Top 10 Best Movies of 2014 | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top 10 Best Movies of 2014


A brand new year of 2015 is approaching and likewise, I have selected and compiled a list of Top 10 Best Movies for 2014 that I already watched throughout the year.

10. BEGIN AGAIN

After scoring high with the critics in 2007's ONCE, writer-director John Carney returns with another winner in BEGIN AGAIN. Although the title does sound generic (the original title was supposed to be CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE?), the movie itself isn't. Blessed with a wonderful direction by John Carney, BEGIN AGAIN is an effective mix of dramedy and musical numbers featuring some of the best original songs of the year, including "Step You Can't Take Back" and "Coming Up Roses". But best of all is Keira Knightley, who steals most of the show here with her beautifully heartfelt performance as Gretta. Plus, she can sings surprisingly well, if not perfect with her soothing voice. (Read my full review here)

9. THE DEN

Blessed with a knockout REAR WINDOW-like premise set in the world of internet video chat, first-time feature writer and director Zachary Donohue crafted a near-perfect masterpiece of a cautionary thriller in THE DEN. Who knows that a movie takes place mostly from the first person's perspective via computer screen can be this visually compelling? The relatively unknown cast, particularly Melanie Papalia, delivers an outstanding performance as the level-headed Elizabeth. Unlike most female protagonist in a horror/thriller genre, her character feels more plausible because she relies on her mind and wits to solve problem. (Read my full review here)

8. FOXCATCHER

Never in a million years I would figure a regular Hollywood comedian Steve Carell (ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY) can actually pull off such a great dramatic performance as the real-life John E. du Pont. Kudos also go to director Bennett Miller for daring enough to cast Steve Carell in a pivotal role that might earn him an Oscar nomination come next year. In addition to Carell's top-notch performance, both Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are equally great in this unconventional sports movie. (Read my full review here)

7. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Since his acclaimed debut with BOTTLE ROCKET in 1996, Wes Anderson's movies are often synonymous with all things quirky presented on the comedy structure. His latest movie, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL came close as Anderson's best movie to date since RUSHMORE in 1998. A genre-bending comedy that pays homage to the classic 1930s Hollywood movies -- specifically 1932's GRAND HOTEL -- with a colourful mix of caper, whodunit and Alfred Hitchock-like suspense thriller, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a unique cinematic experience best seen on the big screen. The movie is also a triumph for its excellent technical craft and featured a rare, yet wonderfully hilarious performance by Ralph Fiennes in his role as the head concierge, M. Gustave. (Read my full review here)

6. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

A remarkably thrilling and heartfelt sequel to 2011's RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a rare follow-up that matches the same level of greatness with the first movie. Director Matt Reeves, who replaced Rupert Wyatt from the first movie, does a terrific job emphasising the sequel's sociopolitical context related to the central conflict between the apes and the humans. Once again, the special effects are top notch with much-improved lifelike CGI apes. Both Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell steal the show with their respective performances as Caesar and Koba. (Read my full review here)

5. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Once thought as a huge gamble for Marvel Studios to make a big-budget blockbuster based on an obscure comic book, director James Gunn manages the impossible and successfully turned GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY into one of the most entertaining movies of the year. Despite this is Gunn's first big studio production, he certainly has that geeky know-how to craft a movie filled with cheeky humour and colourful visuals. The cast -- including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel -- is spot-on perfect, while Gunn's love for classic songs of the yesteryears (e.g. 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" and Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love") fits particularly well in this freewheeling blockbuster. (Read my full review here)

4. NIGHTCRAWLER

A stunning debut from screenwriter-turned-director Dan Gilroy, NIGHTCRAWLER is an engaging drama that explores the dark side of voyeurism, social degradation and cutthroat world of network television. At the core of the movie, is Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives his all with his remarkably standout performance as the obsessive loner and deranged sociopath, Lou Bloom. (Read my full review here)

