2015 – A Lookback on the Past Year (part one)

Another year has passed us by, and it seems every movie critic and website is posting top/bottom 10 lists. Now, I’ve stated before (back at HERE  for example) I don’t truck with that ‘top list’ mentality. So, like last year, I’m going to go for a general look back at the year in films in some kind of loose groupings – some serious, some silly.

2015 promised much, but delivered little. The so called “amazing year of film” turned out to be a tad average overall, but in amongst it all there were some gems that stood out. Let’s kick off with my pick for:

Film of the Year

WHIPLASH

Now, let me clear something up. I know I don’t do top lists, but some folk have asked me how I can therefore have a ‘film of the year’ (which they, understandably, think means ‘best film of the year’). Well, let me clarify – my ‘film of the year’ always goes to the film which struck me, and impacted on me the most. It may not be better than other films, but something in the film resonated with me, and thus it is classed as a film which I believe everyone should see. There were a host of really strong contenders for this spot this year, especially from The Martian, Steve Jobs, and from Birdman, but Whiplash is just such a powerful tour de force that it is the film that, to me, defines 2015.

Not my tempo!

“Okay, after me, one two three… Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum!”

At the base level, Whiplash is a film about a drummer and his battle of wills with his tutor. On paper, that basic description sounds like one of the most boring concepts ever, but the skill with which the film draws you in, and makes you care very early on is staggering. The performances by Miles Teller (who shall resurface later in this article for totally different reasons) and the ever stellar JK Simmons crackle with electric intensity, aided by a well written script, and some dark humour. Whether or not this film is ‘your tempo’ it is hard to deny that all the elements involved are well realised.

Bridman would be a close second choice for the stylistic manner in which the film was presented. A fake single-take element to make the film feel like a stage play about a film about a stage play (if you have seen it, you will know what I mean) makes for a remarkable viewing experience, and Michael Keaton is on fine form in the lead role.

The ‘What the hell went wrong’ Award

Okay, let’s get the Miles Teller mention out the way early on. How on earth did Fantastic Four go so wrong (and I’d like to point out that I’m not going to go the childish route that some folk have gone and mock the Fant4stic logo, claiming it isn’t something Marvel would have done, becasue…well…look at the pic of one of the issues of the comics from a few years back).

wpid-fantastic_four_vol_5_1

Wow! Look at how Marvel would never do anything so silly with the title of the comic!

I know it is cool to mock the previous FF films (by Tim Story), but I’ve got a soft spot for them. Whilst both films are flawed, they have the tone of the comics right, with a cosmic whimsy and family dynamic that works. The first film suffered by being an origin story with multiple characters, whilst the second suffered by not having a strong payoff in the final act (I don’t have a problem with ‘Galactus-cloud’ but more in the way the world devourer didn’t feel much of a threat overall). However when Josh Trank was attached to the reboot, I was excited. Having seen what he could do with a small budget on Chronicle, I was optimistic to see what he would make of the FF, which I must make clear that I have adored in comics since I was a wee little boy (it was the first Marvel comic bought for me as a kid, and what introduced me to my love of superheroes). The cast were announced, and there were some damn good names in there. Yes, they were ‘young’ but I understood this was a film inspired by Mark Miller’s Ultimate Fantastic Four series (which the initial trailers confirmed), so was happy to see decent actors attached (I’m not going to even bother tackling the race issue – it wasn’t an issue). When the film came out, Trank was quick to disown it on Twitter.

The film started off promising, with the first 20 minutes being a decent introduction to the characters, especially the friendship between Ben and Reed. The cast show their strengths early on, and Miles Teller and Jamie Bell convince as long time friends. But then they get their powers, the film flips ahead in time, and it all goes so…erm…studio controlled. You can genuinely see the point at which the studio lost the faith in the director, and made copious changes. Stories of on set struggles, and re-shoots without Trank add fuel to the fire, and the end result is a film which rapidly descends into a garbled mess by the final act – one which, I may add, seems tacked on and doesn’t seem to match any of the trailers or promo materials.

