With 2014 (over) halfway through, it's time to reflect on the cinematic year thus far. Accredited with numerous triumphs, not to mention a number of emphatic troughs (here's looking at you, Pudsey The Movie), take a look at a list of the five top films of the first half of 2014, product of my humble opinion...
5 - Locke
Set entirely in a BMW, chronicling a drive from Birmingham to London, Locke is an ingenious & unique minimalist thriller. Tom Hardy stars as the eponymous construction expert, a man of pragmatism and reason, yet with a latent edge of panic and malaise, which perpetually threatens to boil over. Director Steven Knight successfully cranks up the tension as Locke attempts to put his house in order following a personal crisis through a painstaking series of phone calls to family and colleagues. Who'd have thought that construction work could be so unrelentingly tense?
4 - Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 & 2
Lars Von Trier is a director not without his controversy, and his most recent film proves to be no exception. As the third instalment of his 'depression trilogy', Nymphomaniac continues Lars' thread of uncompromising cinema to mesmeric effect. Described by Xan Brooks as a, "4-hour long cold shower", (more apt words have never been said, I assure you) Nymphomaniac is the confessional of Joe, a misogynistic sex addict, in which she entirely bares her soul, giving recounts of her voluminous lovers of times gone by and the struggles with her hopeless addiction. Rich with literary, historical and religious references and wisdom, Nymphomaniac is a dark yet beautiful and often hilarious film; a deeply provocative piece.
3 - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel is a smorgasbord of sensory delights: The supreme visual aesthetic of Zubrowka, Anderson's own fastidiously fabricated Soviet-esque world, the sonically energetic soundtrack, the olfactorial dominance of Gustav H's cologne & the delectable pastries of Agatha's bakery. Put them all together, along with Anderson's usual quirks, and you get a hilarious crime-caper-pastiche-romatic-indie flick. The genres go on. Loved by Anderson's devotees and newcomers alike, you cannot fail to fall prey to the undeniable charm of this fun-packed cinematic treat. With just about everyone in cinema showing their face along with enough nested narratives to make Inception get chills, this may just be Anderson's best film yet. At the very least, his fullest. Saturated doesn't quite cover it.
2 - Calvary
John Michael Mcdonagh's film Calvary is like a darkly comical catholic game of Cluedo . A pre-emptive murder mystery where the deceased-to-be is a priest, more specifically a well-liked priest. We open with the declaration that the priest is to be killed in a week's time, proclaimed by an anonymous parishioner in the dark of a confession booth, bent on revenge due to wrongs inflicted upon him by a Catholic priest as a child. The film then follows the priest, confidently played by Brendon Gleeson, as he goes about his priestly duties in his west coast Irish parish over the week. Equipped with a fiercely well written script, Calvary is a deeply insightful film, reflecting on the nature of life, religion, forgiveness and the fallibility of human beings. It'll make you laugh, make you think and has the potential to really shock.
1 - Boyhood
Whilst the top spot is far from original, you have to concede to populist opinion due to Boyhood's sheer ambition. Richard Linklater's modest masterpiece has made headlines due to its innovative time-lapse filming approach, the film being shot over the coarse of 12 years using the same cast throughout. The film focusses on Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, following him from the age of 5 through to 18, Linklater in essence showing us the boy and giving us the man, one year at a time. Far from the platitudinous aspects of 'coming-of-age' films, Boyhood is a reflection of life's ups and downs and has a core humanism which we can all relate to. Indeed, it is spectacular in being entirely unspectacular and just simply the story of a family. With a sublime ensemble and exquisite performances to boot, Boyhood is a film lined with such passion and emotivity, you cannot fail to reciprocate it as an audience member.
- The Lego Movie: The Lego franchise hits the big screen with surprisingly hilarious results. A great cast, loveable characters and a great script.
- 22 Jump Street: Who'd have thought your standard bromance picture could be so wittily self-referential? The film keeps the gags coming at an impressive rate and has some great comedic performances.
- Exhibition: A further piece by Britain's most uncompromising writer-directer Joanna Hogg. Continuing the focus of British middle-class ennui, the film is an enticing look into the world of two artists.