Wednesday 10 December 2014

The Gizzle Review's Top Films of 2014

10. The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Why it made the top 10:
Ok so DiCaprio is still without an Oscar win, but his performance here is fantastic.  As the charismatic Jordan Belfort, he’s charming, delivers a cracking speech and induces howls of laughter with his drug-fuelled attempts at driving.  And in a career defining year for Matthew McConaughey, we now have that iconic chest thumping mantra.  The film tells a very debauched and dark true story, but it’s never less than hugely entertaining.  Let’s just forget about Jonah Hill’s wang shall we?

Ultimately, though, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a cautionary tale on living to excess, the effects of greed and the darker side of the American Dream.  Whether the film revels too far in its hedonistic debauchery is simply a matter of taste.”

9. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)

Why it made the top 10:
The third book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy failed to live up to the hype of the first two, but the magic of The Hunger Games films is that they defy expectations: they’re better than the books.  Sure, Mockingjay is a dystopian fantasy thriller about a young girl leading a revolution against a cruel government.  Yet even in half a film, it manages to explore issues of the power of media and propaganda, as well as tapping into elements of modern warfare for its visual style.  And in Jennifer Lawrence we have a truly inspiring leading lady.

This dark, dystopian tale has captured the minds of a generation.  Whilst the plot and characters alone are intriguing, this third film lends a level of visual realism that transcends the fantasy of the novels.” 

8. The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie

Why it made the top 10:
As the theme tune incessantly goes, “everything is awesome”.  The Lego Movie is that rare thing: a true family film that kids and adults can enjoy together.  It captures the anarchic joy of childlike creativity, whilst providing layers of satire and parody that subvert the usual movie tropes.  The dream cast, the witty script and the visual flare make for a film brimming with charm that reminds us all that rules are made to be broken.

The film is, quite literally, an insight into the mind of a child, a world where the possibilities of creation are endless, not limited by walls, glue or instruction manuals but by your imagination.

7. Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand Budapest Hotel

Why it made the top 10:
The world of this crazy hotel is a playground for everyone involved.  Wes Anderson’s cartoon style pops with over-the-top theatricality, the chaotic cinematography and bright pastel shades framing what is a rather silly murder mystery plot.  And its cast of A-list actors are clearly having a blast in their various cameos – some extensive, some simply amusing one-liners.  At the centre of it all is Ralph Fiennes as the eccentric protagonist as we follow him on this manic ride.

What exactly it all amounts to beyond a silly journey through European opulence is unclear, but Grand Budapest Hotel doesn’t fail to entertain.”

6. Gone Girl

Gone Girl

Why it made the top 10:
Gone Girl is the sort of divisive film that stirs debate long after the credits.  Whether you side with Nick or Amy is just one of many questions the film throws up, exploring the reality of marriage and the fickle nature of the media, all to a stylish and clinical vision of America.  This is a bleak, provocative and often disturbing psychological thriller, but the less you know before you watch the better.  If you’re yet to see it, hurry up and join the debate.

"Gone Girl is a disturbing yet thought-provoking film that’s quite possibly the best thriller of the year.”

5. Under The Skin

Under The Skin

Why it made the top 10:
Issues of identity and what it means to be human are frequently explored in science-fiction, but few are as startling as Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin.  With its disturbingly abstract cinematography, it’s a film that questions more than it answers, lulling us into its nightmarish rhythms just as Scarlett Johansson’s unnamed alien lulls her male victims into an unexplained void.  This is a hypnotic, fantastical and avant garde piece of filmmaking that, with its setting of modern day Glasgow, feels strangely real.

“Glazer’s film is a fusion of science-fiction and body horror that’s mesmerising, disturbing and intensely erotic.”

4. Interstellar


Why it made the top 10:
Christopher Nolan has proven himself to be the master of mind-bending cinema.  Not content with his dream-within-a-dream concept, in Interstellar he employs scientific theory to baffle the audience – perhaps too much – in a cerebral space opera that tackles huge philosophical questions about our place in the universe.  It’s his most ambitious film to date, matched by stunning cinematography, a rousing score from Hans Zimmer (who else?) and some surprisingly emotional performances from Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway.  For that alone it’s one of the cinematic events of 2014, but no other film has aroused such intellectual and scientific intrigue this year.

Through its mesmerising symphonic structure and expansive narrative that tackles some demanding scientific and philosophical questions, this is less a space odyssey and more a space opera.

3. Pride


Why it made the top 10:
In a year where the first same-sex marriages took place in England, contrasting with dire situations in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria, the importance of a film like Pride cannot be underestimated.  Presenting the unlikely alliance of a group of gay Londoners assisting a small Welsh mining town during the miners strikes of Thatcherite Britain, it’s an overwhelmingly positive story that smashes homophobia square in the teeth.  Yet beneath that is a thoroughly British comedy drama that explores a dark period of modern history, inspires a huge amount of pride in our country, and features Imelda Staunton waggling an oversized dildo.

“…this is a film of overwhelming positivity with an eminently quotable script; a drama first and a history lesson second.  Charm simply radiates from the screen.

2. Her


Why it made the top 10:
It’s been a busy year for Scarlett Johansson, but her performance in Her is perhaps her best and it’s all in voice only.  Who else could inspire Joaquin Phoenix to fall in love with an operating system?  Spike Jonze’s film may seem trite in its themes of what it means to be human, sentient technology and the power of love, but not only is it fascinating and relevant to the future of society, it’s undeniably touching.

“In reality, Samantha is only one step on from Apple’s Siri.  Science-fiction meets tender love story could be the future of our relationships and we have this beautiful and thought-provoking film to thank.

1. Whiplash


Why it made the top 10:
Whiplash is the most intense film of 2014.  J.K. Simmons surely deserves an Oscar for his performance as Fletcher, the conductor of a New York conservatory jazz band and the embodiment of evil.  He pushes jazz drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) to the extreme, but is that what it takes to reach godlike status and become the best you can be?  Or is Fletcher simply feeding his own ego?  The chemistry between the two actors is palpable in their Faustian stand-off, but what’s most remarkable is that director Damien Chazelle is able to deliver much of this storytelling wordlessly through an electrifying jazz score and cinematography that highlights the physicality of musical performance.  This is essential viewing not just for musicians, but for all fans of cinema.

“This is simply an extraordinary piece of cinema, combining music and visual storytelling in explosive unison.