I can’t really say what my top ten films of 2014 were, well not in any really meaningful order of greatness, but here are some of my film-watching highlights from the year just gone.
My film year started well with a trip to a cinema in Vegas (while I was over there covering CES for my day job) to see a screening of American Hustle. While I feel this was somewhat over-rated by the mainstream press I still enjoyed it and I felt it showcased some excellent performances from a game cast.
Also, in the earlier part of the year, I had my retinas blown out by The Raid 2, which must count as one of 2014’s best films, particularly for action/martial arts fans, like me. Packing in a more substantial plot than The Raid, but upping the ante with a number of high octane action sequences The Raid 2 was, at the very least, on a par with its illustrious predecessor. Oh, and that final fight set in a kitchen will live on as one of the best screen fights put together in the history of cinema.
Back in April I attended the first Frightclub film festival in Birmingham, with fellow Blueprintreview alumni Andrew Skeates and Bill Old (aka Billious Death), and thoroughly enjoyed the experience – apart from the general lack of sleep. Highlights included Mario Bava’s excellent Blood and Black Lace, Ruggero Deodata’s sublime Cannibal Holocaust and the insane fun that is Miami Connection.
Sticking with cinema releases for a minute or two more I’d also like to mention a few of my favourites that I caught up with later in the year.
Guardians of the Galaxy was great all round entertainment that made me think back to the first time I saw Star Wars back in 1977, after queuing round the block to get into my local Odeon to see it. ‘Guardians…’ has that kind of nostalgic vibe to it, probably in part due to its awesome retro soundtrack.
Another Sci-fi blockbuster that caught my eye, and my heart, was Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise. This turned out to be much better than expected and along with Guardians of the Galaxy serves as a timely reminder to all the nay-sayers out there, who bleat on about how Hollywood isn’t making any decent blockbuster anymore, that they can and still do.
Looking to more traditional action films I thought The Expendables 3 was unfairly slated by many film critics and it turned out to be a very entertaining film, made even more so by two excellent off-the-wall performances by Antonia Banderas and Mel Gibson.
In a more serious vein I thought Brad Pitt’s cinematic baby, Fury, had classic WWII pedigree and I think his World War II tank epic will stand the test of time and in decades to come be cited as one of the best war films ever made.
Other films that pleasantly surprised me at the cinema more recently include The Purge: Anarchy, which turned out to have an excellent Escape from New York sort of vibe; Hercules, which featured The Rock on top form and turned out to be a lot of fun; The Equalizer, a film that featured an excellent performance from Denzel Washington who really is about to become a modern day Charles Bronson type of actor – maybe they should remake ‘Death Wish’ with Washington in the lead role; The Hobbit, Part 3, which I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would (but I’m glad it’s all over now – it was after all a film too long); Horns featuring a delightful Daniel Radcliff playing a rather ‘horny’ young man trying to find out who killed the love of his life; and the rather oddball flick that is Luc Besson’s Lucy. The first time I tried to see this film the projector broke down and the cinema gave me a refund. I’m so glad I went back to try and see it again the following week. Lucy has divided audiences, but if you like to experience the occasional cinematic head-f**K then I’d heartily recommend this one. Besson is to be commended for trying to do something a bit different, even if the results are rather mixed.
And talking of films that manage to crawl into your head and affect you afterwards, Nightcrawler turned out to be deserving of almost all of the critical praise that had been heaped upon it, with an extraordinary central performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as a functioning sociopath who finally finds his place in the world, that of being an accident-chasing paparazzi; a strange delight from start to finish.
And finally, I just have time to mention some of the films that I’ve seen on the smaller screen this year. These include the likes of Mario Bava’s haunting Lisa and the Devil, which is definitely a case of more style over substance, but any film featuring Telly Savalas playing the Devil (maybe?), while sucking idly on a lolly gets a thumbs up from me; Falcon Rising (formerly known as Favela) featuring the awesome Michael Jai White in his best arse-kicking role since 2009’s Blood and Bone; Herman Yau’s disturbing category 3 film Ebola Syndrome, which has to be seen to be believed – my jaw hit the floor a couple of times ; the strangely delightful Isabelle, Duchess of the Devil (1969), an adaptation of a ‘fumetti’ or adult comic book from France, which features our title character swashing her buckles, but without any buckles, if you see what I mean; the underrated Green Street 3, which features good old Scott Adkins kicking footie hooligan’s arses all over London; and finally Orcs, which was actually a pretty decent fantasy/horror film set in the modern day; surprisingly good.