We’re well into the halfway point of 2014 and there’s been a good number of films that have been released (some good, some…not so good). Here is my top ten picks of best films of the year so far. Granted that this is a UK version list of for some readers (e.g US) there is a few films here they would have caught at the end of 2013.
Released: 18th April
The question is would you honestly enjoy watching a film with Tom Hardy is on the phone in a car for just over an hour and not be bored? The answer for me is quite simply yes. Tom Hardy is in carries the film (literally, he’s on screen the entire time) and the story is relatable, with the fact it can happen to anyone. Also it’s best to avoid the main plot of the film and just enjoy the film experience. Beautifully shot considering the setting is a drive from one destination to another.
9. 22 Jump Street
Released: 6th June
The Lord/Miller combination is on a role in the comedy stage this year with The LEGO Movie being a pleasant surprise in the start of the year but it’s their recent sequel 22 Jump Street that, for me, surpasses their take of 21 Jump Street a few years ago, with the film really meta with it’s jokes, poking fun at the first films success and the general premise of the sequel being quite familiar to it’s predecessor. The Hill/Tatum is a great comedy duo, especially Tatum winning film goers around for his comedic chops. Be prepared to witness quite possibly the funniest revelation/aftermath scene you’ll see all year, but the film DEFINITELY will have the funniest end credits sequence this year.
8. Lone Survivor
Released: 31st January
People may only know Peter Berg for the film Battleship but hand him a smaller budget and a personal true life story and he’ll bring you a relentless, no holds bar vision that is Lone Survivor, focusing on the story/novel of Marcus Luttrell’s account of Operation Red Wings, which failed in June 2005 at a deadly cost. Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell while the rest of his unit has solid casting in Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch in the roles of Axe, Danny and Michael respectfully. Some would consider the start to be just slow or be put off by the Navy SEAL montage package, maybe even perceive it as american propaganda but for the 40 minute (around that time) fight sequence that engrosses you throughout to the point you don’t realise how much time has passed. I like the cast and especially the director and think they done a really good job with the material.
7. 12 Years A Slave
Released: 10th January
A raw and emotionally draining a film you’ll see for quite some time in this true story about a man named Solomon Northup, a free man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery and then we follow his story of being a slave for 12 years. McQueen certainly is unapologetic with his approach to the material in highlighting the ugliness of the brutality that slaves faced and a dark period of humanity that still carries scars to this day discussing. Ejiofor gives a performance of a lifetime as Solomon, doing his best to hang on to the dignity of his character whilst surviving in a cruel environment, as well as Nyong’o as emotionally tortured soul Patesy. Though the menacing highlight of 12 Years A Slave is Michael Fassbender’s performance as Edwin Epps, who believes in his heart that black people are nothing more than property and that he can do what he pleases with him.
6. Edge of Tomorrow
Released: 30th May
It’s been a while since we had a genuinely brilliant film from Tom Cruise (I’d probably go as far back to Collateral) and who would’ve thought from the poorly done marketing for this film (especially the trailers) that the film would be this good? Part Sci-Fi, part war, part Groundhog Day as the ingredients, mix them together and you get Edge of Tomorrow, a very well executed film from Doug Liman focusing on William Cage, an officer or has never spent a day on a battlefield is forced against his will to be on the front line of the last line of attack against an alien race that is wiping out mankind. Once he kills one of these alien creatures known as Mimics, some of it’s blood blends into his and he has to relive the same day over and over again and try and stop the attack from failing and save humanity. Cruise’s role is great in this film as we see the progression of shit scared to warrior and also Emily Blunt is a badass in this film as Rita Vrataski, a war hero who mentors Cage to enhance his skills in the process of these relived days he has. Shame it’s not doing well at the box office but will be a HUGE hit when released on DVD/Blu-Ray after mouth of word spreads.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Released: 26th March