Making the FF a ‘dark film’ in the vein of Fox’s X-Men franchise was a serious mis-step. The FF have adventures in space, and in the microverse, as well as through time. They should never be ‘dark’ in nature. After the film came out, Fox were insistent that they were still making sequels, but everything has gone quiet on that front now.

Bubbling under in this category would be Terminator Genysis, but let’s be honest, that was always going to suck.
star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterBest Blockbuster of the Year

What else could it be, other than Star Wars: The Force Awakens? If I need to explain further, then you seriously can’t have seen the film yet (and so I won’t post any spoilers). Fair enough, a lot of the blockbusters have been major disappointments this year, so it didn’t have much competition, but what this film did have was a decade and a half of disappointment to erase the memory of, and prove that there is life in the franchise yet. Whilst the marketing played around the buzz of the old cast returning (and the secrecy of the story), the true surprise was not only that the film was good, but that the old cast weren’t really needed as the new faces were so immensely enjoyable to watch. Yes, the film is pretty much a retread of the original film (in the same manner that Singer’s Superman Returns followed the beats of Donner’s film), isn’t that what we needed to kick-start the franchise? A reminder of what made it so much fun in the first place, and proof that it can still work now.

Since the film came out, Lucas has been whining and moaning about it wherever he can (his most recent moan is that he was kept out of the creative process, and that the film is not original at all – clearly he thinks his Hero’s Journey tale inspired by old Flash Gordon serials was somehow ‘original’). Who cares what he thinks? After all, he wasn’t even responsible for the best of the original trilogy (and he also disliked that film too).

Bubbling under is Mad Max: Fury Road, which leads me to…
The ‘Holy Crap that was Awesome’ Award

Look, Fury Road may be just one long chase scene, and one which sums up as ‘Max Furiosa goes to one place, runs off to another, then goes back the way he she came’ but, wow, what a ride. Two hours of glorious carnage with a plethora of practical effects (and a smattering of CGI, but well positioned), and a cast that, in among the carnage, you get to care about. If you haven’t yet enjoyed the thrill of the film, just stop reading here and go watch it, then come back and be happy that you just sat through two hours of fun.

This was the underdog blockbuster that showed up the big-boys of the Summer. Max may have been a minor character in his own film, but the world in which he rides was fleshed out so well that you didn’t care.

Look, for this character alone, the film kicks ass!

Look, for this character alone, the film kicks ass!

On the flipside…

Biggest Disappointment of 2015

Age of Ultron had a lot to live up to, but we had no reason to doubt that it would be anything other than great. Marvel’s train has been rolling for a few years now, and each time they go for something, people get skeptical, only to be proven wrong when the film arrives. Here we have a great villain from the comic, and the team all re-unite with Joss as director again. But the end result felt too much like it was forced out just to get everyone back together, and unlike the first film was less of an end-act to the ‘phase’ of movies, and more of an extended trailer of the next phase. The menace of Ultron in the trailers was lost

as he became a snark-throwing bland villain. The action set pieces felt too familiar, and the spark was just lost somewhere along the way. It is telling that Ant-Man (which was basically just a rehash of Iron Man) was considered the best Marvel film by many this year – not that Ant-Man isn’t good, quite the opposite, but the point is that something with a new character was better than something with characters we are told we have come to love.

"I've got no script...to hold me down..."

“I’ve got no script…to hold me down…”

Still, it doesn’t stop the excitement for Phase 3 and Black Panther and Doctor Strange, along with Civil War. The Marvel engine may have stumbled a bit, but it hasn’t derailed yet.

