TOP 20 BEST FILMS OF 2014 * PART TWO

SO HERE WE ARE . . . AT LAST. The second month into 2015.

I know, terrible. For those who are still interested, we have the SECOND PART of my best films of 2014. The top 11-20!

Feel free to search through my posts for my top 10. If you want, I can provide them.

The best (or better) ones of that mediocre movie year. My criteria mainly focused on the ones that surprised, intrigued and entertained me. And boy, it was tough. Many have been watchable. Okay at best. What was harder was condensing my 20 WORST films of 2014 (Which will be following shortly).

BUT there were diamonds in the rough sea of bilge that polluted the movie screens last year.

I have had to endure endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue and to be honest, it’s killed my enthusiasm a little bit.

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument was films I saw in that year at the cinema. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January 2014.

BUT that sums up my argument if they are in here.

I won’t go on too much about each film. That’s what the other posts are for but a quick two cents if you like. Some I hope you will nod in approval. Others you may scroll back and forth hoping that this is a joke. BUT my criteria is based on surprise, entertainment and engagement. So God knows what lies in store.

11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker installment made up for the lumbering opener that was An Unexpected Journey. The pace may still have been a little long at the tooth BUT was certainly the best in Jackson’s second trilogy.

12. Captain America: Winter Soldier

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A Marvel sequel that wasn’t needed but surprised me in surpassing the stuttery original. I felt the first Captain America was rushed to introduce the Cap in time for the Avengers and didn’t really cover as much of the WW2 elements as I had hoped. A superhero fighting in the war had a lot more promise for me. BUT the sequel had a decent story, good action pieces and added depth to the ‘Cap. Plus it gave a lot more screen time to the Black Widow and the legendary Nick Fury (At last!)

13. The Raid 2

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Fast and furious . . . after an hour of droll exposition. BUT it was still the most intense action film I saw that year. The final 45 minutes surpassed the original in suspense and action. Worth the wait. It may not have beat the original overall BUT other films need to use this as the next “How To Make An Action Movie” textbook.

14. St Vincent

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Bill Murray at his best in this easy going indie dramedy. It was funny, well acted with some cracking one liners and an impressive debut from young wunderkid Jaeden Lieberher.

15. Before I Go To Sleep

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A tense, slowburning but well crafted psychological thriller. Memento meets While You Were Sleeping. Even if I had sussed the big twist. The unveiling still took me by surprise. I thought the cast were fantastic. Kidman was on fine form and the last 15 minutes were brilliant.

16. The Maze Runner

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You read that, right? We had numerous teen book bestseller franchises flooding the screens. Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver and . . . The Maze Runner. I went in, really expecting the worst and for the majority of the film, I was hooked. It’s hardly original but it zipped along and stopped me grumbling.

17. Nightcrawler

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A superb performance from Gyllenhaal. Deservedly earning a BAFTA nomination. Somehow managing to out-Bale Bale in this dark take on the American dream. Satirical, grim and engrossing. If a little predictable with an abrupt ending BUT still worth a gander.

18. The Guest

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Mr Crawley has left the Abbey and he’s kicking ass and taking names. A cracking and charismatic performance in this strange but riveting indie action flick. It felt like a film of two halves. Some may not like how it pans out BUT it certainly took me by surprise. Badass film of 2014? Hell yeah!

19. What If

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What if Harry Potter did an indie chick flick? It would be an easygoing and entertaining affair. That’s what. Radcliffe and Kazan had great chemistry and were a normal and believable couple. I actually cared what happened to them unlike the other umpteen romantic comedies that have wasted my time.

20. Blended

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I told you that I was going to think outside the box. I said surprised or entertained me. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a Sandler movie. And this says a lot from a die hard fan. Hardly die hard BUT I’ve endured them all. Blended certainly isn’t perfect but it felt like a return of sorts. It was certainly a return for Drew Barrymore. The plot is stupid and some gags fall flat on their backside.

BUT when it was funny, it had me in stitches. The family dynamic was dealt with well. The handling with the grief issues was done nicely and was unexpected. I enjoyed it. There’s still hope for the Sandler. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. A good comedy. Hallelujah. Has the Mad Movie Ranter lost his marbles?

