So 2014 is almost over, the voting is closed and and thanks to you, the fine readers of HeadStuff, the results are in. Here are the TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014 as voted by you.
10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Have you seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? If so, well done. If not then can you please explain to me why? You have easily missed one of the best cinematic experiences of 2014. Dawn’s predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a great surprise as, let’s face it, no one thought it was going to be any good at all. Dawn, inevitably, carried the burden of audience expectation and while some sequels fail miserably, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes seemed to rise to the challenge, giving us a film that was equal, if not superior, to its predecessor. Taking place in the years after the virus only hinted at in Rise of the Planet of the Apes has wiped out great swaths of the planet’s population, the apes have established a civilisation out of the ruins of what went before. The humans on the other hand are trying to cobble together what is left of the old world and piece it together (this is evidenced in one fabulous scene when the humans dance to a song from The Band – look for it). The humans live in fear of the apes and some battle hungry sections of ape society know this, striving for an ape revolt that Caesar, our favourite talking primate, tries to contain. But, when his hand is forced we find out what Caesar is really capable of.
I loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes from the start and what I loved about it was the role reversal, you cheer for the human downfall and you whoop when the apes find their stride. Andy Serkis, the go-to guy for motion-capture performance really excels as Caesar and where SFX can often work as a distraction or as a means to cover up the gaping plot holes, in Dawn you often forget that 75% of the film’s characters are CGI. You see, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a blockbuster full of drama and emotional depth but, as it was with its predecessor, all this drama is wrapped around the apes and considering that these are CGI creations, it makes our emotional connection with them all the more remarkable.
In short, I am delighted to welcome Dawn of the Planet of the Apes into the HeadStuff Top Ten films of the year. If you haven’t seen it yet (I tutted and rolled my eyes as I typed that) catch it on DVD or On Demand services. If not then there will be consequences. I don’t know what they are yet but I will find you and probably get all Liam Neeson on you! Or maybe not, I’m a lover not a fighter. Anyway, just watch the film. It’s worth it.
by Graham Connors
9. Gone Girl
Gone Girl shows all the hallmarks of a classic David Fincher Movie. It has a meticulous aesthetic, extreme violence and a cold, detached tone. Even the characters initially feel like they were designed by skilled technicians.
The mood is so sombre, so serious that when the absurd plot twists begin to pile up you can be forgiven for thinking ‘Oh, fuck off‘. Eventualy you realise that the film changes from police procedural to ridiculous melodrama and finally into something like a black comedy. It’s like a po faced mate telling you a story that gets progressively stupider. It’s only when they crack a smile at the end that you fully realise you’ve been taken for a ride.
It’s this delivery; an airport novel told as if it’s high art, that is Gone Girl‘s greatest strength. This is delicious bubblegum served up by a Michelin star chef.
by Ged Murray
Boyhood has been hoovering up award wins and nominations over the last month and will likely push on to win quite a few more in the new year including, most likely, some Oscars. Having not earned a wide release in Ireland, I reckon the film’s lack of exposure to the Irish cinema audience has meant it is lower on the list than maybe it should be, as it is a monumental feat of film-making. Director Richard Linklater shot the film over 12 years, reconnecting with the actors at least once a year, and following actor Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, as he grows up over the years in Texas. It is effectively a coming-of-age story and you quite literally see the actor grow on screen from a young boy to a grown adult. Linklater regular Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette support and are in fantastic form, picking up Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Actress respectively. Boyhood also has Golden Globe nomination for Best Director, Best Film and Best Screenplay and proves why it has been a critical success for the cast and crew, pushing on from winning Best Director at last years prestigious Berlin Film Festival.
Richard Linklater may finally receive some widespread success on the back of this film, but he has been making fantastic films for decades and his “Before” trilogy of films (Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013)), which also star Ethan Hawke are essential watching. He also directed A Scanner Darkly, based on the Philip K. Dick novel, Dazed and Confused, and the perfectly pitched School of Rock over the years and repeatedly makes worthy and well-crafted films. It seems Boyhood will be his biggest success so far and is a worthy addition to HeadStuff’s Top 10 Films of 2014,
by Peter H. Morris
7. X-men: Days of Future Past
With the first three X-Men movies making over one billion dollars at the box office, it only made sense to keep the party going and in 2011’s reboot X-Men: First Class we were introduced to a new cast and an origin story behind this massive franchise.