The ‘Did I watch the same film as everyone else’ Award

Jurassic World isn’t a bad film, but it seems that everyone saw a different film than me as many herald it as one of the best films of the year! Personally I’d rank it just alongside Jurassic Park 3 as ‘entertaining fodder’ and nothing more. The biggest issue I have with the film is that it relies on your memories of the original film in order to enjoy it. Throughout the film is nods and references the first film, in an attempt to cover up the lacklustre script. “Yeah, but so does Force Awakens, and you liked that!” I hear some of you cry. The difference is, Force Awakens had characters you care about. Here’s a simple test – quickly name 4 new characters from Jurassic World. Okay, make it three. Okay, just tell me the name of one of the kids. Nope? Right, now name 4 new characters from the new Star Wars film. Oh, you reeled off 5 names right off the bat! How come? Oh yeah, because they were well realised characters that you cared about – heck we knew the names of them before the film landed and already cared.

"Hey can we expand that Pratt guy's role out more now he's a big name?  Maybe force a love story in there with Bryce?  Who cares if they have no chemistry?"

“Hey can we expand that Pratt guy’s role out more now he’s a big name? Maybe force a love story in there with Bryce? Who cares if they have no chemistry?”

Jurassic World is just a mess of action sequences thrown together, but actually fails to utilise the peril that it promised. Here we have a fully functioning theme park, packed with guests (despite the film trying to tell us that it is struggling), yet the peril only affects a handful of people until toward the end when one sequence sees random folk being attacked…only for minutes later everyone to be sat at the docks waiting for boats, with no sign of anyone in distress at having seen their loved one killed! Heck, one minor character gets attacked, dropped, and eaten in a manner which you feel is supposed to make you cheer (like audiences did at the accountant on the toilet in the original), despite the only bad thing this character did was try to babysit two annoying brats of kids! Yeah, someone who was assigned to watch over kids is considered a character to ‘hate-kill’.

Nope, Jurassic World isn’t a great film. It’s not as bad as Terminator Genysis (no, seriously, that film was garbage), but it ain’t the amazing return of the franchise many claim it to be.

 
Phew – that’s a fair bit covered already, and I still feel I have more to cover. So, consider this ‘Part One’ of my lookback on 2015, and watch out for ‘Part Two’ soon (where I will look at animations, comedies, pleasant surprises, and the films I am ashamed to have missed).

Superheroes in Decline?

This past week has seen some reporting on the number of superhero movies that are released each year, all started with a reasonably presented statement by Steven Spielberg in an interview with The Associated Press:-

US-OSCARS-ARRIVALS

“We were around when the Western died and there will be a time when the superhero movie goes the way of the Western,” said Spielberg. “It doesn’t mean there won’t be another occasion where the Western comes back and the superhero movie someday returns. Of course, right now the superhero movie is alive and thriving. I’m only saying that these cycles have a finite time in popular culture. There will come a day when the mythological stories are supplanted by some other genre that possibly some young filmmaker is just thinking about discovering for all of us.”

That’s a perfectly valid point to make. After all, there was indeed a time when the Western genre accounted for the bulk of the film releases in each year, but then grew out of favour, so it is important that the industry recognises that whilst the superhero genre is strong right now, it may decline (particularly if the quality of the films declines, and so audiences move away from it). The Western was pushed aside during the advent of the sci-fi and horror films of the 50s and 60s, with glossy (for the time) effects and main characters who were generally young teens (albeit played by older actors), thus relatable to the core audience of the time. In addition, the rise of awareness of the race issues associated with the Western genre made some of the films quite embarrassing and in reflection caused a re-think of how to present the old frontier legends, and whilst attempt have been made in recent decades to bring it back in films such as Young Guns, Unforgiven, and True Grit, it certainly hasn’t become a major genre again.

Seriously, watch this film – best example of a remake in recent years.

But, you could argue, Superhero films are diverse, with the fantasy sci-fi of Guardians of the Galaxy being significantly different to The Dark Knight in tone and content. Yes, that’s true, but the same could be said of the classic western genre. There were the generic, and somewhat corny westerns, and there were the grittier ones, such as Clint Eastwood’s series of films. However, as stated, the young audiences moved to the sci-fi and horror genres of the time in droves, which is an important factor in the decline. What genre could they move to now, given that most genres are already covered these days, and the days of effects really impressing us so much with something new are generally gone (with the rare exception of films such as The Matrix and Avatar)?

