsky himself knows how much of a compromise Noah actually is, but the fact Noah has by far the biggest budget of the films he has directed but is by far his worst (in my opinion) would perhaps suggest this film is indeed a compromise. Noah undoubtedly has some great individual moments including some beautifully created visuals, an epic central set piece, two great leading performances, an exceptional score from Clint Mansell and an exploration of some interesting themes. However, what it also has is some clunky dialogue, lazy narrative contrivances (the multiplex friendly inclusion of a clear ‘antagonist’ is particularly jarring), flat supporting performances and it is too long with some scenes being way too slow.

To read my full review, click here

The effortless charmer: The Grand Budapest Hotel

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“Smug” and “style over substance” have been used to describe Wes Anderson films in the past (not by me, I love them!), however The Grand Budapest Hotel was in no way a departure from his usual meticulous-attention-to-detail style, but is now his most commercially successful film to date. Unusually, it actually climbed the box office chart here in the UK, proving that word of mouth can indeed still be the most powerful form of marketing, so there must have been something different about TGBH than his previous films. True, this effortlessly entertaining yarn may be slightly more commercially pleasing than his previous films in terms of the story and the comedy as this is more of a caper compared to his other films. Of course it also has an outrageous range of famous faces all playing quirky characters, snappy dialogue, a fast paced narrative and Alexandre Desplat’s sublime score, but yet it is still very much a Wes Anderson film. One thing is for sure; The Grand Budapest Hotel would not be as wonderfully entertaining as it is without Ralph Fiennes’ impeccably charming and effortlessly charismatic leading performance. An Oscar nomination would certainly be deserved.

To read my full review, click here

The impossible juggling act: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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For Bryan Singer’s directorial return to the x-franchise he and screenwriter Simon Kinberg had to put together a film that was essentially a sequel to X-Men: First Class and have all the characters from that film at the forefront, but also have all the main characters from the first three films but despite that Hugh Jackman was actually the lead actor. Also with Jennifer Lawrence becoming such a big star make sure her character had a key role to play, but also incorporate one of bigger stories from the comics which happens to include the concept of time travel. I am exhausted just writing that! Well, Singer and his team (only) just about pull it off with a film that is very entertaining but a complete mess with flaws and plot holes galore.

To read my full review, click here

The budget and brains blockbuster: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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After Tim Burton’s lacklustre effort in 2001, the ‘apes franchise looked to be finished, but then along came 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes; a prequel that that was visually spectacular and had the substance and intelligence to match. As that made a lot of money, a franchise was born and though Dawn may not be quite as good as Rise and be a little too long and have quite a generic narrative structure, it does have spectacular visuals and far more substance and intelligence than most of today’s vacuous blockbusters.

To read my full review, click here

The best animated film: How to Train Your Dragon 2

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With Pixar’s latest coming in 2015, Disney’s Big Hero 6 not being released in the UK until 30th January 2015 and of course Shaun the Sheep not released until 6th February, DreamWorks perhaps did not face too much competition for their long awaited sequel to the exceptional How to Train your Dragon. While The Lego Movie is tremendous fun, The Boxtrolls is wonderfully disgusting, Wrinkles is funny and moving and The Penguins of Madagascar happened, How to Train your Dragon 2 is not only the best animated film of the year, but up there as one of the best films of the year. Avoiding the farcical gags of some children’s film, HTTYD2 is a coming-of-age tale that is not afraid to take on more serious themes and is all the more emotionally rewarding for it no matter what the age of the viewer. With exhilarating set pieces, memorable characters and simple, relatable messages at its heart, it sets a standard that all similar animated films should hope to aspire to.

To read my full review, click here

The most enjoyable old-school action sequence: The Equalizer

The Equalizer - 2014

You cannot beat a bit of Denzel DIY! Rent-a-director Antoine Fuqua’s film was certainly no masterpiece and was way too long, but the film’s climactic showdown set in the DIY store in which Denzel’s protagonist works is a very well staged action sequence. The lights go out, Harry Gregson-Williams brooding score kicks in and even the sprinkler system comes on as Denzel utilises the shop’s extensive range of DIY accessories to dispatch those hunting him down, all with his trademark brand of smugness.

To read my full review, click here

The funniest comedy of the year: 22 Jump Street

Jonah Hill;Channing Tatum

Though I admit that I laughed frequently while watching the likes of Pompeii and Gone Girl, in terms of the funniest comedy that was actually first and foremost a comedy, the clear winner has to be 22 Jump Street. Being a sequel, 22 Jump Street could have well been as lazy, dull and smug as most of the other mainstream comedies that come out these days. However, despite slightly lacking any real plot, thanks to Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum sharing great on screen chemistry and a constant energetic gag-rate, 22 Jump Street certainly had far more hits than misses with its gags and set pieces. No, it wasn’t as good as 21 Jump Street, but we are even warned about this at the start in one of the plethora of self referential gags, while the closing credit sequence is absolutely hilarious. Even Ice Cube, who seemed to be in a coma for the duration of Ride Along (I wish I was) is hilarious.

