As 2014 fades away, here are my favourite films from the last year. Some nearly made the cut - THE IMITATION GAME, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER - but these are the ten I decided on, and why.
In no particular order...
After the critical and commercial success of BLACK SWAN, Darren Aronofsky had Green Awning Syndrome in spades. So he went off and made this insanely personal but fascinating take on the Old Testament story. Rock monsters, a brief history of the universe, Maximus Decimus Meridias in the title role...plus the Ark and a spectacular flood. Strange to think this was a studio picture (Paramount) - even stranger to realise it did good at the box-office.
This time last year, Disney execs were nervously estimating how much money they'd lose on the goddamn sci-fi movie with the talking tree and pistol-packin' raccoon. It only turned out to be the year's biggest box-office hit in the US (take that, TRANSFORMERS 4), a refreshing and original addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it boasted a fine '70s bubblegum pop soundtrack.
Me and Jake Gyllenhaal fell out over PRINCE OF PERSIA. After this film, we're all good now. I wrote more about NIGHTCRAWLER here.
Brendan Gleeson rightly deserved the plaudits for his towering performance as the threatened priest but it's Aidan Gillen and his chilling little anecdote that will haunt you long after the film has finished.
Tom Hardy, driving along the motorway at night, talking to people on his mobile...that's it. A simple premise but intelligent and gripping stuff from start to finish. Hardy's restrained performance is mesmerising.
The welcome return of Michael Keaton in the sharpest, coolest, most thought-provoking comedy of the year. And what about that ending! Seriously - what about that ending...?
With MOONRISE KINGDOM and now GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Wes Anderson finally shows he can balance the chilly, precise nature of his style with warm-hearted content and characters. Also - Ralph Fiennes is a master of comedy. Who knew?
The EVIL DEAD 2 of action movies - bigger, better, bloodier than the original. Writer/director Gareth Evans could have taken the easy option and just cloned the first film. Instead, he upped the ante with some breathtakingly choreographed fights and stunts. And just when you thought you'd seen everything a car chase can be...
So much more than a psychological thriller - GONE GIRL tears apart and examines the modern marriage. David Fincher is one of the best directors currently working in Hollywood and here he's in top form. See it quick before some dickhead spoils it for you.
The deserved winner of a Best Picture Oscar, 12 YEARS is a searing account of 19th century slavery in the deep South. Brutal without being exploitative, uplifting without being sentimental.