All that aside, Spielberg’s comment has been taken out of context by many, and he is in no way being demeaning to the genre – heck, the guy is a Producer on the Transformers films. No, he is simply proffering a warning to the industry to not anticipate the genre lasting forever, and maybe they should also invest in other ideas and genres too.

Then Emma Thompson weighed in on the debate in an interview with Vulture:-

emma-thompson“I loved the original Superman with Chris Reeve because there was a real tongue-in-cheek-ness to it,but their constant appearance at the theatre is getting old. After a while, you do get a tiny bit cynical about it.
The fact that I know they’re going to win out in the end has now slightly interfered with my continuing to go to those movies. If I see yet another Spider-Man, I’m going to have to actually hang myself.
I can’t do it any-more! They’re all marvellous, but how many times can you make this franchise, for crying out loud?”

It does feel that the final sentence was tacked on when she came to the realisation that she had just managed to alienate her from every major studio – unless, of course, she really thinks they are all marvellous…including Fantastic Four. However, her general statement sums up to, “I hate knowing that everything will work out in the end for the heroes, so am fed up with them!” Okay, that’s fair enough, but isn’t this the same for pretty much any genre of films? Don’t we know, generally, that the boy and girl from opposite sides of life will get together in the end? Don’t we know that the pure, innocent girl will survive the attack by the knife wielding psycho, whilst the highly sexed best friend will be killed in the second act? Don’t we know that the criminal who has evaded those two cops for decades will finally have a showdown with one of them in a one on one fight, and be taken down? To refer to a franchise that Thompson herself was part of, didn’t we know that Harry would win and Voldermort would be defeated? Heck, don’t we know that the rowdy kids that won’t listen to the nanny will eventually be amazed by her magical abilities, and the family will become a perfect unit by the end?

Yes, there are examples in every genre where things don’t go the predictable route, and the hero dies, the killer gets away, and so on – heck, even Amazing Spider-Man 2, which Thompson appears to not be a fan of, kills off the love interest (sorry, it’s a spoiler, but seriously the comic told that story decades ago) – but we watch the bulk of films (particularly the summer blockbuster) for a sense of enjoyment, the thrill of the spectacle, and to see good defeat evil because if we wanted to see evil win all the time we would stay at home and watch the news. The superhero genre is escapism, and a way to believe that all evil can be overcome, delivering us hope in ourselves. That’s why I read comics, and that’s why I watch films – to escape.

download (2)

And because of shots like this! Damn, this film was awesome!

If Thompson sees another Spider-Man she is going to actually hang herself? Really? Better get the rope ready then, love, as he’ll be in Civil War next year. Will she follow through with her ‘actual’ claims? I get what she is trying to say, the plethora of Superhero films are dragging her down. You know, there are just so many each year! I mean, this year alone has seen…erm….three released (four if you feel the need to include Kingsman as it came from a comic, but seriously it isn’t the same thing). Last year saw 5 (7 if you include TMNT and Transformers: Age of Ex-Stink-Shun, or 8 if you throw Birdman into the mix). This is a lot, isn’t it. No wonder celebs feel the need to weigh in on the fatigue they feel about it all.

However, this year (2015 for those caught in a timewarp) also sees 19 horror films, 53 comedies, 12 biographies, and 51 dramas, as well as a load of sci fi, thrillers, and documentaries. “But the comedies are all different sub-genres!” I hear some of you cry out. Okay, let’s just use the 7 romantic comedies then (the smallest breakdown of the comedies this year). Looking at those figures the 3 Superhero films don’t seem that excessive, do they? You can’t even argue that they dominate the box office, which makes them take away from other films, as only one (Age of Ultron) resides in the top ten for the year (at number 3).

