Welcome to the JSHmoviestuff REVIEW OF 2014.
“I’m with you till the end of the line.” – CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
I know what you mean, Cap! Whoah. A trip away over the festive holidays has meant the JSHmoviestuff REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2014 is a little delayed in being posted this time but it also resulted in one more memorable movie making it onto my list right before the year came to a close – a movie I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out.
This time around, the films that made my movie-going 12 months all seemed to fit that statement from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER so the ones that made me gasp, laugh, cry and whoop with delight have all been about people putting themselves out there or on the line, no matter what the cost – whether that’s a selfless, heroic act, a struggle to do what’s right, or a brutal want for something better.
So, here… we… go… into my list of the best features I’ve seen on the silver screen in 2014. For my full reviews, simply click on the movie’s title…
Llewyn doesn’t have an easy life. Playing his folk music in the bars and cafes of Greenwich Village, New York in 1961, borrowing money from friends and struggling to get a name for himself on the music scene is a sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious journey to watch, chronicled superbly in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS another of the cinematic marvels from those masters Joel and Ethan Coen. Oscar Isaac’s brilliant, troubled, grouchy Llewyn was a star turn indeed and as he learned the hard way that engaging with your material and your audience can lead to something better around the corner, we saw Carey Mulligan’s Jean, who found him annoying a lot of the time, never quite gave up on him and neither do we. Just how do the Coen’s do it? Every film they produce is just so distinct and dynamic – they are the top. What a great way to start the year.
For someone who’s never really travelled anywhere and lived a very simple, singular life up to the point we meet him, Walter Mitty goes on the most incredible, transformative journey in Ben Stiller’s sublime remake of James Thurber’s short story THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. As both director and star, Stiller distills so beautifully and so emotionally (I think I started blubbing about 15 minutes in!) the story of a man who discovers the courage to push himself beyond what he thought was possible, because there’s no one else who can save the tiny part of the world he inhabits. Kristen Wiig is delightful as Cheryl, the woman that Walter pines for, there’s a fantastic cameo from Patton Oswalt as the best customer service person you’ll ever speak to and the incomparable Shirley Maclaine is Walter’s mum – what more could you wish for?
Of course, someone who puts himself out there for his guests 200% at THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is the legendary concierge Monsieur Gustave H. Whatever their wish, he makes their stay in the gorgeous, palatial hotel the best it can be. But when he takes on a new lobby boy called Zero (winningly played by newcomer Tony Revolori), his life becomes a madcap series of events involving a stolen painting, some rather delicious pastries, a group of zany criminals and so much more. This is all captured to perfection in Wes Anderson’s latest delight – it’s superbly detailed, very funny and incredibly touching, possibly even beating Moonrise Kingdom to the best Anderson movie crown. There’s a quite unheard of collection of marvellous actors in its supporting cast but it’s Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Gustave that drives the film and ranks among the best in his already brilliant career. Book your visit now!
A decision that has the capacity to impact on your whole life and make it crumble in front of your eyes is what faces Ivan LOCKE in Steven Knight’s exceptional drama. Tom Hardy is stunning in this one-man tour-de-force, as we follow Ivan in 85 real-time minutes as he drives from Birmingham to London, dealing with the fall out of that momentous decision in a series of ever-more desperate and agonising phone calls. Think that watching one actor on a car journey on a phone sounds ordinary, think again. It’s riveting viewing that left me breathless when I emerged from the cinema and it’s a shame Hardy hasn’t appeared on any Best Actor awards lists to date – he and the film are something to catch.