THE RAID 2 REVIEW

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The Dark Knight of Action Movies? Sorry guys not for me. The woes of hype and the dreaded sequelitis hinder a brutal tour de force of bone crushing awesomeness. By all means, it’s still one of the better films out there at the moment but at a whopping 2 and a half hours, some might feel they didn’t get enough blood for their buck.

Now, I loved the Raid. A friend recommended it. The premise was nothing special. Sounded like Dredd. A swat team hunt down a dealer in a tower block but what came next was something fast, frantic, furious and f- flipping awesome. The Raid knew what it was. Didn’t mess around. Quick set up of who is who. Bad guy. Good guy. Let the mayhem ensue. Leading to one of the best action films I have seen and no wonder it became a cult hit and no wonder that there would be a sequel.

Now finally getting the attention it deserves and a wider release, hype spreading like wild fire, the anticipated second serving is unleashed and unfortunately for me, it was a mixed bag. Now it would help to have watched the first installment and ideally quite recently as well; as I struggled in the opening 20 minutes to remember who was who. Kudos to Gareth Evans for actually attempting to tell a story and set up a plot. The flicking back and forth and a shocking opener had me amped up and ready. The general gist is that only a short time after the first raid, Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta in an attempt to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his police force.

Once the flicking back and forth is dealt with and the premise set up, it does burn on the Bunsen at a low flicker which, to start with, works to its strengths. The plot set up juxtaposed between a worn Rama prepping for an intense prison punch up, delicately teases your blood lust and tests your patience. However, after a while, that latter part of the sentence soon grates on you as my eyes starting to wonder at the little hands on my watch. Evans is a maestro with the camera filming the fight sequences and like most big action movies, he wants you to wait. Feeding your action movie palette with little blood-curdling adrenaline pumped tidbits until that macho main course finale. However, what I liked about the first Raid. There was no need for that wait. I would happily wait if the story warranted the time. But for me, it didn’t.

The first half an hour in which Rama’s cover is set up was well worked and the prison sequences were fantastic. Tense, violent and brilliantly choreographed as Rama must earn the trust of the son of a kingpin, Uco (Arifin Putra) in order to work his way up the chain of command. Unfortunately, I have seen this premise done a lot better and a lot quicker. At first, endearing as Rama must distance himself from his family for their protection soon drags on and the next hour or so, is endless slow paced exposition with an intense five minute punch up or shoot em up, followed by more predictable back stabbing and droll exposition. A few twists pick up the pace, some unexpected, others blatantly obvious.

However, the final forty minutes. Now that is what I waited for. Bold, brash, brutal, gory, violent, breathtaking. The Bunsen is soon obliterated in a fierce finale with kick ass kitchen kick offs, crazy car chases and mindless violence. Check, check and hell yes! The car chase sequence was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Intense fighting and crazy driving surpassed the relentless CGI and intensity of the Matrix Reloaded by miles. Within the fight sequences, Evans created three memorable and soon to be cult classic characters that make worthy foes for our powerless protagonist. In the red corner, the shade wearing, hammer welding, alluring deaf assassin, Alicia or the appropriate named Hammer Girl (Julie Christie) and her baseball carrying nutter of a helper, the . . .  Baseball Bat Man (no, seriously, that is his credited name – played by Very Tri Yulisman) and in the blue corner, the double bladed bearing badass The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman).

It may drag with predictable climbing through the ranks exposition at a questionable length but when it unleashes the action, this is where it excels. Evans still recruits a strong Indonesian cast and hasn’t tainted or given in to Hollywood pressures, except for one minor scene in which they unexpectedly speak English. The cinematography gives off a more polished look to its predecessor which makes it stand out so much more. So well done, Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono. The real wizards are the stunt teams and the cast who perform them. So in all in all, not bad. Bigger? By the end, definitely. Badder? The foes? Definitely. But better? Not to me. Slow, meandering, the film could have been cut by an hour and been so much better for it. Invest by all means just be patient and the pay off will be worth it. If you want it fast, furious and constant, then go back to the first. 3.5/5

Currently ranks #22 out of 165!