This won’t be the last we hear of this debate, after all the subject has come up every couple of years since Iron Man hit the screen. Regardless of whether the genre does decline, lets just enjoy the fantasy whilst we have it, and stop trying to predict its failure.

Why I Love Awards Season

I love this time of year. Not for the backslapping and self-congratulatory aspects (although I do admit to being one of those people who stays awake on Oscar night to watch the awards through the early hours of the morning). No, I love this time of year as the film product that gets released tend to be the ones that impress me the most. So far this year I’ve had the pleasure of watching films such as Whiplash, Birdman, Foxcatcher, and The Theory of Everything (which reminds me, i really need to sort out the reviews of those films), and I still have American Sniper, Inherent Vice, and The Gambler to look forward to. Not forgetting the more ‘blockbuster’ approach films such as Big Hero 6 (being in the UK means I’ve had to wait a while for this one), Kingsman (being in the UK means I get to see it before the US…swings and roundabouts), and Jupiter Ascending (hey, look, I dig the Wachowskis okay?).

Yup, the starting three months is usally where I see the films that resonate most with me. That’s not to dismiss the films that come out later through the year. Heck, if you look at my look back on 2014 you will see films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Edge of Tomorrow, and Paddington mentioned in a positive manner, and they were summer to winter releases. But it is typical that my one pick for ‘top film of the year’ (or more accurately, the ‘must see’ film of the year) each year is from January to March. Past years have seen films such as Shame, Grand Budapest Hotel, and Zero Dark Thirty be my top pick for the years, each released (in the UK at least), in the first quarter.

Last year I also set myself the objective to view all the films up for the main Oscars (Film, Director, Actor, Actress) before the event, and also as many of the films in other categories as I could. I managed to fulfil that task, and will be doing the same again this year. It’s nice to set personal challenges from time to time (on the run-up to Skyfall I watched all of the Bond films, even Octopussy! That’s dedication!)

Now, if I could just get around to reviewing the films I see…

2014 – A Year in Film

Around this time of year it seems every writer, blogger, or vlogger (I’m still not convinced that’s a real word) insists on their rundown of the ’10 Best Films of the Year’ lists. Each year I am totally bewildered by how anyone can narrow down the diverse wealth of film based entertainment over the year into just ten ‘top film’. Seriously, I have trouble getting it down to 30 films, and that’s when I’ve only seen 31 films (I always have at least one stinker). So, each year, rather than compiling a top list, I tend to choose to just discuss the films that kind of meant something to me, for good or bad. This year, I’m going to categorise the films into groupings similar to some kind of award (hey, it is the start of the Award season, so what a great segue).

All that said, even though I can’t do a list, I can state one outright winner of the top slot…

2014_02_27_JM_GrandBudapestBest Film of 2014 – The Grand Budapest Hotel

I’ve got a lot of love for Wes Anderson’s films. His quirky style in films packed with witty lines of dialogue, and framed beautifully like art-pieces, resonate soundly with me. From Rushmore to Moonrise Kingdom, every film he has made has been a work of cinematic art. This, his latest film, makes the others pale in comparison. With shifting aspect ratios to denote the time period of each element of back story, a frantically paced plot, and a stand-out comic turn by Ralph Fiennes, the film is an utter joy to watch and I urge everyone to seek it out on DVD or Bluray.
Her came a very close second here, and is another film I urge people to check out. A social satire reflecting our obsession with technology and how we relate more to computers than to fellow humans, the film is also the best love story on film in recent decades. Seriously, check it out.

Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal is a close third too, with a dark look at the underbelly of news reporting through the eyes of a sociopath who wants to make something of himself.

