Best of 2014: Top 10 Movies

VR_Bestof2014

My final list for the year was also by far the hardest for me to order. 2014 was an insanely good year for movies, particularly the big budget ones. It was easily my favourite year for movies overall since I started this blog, because for the first time ever there were so many high quality films from which to choose that I could genuinely ignore all those awkward early year films that technically count as 2013 movies in the United States. All thirteen of the films on this page can be counted worldwide as 2014 releases, and that is just so good.

I have my regrets about 2014 at the movies – I didn’t get to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, Bad Neighbours or 22 Jump Street, didn’t find enough time at the end of the year to watch Snowpiercer, and to be honest I’m kinda bummed I missed 300: Rise of an Empire. But overall I hit a pretty good chunk of my movie targets throughout the year and I stand by this list. I wrote full reviews for the vast majority of these movies, so please check those out via the links provided if you want further information on my thoughts. This has been a lot of fun once again. A happy new year to all!

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VR BEST OF 2014 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s spooky. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.
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10. What We Do In the Shadows

If Taika Waititi’s Eagle vs Shark was an indication of his offbeat comedy promise, What We Do in the Shadows is an uproarious confirmation of his talent. The movie has its cake and eats it too as far as vampire movie tropes, cleverly populating its downtown Wellington apartment from hell with vampires from different centuries, each one making use of a different cliche. Jermaine Clemente of Flight of the Conchords fame and newcomer Cori Gonzalez-Macuer are hilarious every time they appear on screen, as is Rhys Darby in a memorable werewolf cameo. Hilarious viewing.
FULL REVIEW: HERE
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9. X-Men: Days of Future Past

The best thing about X-Men: Days of Future Past is that it manages its gigantic and mostly very famous cast in a pragmatic, no-nonsense way, avoiding bloat and moving at a sizzling pace through a setup that leaves very little room for newcomers to the franchise. Instead it devotes most of its energy to staying on top of its potentially confusing plot, allowing viewers to take in its really cool and creative action set pieces and the character interactions off which the franchise has always thrived. It’s good to have Bryan Singer back directing X-Men movies.
FULL REVIEW: HERE
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8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The incredible CGI work that brought ape protagonist Caesar to life in 2011 hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes returns better than ever, and on a much bigger scale, to hold up a storyline boasting surprisingly low screen time for human characters. And it works, because the talent involved behind the scenes is phenomenal, the action is exactly as awesome as you might expect it to be and the narrative is a poignant reminder of the failings of human nature. Dawn has next to nothing to link it directly to the original Planet of the Apes movie, but it’s now clear this prequel franchise doesn’t need any of those. A fantastic film.
FULL REVIEW: HERE
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7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did. I found the first Captain America movie to be uneven, and wasn’t sure how transplanting the hero of a period piece into the modern day for the length of a whole movie would work. And yet work it did, so very very well. The Winter Soldier is a smart 1970s-style spy thriller that pulls together several memorable supporting characters to throw Cap’s idealism into sharp focus, which gives him real presence. It’s also the first Marvel Studios movie to construct its action scenes primarily from guns and hand-to-hand combat, which works out fantastically well, and its major twist is a game-changer for the whole Marvel cinematic universe.
FULL REVIEW: HERE
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6. Big Hero 6

As proof that we are now in the third golden age of Disney animation if ever there was any, Big Hero 6 rocks. It works primarily as a “Disney movie” (complete with unrelated animated short before it begins), as it is primarily concerned with telling the heartwearming story of a boy genius who loses his brother and overcomes grief by befriending a nursing robot built by said brother. And yet it’s also a Marvel movie, however loosely it may relate to its comic book source material, because the other four members of the titular six are all awesome. If anything there should be more of them in the movie. Another recent win from the house of Mickey.
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5. Guardians of the Galaxy

That James Gunn is able to take five obscure Marvel characters completely new to celluloid and smash them together into a believable team within the space of one movie is ridiculous, especially in light of the time it took Marvel Studios to bring together its Avengers cast. That you can ask so many different viewers of the film who their favourite Guardian is and get a range of different answers is nothing short of amazing. There is no weak link in Guardians‘ primary cast, the movie is constantly funny and, despite all its hidden continuity nods, it may be Marvel’s most accessible film yet. See it if you haven’t already.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

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4. The Raid 2

There tends to be two main sides of opinion concerning The Raid – while everyone tends to agree the action scenes in it are awesome, people either think it is assisted by its bare-bones, single location setup or feel that it lacks too much in the way of story. If you fall into the latter camp you may find that The Raid 2 scratches that itch for you, as its plot is about as far from basic as you can get. Set over several years of series protagonist Rama’s life as an undercover cop, the plot brings in double crosses and side stories aplenty, but let’s face it, it really only exists to set up the very best cinematic fight scenes of the year. Every brutal shot is just a level above anything else on 2014 screens, and with memorable new characters and a majestically filmed car chase thrown in, The Raid 2 ends up, in my opinion, just as good as its predecessor.
FULL REVIEW: HERE
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3. The LEGO Movie

The film surprise of the year may have arrived in Australia far too late to make sense, considering it was essentially built here (pardon the pun), but when it arrived it was well worth the extra wait. A host of colourful, over-the-top crazy characters that stick in the memory, constantly amusing dialogue and set pieces, an amazing CGI engine that believably emulates the way real LEGO pieces behave and one hell of an ending all combine to create not only the number 1 highest grossing film of the year in Australia, but also one of the year’s very best.
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2. How to Train Your Dragon 2

For all of Disney’s current hot streak in the animation department, their chief rival Dreamworks has a real powerhouse of a franchise on their hands at the moment – one that isn’t afraid to go the extra mile to teach kids some hard lessons about life. The first one was very good, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 is even better, bumping up its standard of animation significantly, avoiding visual shortcuts by visually aging most of its primary cast and dealing with themes of disability, abandonment and death in mature yet positive ways. Not to mention it throws together some of the coolest gadgetry you’ll ever see in a medieval movie. This one is a real winner.
FULL REVIEW: HERE
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1. Gone Girl

David Fincher has done it again. I wasn’t familiar with the Gone Girl novel before seeing the movie – I just saw it based off some hype and the Fincher name. And I am so glad I did. Though talking about what makes the film so good is rather difficult without spoiling things, I will say that Fincher and his team once again exhibit an impressive degree of attention to crafting scenes in a grimy yet polished and entertaining fashion. And they probably do it better than anyone else at the moment. Gone Girl is a long movie, but I never once got bored while watching it, and it’s easily my favourite film of 2014.
FULL REVIEW: HERE
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Honorable Mentions
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Edge of Tomorrow
Forget what you thought about Tom Cruise and go see this movie, because it really knows how to take a novel idea that has been squandered on screen before and treat it with care. Funny when it wants to be, contemplative at times without really slowing down all that much, and lots of fun.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

John Wick
If you liked Taken before it started getting milked for more than it was worth, John Wick really is the movie for you. Keanu Reeves’ Wick and a fine selection of supporting characters let loose within a well constructed fictional network of assassins, and the manipulation of audience expectation towards useful ends is awesome.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
It may be permanently and unavoidably hamstrung by the studio marketing decision to split the original Mockingjay novel into two films, but some stellar performances and faithful individual scenes help the plot overcome a relative lack of action and stay thoroughly watchable.
FULL REVIEW: HERE

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