Greetings once again!
No need for formalities this time around. It is time to conclude my Top 10 of 2014!
5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
I realize that not everyone has been completely sold or even interested in this Marvel film experiment despite its continued success, and there's nothing wrong with that. That being said, if you're a fan of smart espionage action thrillers, you really are doing yourself a disservice by letting "The Winter Soldier" pass you by. When you think about it, when ignoring the fact that Chris Evans is dressed as the American flag, that's really what this film is and it's a damn good time. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlet Johansson make for very fitting supporters, the action scenes are gripping and well shot, and the story doesn't wonder aimlessly, just to name a few more positive ingredients. The one drawback is that this sequel does have continuation in its plot from the original "The First Avenger", so it would be recommended to watch that film first.
Whether you're fan of Marvel of not, it's hard to deny Captain America as the next big action hero.
4. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Try as they might, DreamWorks has never really been able to get out of Pixar's shadow. They have had strong efforts, of course, but nothing that has reached the same heights. Then, out of nowhere, "How to Train Your Dragon" was released in 2010 and caught audiences and critics off-guard with its gorgeous animation and wonderful storytelling in what could have easily been my favorite animated film of that year, except that was also the year "Toy Story 3" was released - so close, DreamWorks, so close. Be that as it may, a sequel was obviously inevitable, and I'm really glad DreamWorks took their time because "Dragons 2" is fantastic and well worth the wait. I've never been of the opinion that a sequel has to necessarily surpass its predecessor as I'd much more prefer it to be what it was meant to be as a worthy follow up and continuation of the story. DreamWorks hits that concept right on target with more breathtaking animation, a maturing of the coming of age story, and a villain that isn't to be reasoned with.
While Pixar did not have a 2014 release, it's possible that it may not have mattered. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" absolutely earns best animated film of the year.
3. GONE GIRL
This is the kind of mystery drama/thriller that I've been waiting to see for a long time now. A film that is already suspenseful up to the big twist reveal and decides, not to end it there, but to keep the story moving forward deeper in the game of cat and mouse. Ben Affleck turns in a good performance as the film's lead, but Rosamund Pike is the real game changer as his missing wife. As much as I would love to talk further about it, "Gone Girl" is so well crafted that giving too much away wouldn't be fair to anyone whom has yet to see it.
As a big fan of David Fincher, I am willing to say that this might be one of his best works yet.
2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Yes, another Marvel movie, but seriously, what's not to love about "Guardians"? I mean, beside the fact that one of the best characters is a talking, gun-wielding raccoon? It is also not slightly impressive that one of the biggest blockbusters of the year featured really a whole cast of B-level bounty hunters that no one other than the more hardcore comic fans had ever heard of previously? Truth be told, "Guardians" clearly doesn't need me to defend it. The cast lead by the rapidly emerging comedian Chris Pratt is often hilarious together, the script is engaging and near-perfectly paced, and as expected, the special effects are Marvel-caliber. While it is a technical installment of Phase 2 and the final entry prior to "Avengers: Age of Ultron", I can think of no reason why "Guardians" couldn't be enjoyed on its own merit, even if you had no desire to see the other Marvel installments up to this point.
I would say to definitely check this one out!
And finally, DRUM ROLL PLEASE - My Top Film of 2014 is....
1. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Okay okay, unnecessary theatrics aside, I'm sure very few would find this surprising as I've seen "Dawn" on many Top 10 lists in the movie community already, and for perfectly good reason, too: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" absolute deserves the kudos. After all the time I pondered what film would land where on my list, I couldn't think of any other I had more fun seeing in the theater this last summer. Not only that, but putting it at #1 this year was further crystallized for me watching it home a second time and loving it even more. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" laid excellent groundwork back in 2011, and luckily for us, the filmmakers didn't fumble away a good thing; instead, they took it by the reigns and made the sequel into a great thing. I will say this, if Andy Serkis doesn't walk away with some kind of hardware during the big awards season, then there's something incredibly wrong. Considering all the great live capture animation work that he's done up until this point already, I feel his work in "Dawn" is easily his best performance to date. What helps his case even more is the fantastic story about the shaken peace between man and ape, the highly entertaining action sequences in the Second and Third Act, and an antagonist that isn't made known right away and can still be sympathized with when their true colors are shown.
I'm not saying that "Dawn" is perfection beginning to end, but it certainly raised the bar the highest for 2014 releases and for its own franchise all at once. The apes are back!