Our Best of 2014 coverage continues as Nigel gives his take on the best and worst blockbusters of the year. Up tomorrow, a round-up of the year in Irish cinema from Páraic, friends and correspondents lists arrive on Thursday, and our big splash of our Best Films and a bumper podcast arrive on Friday.
While box office results aren’t everything, surely all the Hollywood executives are wondering about is how their titles will place in the Spooool.ie end of year blockbuster rankings. A look at the big earners around the globe (pictured above) reveals that 2014 was, like 2013 and 2012 (and so on), chock full of sequels, adaptations and derivative ideas. It’s kind of heartening to see something like Interstellar and Lucy crack the worldwide top 20, despite their flaws.
It’s hard to classify a “blockbuster”. I used to consider anything passing the $50m threshold as a marker, but then you read that Lucy cost $40m, which is actually two million less than films like Jersey Boys or Sex Tape cost. Instead the list is made on instinct on what “feels” like a big, noisy blockbuster. Plus I haven’t seen everything – sorry Sin City and the Expendables Antiques Roadshow – so apologies in advance…
1. Edge of Tomorrow
Film-making that managed to i) remind us Tom Cruise can have fun and be a likeable action star, ii) turn a contrived, computer-game-like premise into an absolutely cracking thriller and iii) showcase Emily Blunt’s abs.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Marvel’s best effort since The Avengers, which managed to respect its universe and characters without having to chuck in token, sexy, one-dimensional females or attention-grabbing cameos. Also the character of the Winter Soldier was presented as one of the genre’s better examples of a protagonist – provided you’re a kid like me who doesn’t let on to know the twist.
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Winner of the year’s best Visual Effects award. God knows what it was like being on set amidst all the motion-capture suits. Who needs human actors?!
It’s a political film whose release has been delayed by studio politics and perhaps I shouldn’t be including it as it hasn’t gotten a general release yet. BUT it has played festivals, is on US Netflix and Empire have dubbed it one of their best films you (probably) didn’t see in 2014. Bong Joon-ho’s film deserves to be seen on the big screen for the sake of the brilliant performances from the likes of Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and Chris Evans.
5. The LEGO Movie
Everything (about this) is awesome.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Proving that sometimes you can throw everything including the kitchen sink at a film and still create a sensible, intelligent, touching and enjoyable movie. Can Bryan Singer make his timeline-bending world any bigger or better?
7. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Colourful, thrilling animated film-making that manages to live up to the high hopes set by its predecessor.
Completely batshit bonkers, but you get the sense that director Luc Besson knew exactly what he wanted and achieved it. All hail #ScarJo.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
North America’s highest grossing film of the year is an absolute blast, although you could question whether – for once – a blockbuster like this should take itself just a little bit more serious.
10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Farewell Peter Jackson’s Tolkien theme park. You wrapped things up by putting aside character development and the need to tie up loose ends, in favour of the best massive battle scenes since Helm’s Deep! Thanks!
11. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
All talk, not much action. Still not half bad though.
How to tackle a biblical epic in the 21st Century by Darren Aronofsky. Lesson 1. Take it really seriously whether you believe in it or not.
13. 300: Rise of An Empire
Surprisingly digestible fare with one of the year’s most delicious villains in the shape of Eva Green as Artemisia.
14. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Too many villains getting in the way almost spoil the fantastic energy between Garfield/Stone as Peter/Gwen. Pity they’ve now had to kill her off. #BringBackTobey
Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla managed to combine fantastic monsters and action set-pieces with some of the silliest plotting and coincidence to be projected on-screen this year.
16. 22 Jump Street
The closing credits show that the entire gang behind the film were in on the joke of making such an unnecessary, excessive sequel. Perfectly acceptable to watch, but it’s time to put the series to bed now.
The year’s most divisive film? Quite possibly. Stunning set-pieces and visuals, muddled with some truly daft plotting. Do the Nolan brothers have to take things so seriously? #WhySoSerious
18. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
I do not remember one thing about this film.
Bitterly disappointing attempt at playing it safe, PG-style from the director who brought us the thrilling Elite Squad series and the Bus 174 documentary.
20. A Million Ways to Die in the West
Seth MacFarlane is the marmite of comedy, with those people proclaiming to be his fans in increasingly short supply. A few hilarious sequences can’t save the whole film from falling flat.
21. Exodus: Gods and Kings
How to tackle a biblical epic in the 21st Century by Ridley Scott. Lesson 1. Miscast Caucasian actors, tell them to play camp and go for maximum dullness.
22. The Raid 2
So much more more goodwill and energy seems to have gone into the first film, with this one leaving a bad taste of excess and big, wasted budgets in your mouth.
23. The Equalizer
Boring “action” movie that is likely to have put audiences to sleep before the ridiculous – albeit somewhat enjoyable – closing act in the hardware shop.
24. Transformers: Age of Extinction
I’d really love to be the one guy who gives Transformers a great review. But I can’t be him. Time to pack it in Michael.
Thinking about this film again makes me so angry. Shame on all those involved. “£$%^&*GRRRRRRWWWWAAAAH!”£$%^&*()_
Up tomorrow, a round-up of the year in Irish cinema from Páraic, friends and correspondents lists arrive on Thursday and our big splash of our Best Films and a bumper podcast arrive on Friday.