GOTG-posterBest Blockbuster of the Year – Guardians of the Galaxy

The huge blockbuster film is the staple of the industry. Ever since Spielberg thrilled audiences with a rubber shark, the summertime (and, indeed, the wintertime these days) blockbuster is the bread and butter of the film world, and the film are aimed to excite, thrill, and amuse in equal measure. Whilst Edge of Tomorrow was a close second here, Guardian’s simply blew everyone away. I’ve loved the characters for years through the comics, but had concerns that the general public wouldn’t accept a talking raccoon. Boy, was I pleased to be wrong, as it means another outing for the team is in scripting process now. The balance was right, and although you could argue that the basic story was exactly the same as Avengers (infinity stone, bad guy powers his weapon with it to lead an army to destroy a planet, group of adventurers who don’t get on forced to unite and save the day), who cares when it is delivered with so much gusto.

Winter Soldier bubbled just under in this category, taking the character that was generally considered the weakest of the Phase 1 film entries (The First Avenger) and delivering one of the finest spy capers in recent years.

Mrs_Brown_movie_posterNo Chance of Me Watching Award – Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie

I generally say you can’t criticise a film until you’ve seen it, and I will stick to that. But, saying that I do avoid films that I feel are destined to rile me up, especially if their source material was poor, or previous films in the series were poor. Hence Inbetweeners 2 also makes this category, but Mrs Brown is, in my opinion, the worst thing to happen to comedy since Adam Sandler.

Hercules (the one with Dwayne Johnson in it) is another one I will not watch, but this time it isn’t because I hate the source material. In fact the comic series “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” ranks high in my opinion. However, it is because I love the comic so much that I refuse to see the film, as the creator of the comic, Steve Moore, was poorly treated over the rights and asked for his name to be removed from all publicity for the film. However when Moore passed away in March, the film distributors added his name back to the posters and marketing for the film, which I find extremely distasteful to deny his personal wishes after he passed away.

downloadBiggest Disappointment of 2014 – Interstellar

Flame retardant suit on. Right, here I go. Interstellar was a mess. A film that thought it was clever, but failed to actually fulfil any promises it set out. The cast are okay, but the characters are so poorly written. The film falls apart the most on the story, especailly when the ‘reveal’ of who created the wormhole is thrown out, thus making the entire thing make no sense. No wonder there is a fan-theory out there that says that they all died and the last hour of the film is a death-dream. I had high hopes for this film having loved all of Nolan’s non-Batman films (and one and a half of his actually Batman films…Batman Begins was okay, Dark Knight brilliant, and Rises was a mess), and the pre-publicity around the film played the hype up even more. “Intelligent sci-fi,” “2001 for a modern age,” and other such exclamations were thrown out. Sadly, the result was an overblown film that could do with having around an hour edited out of it to make it better.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 made this list also, more because by the time the film came out we had already seen the stand-out moments and thus had nothing left to thrill us. Seriously, less is more when it comes to marketing Sony.

robocop_poster_p_2013The ‘Give it a chance’ Award – Robocop

It seems many people had already made their minds up on this film before it came out, purely because of the 12A rating. Those people quite obviously think that over the top blood and gore, and swearing are what makes films good, and not great acting, solid story, and dynamic action. I guess the Saw films are the pinnacle of film entertainment for those people, whilst comic book films of recent years all suck (after all, they are 12A). I, however, was optimistic going into Robocop, and enjoyed the film immensely. Whilst it isn’t as much an instant classic as the original was, it does take the concept and do its own thing with it enough to make it work as a film in its own right.

Another film in this category is Godzilla, which isn’t the rubbish film many would have you believe. “Godzilla isn’t in his own film enough!” people cry out. This, for me, is what makes it work. The slow build and tease, before final reveals. Heck, you could argue the aliens aren’t in Alien or Aliens enough, or that the cenobites are absent for all but around 5 minutes of Hellraiser. Does that make them bad films? No? Well, stop moaning and embrace a human story set in a world of monsters.

What_We_Do_in_the_Shadows_posterComedy of the Year 2014 – What We Do In The Shadows

Not many people will have got to see this gem as it had a very limited release, but I urge you to track it down on home release and see what the fuss is about. The film is a fake documentary about a house of vampires in the modern world, and from the offset is hilarious. Very similar in tone to films such as Spinal Tap, the film looks cheap, but has some skilful effects work to make it believable.