The cast of First Class was fantastic with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult and Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence. I really enjoyed the reboot and this year’s sequel X-Men: Days of Future past was a great continuation. The film starts in a not-so-distant future where giant robotic sentinels are destroying the mutant population and controlling the rest. Our old favorites return (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman) and with a few new additions are trying to survive a bleak existence. Within mutant Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) lies a possible solution; Kitty can manifest people’s subconscious back into their past bodies. So Wolverine gets brain-melted back into his overly toned body and must get our First Class mutants to stop the devastating chain reaction that threatens both mankind and mutant-kind.
With the coming together of casts from the originals and reboot, the seventh X-Men feature (including two Wolverine stand alones) was a critical and commercial success. Making more than any other X-Men instalment, folks flooded out to catch this in the cinema. Like many of our readers I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next instalment, X-Men Apocalypse, in 2016.
by Paddy O’Leary
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
With the plethora of comic book movies over the last couple of years one film stood out as a clear superior, The Avengers. As Iron Man was the best-known character before the Avengers began to assemble, the 2012 smash hit was a perfect platform for Thor and Captain America to get their fair dues. This year’s sequel built upon the background of the first Captain America movie and his interaction with the members of the team-up is spectacular.
With Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the introduction of The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), our hero Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) must battle the forces of evil that are HYDRA who had infiltrated SHIELD from the ground up. The presence of a Hollywood goliath like Robert Redford in the cast really shows the new respect and understanding for the comic book movie business of recent years.
The audiences and HeadStuff voters alike showed an appreciation for the directors, the Russo Brothers’ hard work, great action sequences and an attention-grabbing storyline.
The Russo boys are set up to direct the third installment too, Captain America: Civil War. This is all very exciting and with The Avengers: Age of Ultron only a few months away there’s plenty more of the Captain to come.
by Paddy O’Leary
Her manages the neat trick of being incredibly emotionally engaging and really, really interesting. It’s a sci-fi film that cares about future trends like how our relationship with technology has and will develop, what constitutes ‘real’ love and whether high waisted trousers are due a comeback. So many small details manage to feel bang on. From the fashion and production design to the use of Alan Watts as a harbinger of a breakdown.
The story manages to go beyond being just well crafted, (it’s shot and acted beautifully). It almost feels tailor made to generate chin stroking think pieces. Is the female lead literally a commodity, a tool for getting over a breakup? What makes something authentic? Are we just watching a guy break up with his PA once she develops emotions?
Perhaps this doesn’t matter. Spike Jonze may insist in tense Newsnight interviews that his normcore Blade Runner is just a love story. You follow the emotion to somewhere very thoughtful and strange. It is a very good love story but it feels like a lot more besides. It’s bizarre and wonderful and it gave us this.
Some achievement for a film that’s (arguably) about a lad wanking over a phone.
by Ged Murray
4. The Lego Movie
There were many people who donned their cynical hats (me included) when the first news of The Lego Movie was released and many worried that a film based on a popular franchise was merely cashing in. As more details emerged and it was revealed that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the people behind Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and the brilliant 21 Jump Street) were due to direct things began to look up, and in fact didn’t look back.
The film is a wonderful blend of visual gags and rich satirical observational humour, that The Lego Movie appeals to a wide range of viewers from the youngest children to the full on adults. It spoofs so many film tropes and springs from joyous song to hilarious set piece with such ease and purpose that the film is nearly re-watchable as soon as the credits begin to roll. The voice work comes from a brilliant voice cast including Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, with cameos that are too numerous to mention. Plans are already in order for a number of sequels and as long as Lord and Miller are involved you can be assured that the quality will be maintained. The Lego Movie was both a critical and commercial success and also delivered a truly awesome theme song and takes a worthy place in HeadStuff’s Top 10 Films of 2014.
by Peter H. Morris
Christopher Nolan’s visual masterpiece was a box office hit, which is quite the achievement considering the subject matter. It is rare that a film based on such high-concept and scientifically theorised material could appeal to a wide audience but the draw of a director with the skill and ambition of Nolan along with casting the man of 2014 in Matthew McConnaughey combined wonderfully in a unique story that brought us on a near 3 hour journey across space and time. The film was a visual feast and showcased Nolan’s ability to create wholly believable worlds and situations in which, even as the main character is floating through the 5th dimension, you can’t help but be impressed by.