The first installment (Captain America: The First Avenger) didn’t overly impress me as much as other films in the Marvel franchise, but The Winter Soldier certainly upped the game in the Marvel universe of how to make the sequel bigger and better (Looking at you Iron Man 2). The Russo Brothers bring us into a superhero world but give us something out of an espionage thriller as Cap tries to keep to his morality in a world that he is alienated in where good and evil is not so clear cut as it once used to be, with the overall theme of these particular characters, including Natasha Romanoff and even Nick Fury, at a crossroads of vulnerability and figuring out where they fit in the scheme of things as Cap tries to figure out who is the rogue element within the S.H.I.E.L.D ranks which lead to a dramatic reveal which will change the landscape of events to come.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
Released: 17th January
Scorsese brought us the controversial Wolf of Wall Street film that many thought glamourised the lifestyle of Jordan Belfort, even though he eventually loses his business, friends and his wife and kids because believe it or not, he was an asshole. It’s pretty much Scorsese’s greatest hits with the way he shoots particular shots and as a character study of bringing us the true story of Jordan Belfort which is THAT bizarre you can’t help but laugh and cringe at some of the antics that he and his colleagues get up to. Is it a film for everyone? With the amount of sex, drugs and greed, no it isn’t. But with terrific performances across the board from Leo, Jonah and a long way from Neighbours (The Australian TV Show, not the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron film) and holding her own against Leo is Margot Robbie, with a running time of three hours I don’t feel it at all.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Released: 22nd May
How do you beat a superhero assemble like The Avengers? Why you assemble the past with the future in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The cast were certainly one of the best assembled in at least the last 10 years, but did the film live up to the hype? For me it’s a resounding yes. The film superbly handles the time travel aspect between the future and going back 50 years into the past to stop the assassination of Dr Trask, in order to stop the creation of the destructive and merciless Sentinels from ever happening. This is definitely the most emotional X-Men film to date, with a young Charles Xavier being at his lowest, mentality, literally being a junkie to a serum that provides him the use of his legs, but also makes him lose his ability. Mystique is linchpin to the film as it is she who kills Trask that causes the existence of his vision of Sentinels and wiping out most of mutant kind and mankind also. There is still a few action set pieces in this film (most notably the Pentagon sequence) but this is as character driven an X-Men film we’ve got since X2. This has me more intrigued/excited as to how they’ll handle Apocalypse in the next film.
2. Dallas Buyers Club
Released: 7th February
A film that earned Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto their Oscars respectfully for their roles in this film, Dallas Buyers Club is indeed a film for the ages, with McConaughey in the lead role as Ron Woodroof, a cowboy with a carefree attitude to live who gets the devastating news that he is HIV positive and has been told he has 30 days to live. Not accepting his fate, Ron goes down to Mexico to receive alternative drugs and medicines to help him fight the disease, then begins to see this as a gateway to smuggle these unlicensed drugs into the US and establish a buyers club, where he sells these supplies to others inflicted like him with the disease, and partners up with fellow AIDS patient/transsexual Rayon. The film asks hard questions about the health system at the time of the HIV epidemic in the 80’s, including showing how some communities were afraid of those that had the disease. Best role McConaughey had to date (Then Russ in True Detective happened) and definitely Jared Leto brings the heart to the film with his performance.
1. The Raid 2: Berandal
Released: 11th April
My number 1 film if the year so far just has to be The Raid 2. I am a fan of the first one, not as much as some people as I thought it got repetitive towards the end (Tell me honestly that the final fight scene with Mad Dog didn’t run on too long) but The Raid 2 released the shackles that contained The Raid Redemption and have the sequel as an open crime world, now with Rama realising the consequences of his actions in Redemption and now having to go undercover to unravel corruption within the police force whilst being in a crime family known as Jakarta. The Raid 2 proves that when done right, bigger is indeed better as the scale and scope of the film is increased not only with Rama mentality having to deal with his own psyche having to witness some things and do some major asskicking, but also remembering he is still a cop. It will be interesting to see what Arifin Putra’s career goes with this as his character Uco was a standout and pivotal to the plot as Rama has to get to know him in prison in order to get deep into the crime family. Also that kitchen fight scene at the end of the film, one of the best ever.
So what have been your favourite films of the year so far? What are you looking forward to the most from the remaining films to come out this year?