22 Jump Street almost made this spot, but narrowly missed out. The first Jump Street film had fun playing with the idea that reboots of old 80s ideas are generally bad, and this sequel takes the same stance on how sequels always seem tired and repetitive…and then proceeds to be anything but.

Films I Am Ashamed to Have Missed 2014

Despite how much people raved on about these films, I still didn’t get around to watching any of them. Yes, I know I should feel bad, but in each case the universal praise given to them meant that my expectations were thus too high and the film would never be able to match them. I’ll no doubt embrace them when they come to home release (again, Edge of Tomorrow was in this category also, and I loved that when I finally got to see it). So, feel free to throw eggs at me and bemoan how I missed out on such gems…

Gone Girl, Frank, Under The Skin, Calvary, The Zero Theorum, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Railway Man

7108_poster_iphone-9Pleasant Surprise of 2014 – Paddington

There are a few films that make this list, such as Lone Survivor (who would have thought Mark Wahlberg could be in a good film?), and Fury (again, but with Shia LaBouf), but Paddington was a film that when it was first announced I anticipated rot of a similar nature to other kid’s shows to film translations (Thomas The Tank Engine, or even this year’s Postman pat film are notable examples). So, when the trailer arrived and it looked quite amusingly charming, I decided to give it a go. The trailers, as good as they are, fail to give the film the credit it deserves, and the end result is a marvellous family film with plenty of wit for the adults to enjoy, and charming antics for everyone to embrace.

Another pleasant surprise was Horns, which saw Daniel Radcliffe really grow up in a darkly comic role as a guy who starts growing horns and discovers he has supernatural powers, which he uses to find out who really killed his girlfriend.

11177655_800Animated Movie of the Year 2014 – The Lego Movie

Without any Pixar film released, it gave the other studios a chance to shine, and shine they did. Mr Peabody and Sherman was an educational joy to watch, How To Train Your Dragon 2 thrilled and wowed, but it was this awesome film that stood out. Unlike various animated Lego shows, or the cut scenes in games, The Lego Movie was deliberately clunky in design. The characters had movement of Lego pieces, and the story made clear that these were just toys acting out a story from a child-like imagination, but boy did it work.

WallStreet2013posterSeriously, That Didn’t Feel Like Three Hours Award – Wolf of Wall Street

The running time of films seems to be getting longer and longer each year. Michael bay clearly doesn’t know how to edit his films when he delivers 2 hours and 45 minutes of clashing metal and calls it Transformers (if he edited out all the bits that don’t work on those films they would be, at the most, 3 minutes long), and sometimes it can be a chore to sit through a 2-hour-plus movie. The Raid 2 just about managed to keep me interested over the 150 minutes running time, mainly due to the sumptuous action set pieces. However, Wolf of Wall Street tipped the 3 hour mark, and as the credits ran I had to check my watch in disbelief that I had sat watching it for that long. In fact, it is safe to say I’d have been happy to watch another 3 hours of the film as it was engrossing, witty, well directed, and garnished with a foot-tappingly perfect soundtrack. Well, it was Scorcese, what else would he deliver?

Now, I could write all day about the rest of the films that impressed, or upset me, but I guess I have to draw the line somewhere. A few honourable mentions that are left out of the above lists are:-

Good films – X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dallas Buyer’s Club, 12 Years A Slave, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

Bad Films – Muppets Most Wanted, Pompeii, Sex Tape, 300: Rise of an Empire, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Last Days on Mars

Just Plain Average Films – Bad Neighbours, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Expendables 3

So, that’s 2014 in summation. Looking at the release scehdule for 2015, it’s entirely likely that next year’s summation will be about as long as War and Peace (seriously, we are in for a packed year). What films stood out (for good or bad) for you this year?