The story follows Earth’s attempts to find habitable worlds outside our own galaxy and stars, along with McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck and John Lithgow. Nolan is supported technically by the wonderful cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (who also shot no.5 on our list, Her) and the always brilliant Hans Zimmer who composed a score of such grandeur and depth which was needed to facilitate the epic scale of the storyline.
Filled with stunning scene and stunning scene, Interstellar is another brilliant addition to Christopher Nolan’s repertoire and is deservedly in the top 3 films of 2014. While it might not win any of the big Oscars next March, it has undoubtedly won many fans around the world and more importantly, won its place in the hearts of HeadStuff’s readers.
by Peter H. Morris
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
To adequately describe it, I have to compare the anticipation felt at the impending arrival of a new Wes Anderson film to the giddy excitement a seven-year-old feels from about mid November all the way through to Christmas Day. I think that just about sums it up as no one can make a Wes Anderson film quite like Wes Anderson. Many have tried, achieving varying degrees of failure (note the lack of ‘success’ here – like James Bond, when it comes to Wes Anderson ‘no one does it better’).
With eight feature films to his name, Anderson has crafted is own quirky style throughout his films, from his 1996 debut Bottle Rocket to this year’s magnum opus The Grand Budapest Hotel. Geek chic is one of the more popular terms to describe his unique visual styling and his narrative technique, something that, after watching this year’s fabulous The Grand Budapest Hotel, gives the impression that on all his other films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom) he was just honing his skill for this film. The Grand Budapest Hotel is, in my humble opinion, Anderson’s best film. Known for amassing remarkable ensemble casts, this year’s Number 2 in the HeadStuff Top Ten boasts probably his greatest cast – featuring the usual faces of Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman with the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Kietel, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe and Tilda Swinton, to name a few).
Like many Anderson films, the plot often plays second fiddle to the performances and the visual techniques and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different. Ralph Fiennes, known more for his serious roles, takes to the quirky character of Gustave with genuine enthusiasm and great aplomb. I don’t think he has ever had as much fun on the silver screen and, for me, he was one of, if not, the acting highlight/surprise of 2014 for me.
With The Grand Budapest Hotel you get everything you expect from a Wes Anderson film. But, when you expect genius and you get genius then I think that’s a fair deal. I don’t mind that. Beaten narrowly to the top spot in our poll, The Grand Budapest Hotel was my first choice for Number 1 and, like his second feature Rushmore (love it!), The Grand Budapest Hotel will stand the test of time. I can’t wait to watch it in about 15 years time and fall in love all over again.
by Graham Connors
And the winner is…
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
And here we have it, voted by you delightful readers and the site’s contributors, the best film of 2014; Guardians of the Galaxy.
Although Interstellar was a cinematic triumph and The Grand Budapest Hotel was Wes at his best, Guardians was truly a crowd pleaser. Hailed as “the greatest risk Marvel have taken since Iron Man” it was up to the direction of James Gunn to engineer something special. With Chris Pratt taking the role of Peter Quill AKA Starlord, the quality cast including Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper lead us into the extended Marvel Universe and well beyond the landscape of our humble home planet.
Our hero Starlord has a peculiar orb in his possession and he is not the only one looking for it either. The terrifying Ronan is a known ally of dark lord Thanos and is set on the destruction of the planet Xandar, which he can achieve once he finds this orb and hand it over to Thanos. Along the way Starlord finds himself teaming up with a ragtag bunch of killers and thieves with the goal of defying Ronan and action packed hilarity ensues.
Fantastic set pieces, non-stop action and hysterical dialogue throughout, Guardians of the Galaxy brings everything that is needed for a blockbuster. One of the lasting impressions from the movie is its incredible soundtrack. I couldn’t possibly recall the amount of time that I have replayed the likes of Blue Swede, David Bowie, The Runaways and The Jackson Five. It truly is an ‘Awesome Mix’.
With so much already said about the ins and outs of your top film of 2014 (much by myself) I will just leave you with an important life lesson; WE ARE GROOT.
by Paddy O’Leary