3. INTERSTELLAR

Despite polarising reviews surrounded the release of INTERSTELLAR since November, it's hard to deny that Christopher Nolan has once again successfully crafted a thought-provoking blockbuster worthy of a debate. A solid tribute that pays homage to some of the greatest science fiction masterpieces ever made (e.g. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY), INTERSTELLAR is an epic cinematic experience filled with big ideas and an emotionally-penetrating human drama. The movie also particularly notable for Matthew McConaughey's long-overdue comeback to the A-list status since resurrecting his career all over again after appearing in a string of acclaimed independent movies. (Read my full review here)

2. THE RAID 2: BERANDAL

Two years ago, Welsh-born director Gareth Evans has already set the bar high with THE RAID. However, Evans proves to be ambitious enough to shift the first movie's claustrophobic small-scale setting and expanded into an epic gangster drama. The result is an incredible piece of work, with Evans surprises me a lot with his capability to put more emphasis on the character-driven storytelling method filled with dramatic urgency. Although the movie clocks at 150 minutes, THE RAID 2: BERANDAL hardly feels overlong at all. Thanks to Evans' carefully-constructed pace, the movie is particularly blessed with some of the most insanely-choreographed action sequences ever seen in years. From the massive brawl in the muddy prison yard to the bloody one-on-one fight between Iko Uwais' Rama and Cecep Arif Rahman's The Assassin in the brightly-lit kitchen, the action sequences are top notch. While some viewers may complain the level of violence displayed in this movie is overly gratuitous, Evans remains a unique director who knows well about integrating cinematic beauty and style beneath all the blood and gore. (Read my full review here)

1. GONE GIRL

David Fincher's finest movie to date since 2007's ZODIAC. Although Fincher has done plenty of psychological thrillers in the past, GONE GIRL is unlike anything that Fincher has done before. Yes, it's true that Fincher's recurring theme related to the dark side of human nature is widely explored in this movie. But other than that, this is an unconventional Hollywood thriller that also works well as a pitch-black satire poking fun on today's "perfect" marriage and media obsession. All the cast is great, but Rosamund Pike particularly stands out the most as the manipulative Amy. (Read my full review here)

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS (in non-particular order)

1. THE JOURNEY

A rare local movie that truly impresses me with Chiu's meticulous depiction of the traditional Chinese culture. But what makes THE JOURNEY such a must-see movie for all Malaysians is Ryon Lee's relatable screenplay that touches on the universal themes of friendship, hope, love, friendship and unity. (Read my full review here)

2. NOAH

While it may not be entirely faithful to the Book of Genesis, Darren Aronofsky's cinematic version of NOAH is visually arresting and thought-provoking biblical epic.

3. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

A much-improved sequel over Joe Johnston-directed CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER in 2011, directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo surprises me a lot with the way they handle their first big-scale production. Prior to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, the Russo brothers is primarily known for directing comedies such as TV's Community and 2006's YOU, ME AND DUPREE. But they prove to be versatile filmmakers after all as they successfully integrated an otherwise usual superhero blockbuster with political intrigue reminiscent of a conspiracy thriller made in the '70s. (Read my full review here)

4. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

After the lacklustre response of SUPERMAN RETURNS in 2006, Bryan Singer's directing career suffered a major decline. But it wasn't until the year 2014 that finally saw Singer returned with a bang in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. The most unique factor about this sequel to 2011's X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is the way Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg devise a complex time-travel storyline that bridges the gap between the past and current X-MEN movies. Not to forget also is the movie's engaging sense of visual flair in the action department as well as the emotional depth displayed during the character-driven drama moment. (Read my full review here)

5. MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN

It's a shame that this little-seen and generally ill-received drama fails to resonate well with most critics and viewers. But personally, I think Jason Reitman's ensemble drama exploring the timely issues of today's communication in the digital era is intriguing. Although the movie tends to go too much on the melodramatic route, MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN remains a solid character-driven movie. The ensemble cast, ranging from Adam Sandler (it's nice to see him depart from his usual comedy role once in a while) to Ansel Elgort, are all captivating. But of all the actors here, Jennifer Garner is particularly impressive in one of the best performances of her career playing an overprotective mother.

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