To read my full review, click here

The one shameless cash-in too far: The Inbetweeners 2

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The TV series was hilarious, and then the inevitable first film came along in which regular writers Beesley and Morris struggled to meet the narrative requirements of a feature length story producing some quite clunky and jarring moments. Despite this the first film did have some very amusing moments and was perfectly watchable. However, as that became the most successful British comedy of all time (!), a sequel was of course inevitable. Though plot-wise it does not quite have the overbearing clichés of the first film, the writing is just lazy and the formula feels tired to produce a film that is often extremely dull. There are attempts at emotion which, though admirable, backfire due to poor writing and acting. Despite once again claims that this is it, I am sure the underserved box office success will get the accountants demanding number 3! Expect an American Pie style franchise!

To read my full review, click here

The surprisingly and strangely profound film: You and the Night

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What could quite easily be mistaken for pretentious nonsense from the trailers and indeed the film’s opening fifteen minutes or so becomes increasingly far more than that as it goes along. Sometimes watching a film, especially those from overseas that have had little or no marketing, can be a gamble. I am quite happy to admit that if it were not for the fact that You and the Night was scored by M83 I may never have watched it, however sometimes this gamble pays off as the fact is that there are such a diverse range of wonderful films out there to be discovered. The premise of You and the Night is that an immortal couple and their transvestite maid invite four other people (including Eric Cantona) over to their home for an orgy. Yet despite this as the film develops and we get to learn about the characters and M83’s stunning score plays out there is a profound and relatable sense of melancholy within the narrative that makes the narrative genuinely moving.

To read my full review, click here

The visual companion to the ‘how to make a narrative film’ text book: The Imitation Game

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The story of Alan Turing and his invaluable effort to winning the World War II is certainly one that deserves to be told and Morten Tyldum’s film tells it very competently, but in my mind too competently; making The Imitation Game without doubt a good film, in fact it is a very good film, but crucially not a great film because of this. Every aspect of the film is highly competent; the writing, the directing, the music, the editing and of course the acting from the note-perfect cast, but it is all that bit too neat and tidy, and from start to finish it certainly follows the step by step guide to making a thriller just that bit too diligently for my liking.

To read my full review, click here

The film equivalent of Ronseal: Hercules

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For those not familiar with Ronseal’s marketing campaign, it “does exactly what it says on the tin”, and in the case of Bret Ratner’s Hercules it did exactly what it says on the poster with Dwayne Johnson pulling a funny face and the cast list if British thesps. Hercules is most certainly dumb, but everyone involved was happy to embrace this fact to produce a riotous romp that certainly is tremendous fun with decent action sequences, The Rock being as charismatic as ever and the likes of Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and John Hurt all getting warmed up for panto season.

To read my full review, click here

Worst accent of the year: Keifer Sutherland (Pompeii)

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One of the key factors in Pompeii being such a guilty pleasure was Kiefer Sutherland’s scenery chewing as the vicious Roman general who was the film’s nasty, snarling villain. Not only was his performance pure pantomime, but seeing truly was believing when it came to his outrageous accent. Of course in Hollywoodland all nasty people have to have English accents, and so Jack Bauer had a go at that. While his snarling was a perfect antidote to all the pouting and brooding of the other characters (which also brought unintentional laughs), it is an accent that is both truly incredible and bizarre. How the supporting cast kept a straight face whenever sharing Dialogue with Keifer I have no idea, maybe considering that, Pompeii features some of the best performances of the year!

About MoodyB

An extremely passionate and (semi) opened minded film reviewer, with a hint of snobbish.
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7 Responses to 2014 IN REVIEW – MY LOOK BACK AT THE YEAR IN CINEMA

  1. Did you see St. Vincent? Naomi Watts had the worst accent of the decade. Great list.

    • MoodyB says:

      Thank you. I haven’t seen it but have heard a clip. It sounded as embarrassing as John Travolta’s ‘Serbian’ accent in Killing Season. Keifer has to win for me though as when I saw Pompeii in the cinema the monumental effort it took to stop myself from laughing out loud every time he spoke nearly gave me whiplash!

    • Caz says:

      That was truly awful! With no need whatsoever for her to have it.

  2. Caz says:

    Great post! I agree with so much of it, so pleased you weren’t a big fan of ‘Gone Girl’ either it just seemed to have so much hype and I couldn’t really understand why when I saw it.

    • MoodyB says:

      Thank you, I am so glad someone agrees with me about Gone Girl. Whenever I said my opinion on Gone Girl to most people they gave me a look that basically said: “how dare you not regard this film as a masterpiece!”.

  3. The Vern says:

    You are right about Lucy. That movie was really bad, but I never thought it was overrated. I would have giving that award to Interstellar LOL. Im going to check out You and the Night and Equaluizer as soon as I can

    • MoodyB says:

      Though I didn’t regard it as a masterpiece, I quite liked Interstellar. I put Lucy as the most overrated film as, despite it being horrendously bad, over here pretty much every newspaper, magazine and radio show gave it really good reviews.

      The Equalizer is way too long, but at least it is good fun and knows exactly what it is.

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