So, Cap – you saved us from some pretty dastardly evil in World War II, sacrificing yourself to what seemed a certain death in the Arctic, only to survive, be thawed out in the present day and emerge disoriented into the modern world, still dreaming about the girl you left behind. Now after becoming part of The Avengers, Steve Rogers (the ever-splendid Chris Evans) still can’t quite get a handle on how S.H.I.E.L.D. or his team partner Natasha Romanoff (the ever-fabulous Scarlett Johansson) ticks but everything changes with the shocking arrival of a face from his past in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER – the best action movie of the year hands-down, that also delivered a knockout, emotional punch. Bringing in brothers Joe and Anthony Russo from the independent sector to helm the sequel was inspired, as they created a marvellously shadowy world of 70’s-style paranoia, very different from the majority of the superhero movies we’ve seen to date, whilst still orchestrating some top action sequences and allowing the likes of none other than Robert Redford on board to deliver a spot-on supporting performance. I’m losing count of the number of times I’ve watched it now, being more than a bit of a fan of its smart storytelling and cast who all seriously deliver the goods (Anthony Mackie as new recruit Sam Wilson is one of the highlights) but if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for such a treat.
Lou Bloom is more than a little lost too. Struggling to find work and reduced to selling stolen goods, what he does possess is a killer charm, razor-sharp intelligence, and a really strong will to succeed. When he stumbles on an accident at the side of a road and watches fascinated as a camera crew arrives to film the grisly scene, it’s the start of a new direction for his life as a NIGHTCRAWLER that although brings the success he craves, also leads him to make highly questionable moral choices that put people’s lives in danger. As the thief turned crime journalist, Jake Gyllenhaal is truly outstanding, delivering possibly the finest portrayal of his career to date. Bloom is quite the most original character I’ve seen on screen for a very long time and at certain moments in the film, screenwriter and first-time director Dan Gilroy, gives you yet another dimension to his character that surprises and shocks you in equal measure. Amazing support from the terrific Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed make this a movie you can’t take your eyes off.
Of course, if you want to think really big, you have to look to the stars and that’s exactly what Coop, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey, does in Christopher Nolan‘s latest incredible piece of film-making, INTERSTELLAR. When the Earth becomes ravaged by an ever-increasing series of sandstorms and crops dry up, the only hope for the human race is to colonise another planet but where will that be? Thousands of light years from here, that’s certain and so when Michael Caine’s Professor Brand offers Coop the job of piloting this mission, it will mean he could save the planet but it also means that he’s away from his teenage son Tom and beloved younger daughter Murph for what will most likely be many years. What would you do? If you thought Nolan’s Inception was epic, wait until you see this – it’s absolutely awe-inspiring stuff and with another wonderful ensemble cast including Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, and John Lithgow, this is another intelligent, thrilling ride from Nolan.
Sometimes it takes every ounce of will to make yourself even get out bed, let alone think about anything more when life has knocked you down. But you know that if you can just manage that first step, it could set you on a path that could change your life. This is the situation faced by Sandra, luminously played by Marion Cotillard, in another remarkable performance in Jean-Luc and Pierre Dardenne’s extraordinary film. She has TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT to convince her co-workers to forgo their promised bonus so that she can keep her job. It’s no easy task but with the support of her husband and her friend, she makes her case to each of her colleagues.This is as gripping as any thriller, where joy and despair exist on a knife edge and with every visit Sandra makes, you know it could go one way or another. Catching this right at the very end of the year, I’m incredibly glad I saw so that it could be part of my list. I’m now off to seek out the Dardenne brothers other films because if they’re as great as this one, they’ll be unmissable.
And there you have it. The movies I’ll take with me from 2014.
I must make a special mention for Bennett Miller’s mind-blowing Foxcatcher which I had the very good fortune to be at one of its two performances at the London Film Festival in October. But as that wasn’t when it was released in the UK, as it’s only opened now, I don’t feel it’s right including it in my 2014 list but it’ll be in the one for 2015 for sure! It’s as quietly stunning as Miller’s other two films, Capote and Moneyball and has an absolutely astounding performance from Steve Carell at its centre – please don’t miss it!
And I’ve also just caught Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s magnificent Birdman which contains another stellar lead performance, this time from the fabulous (and now Golden Globe winning) Michael Keaton. You’ll see a review published shortly which tells you why you should go and see it. But just go anyway, it’s fab.
All in all, it was a pretty great year for me and movies in 2014. So here’s to the don’t-you-dare-miss-it films coming up in 2015 and I’ll see you there!