Part 1 – Seen on screen, 2014

Blame it on the dog, a lack of funds or being plain old busy, but as revealed in my post on Monday 12th January, 2014 was a dreadful year for cinema visits, with just six visits made.

Happily, none of those six films were disappointments. Here are more detailed reviews of them, with my ‘Movies of the Month’ summary too.

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesDawn of the Planet of the Apes – ★★★★★

“An absolute triumph; builds on the foundations of the first and continues the epic story in style.”

As my ‘Movies of the Month’ summary stated, Dawn was an absolute triumph, matching and exceeding its predecessor, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This was no mean feat, considering that Rise was very well received and holds an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Dawn, currently sitting pretty at 90% fresh, saw Caesar return with a group of genetically evolved apes, 10 years after the events of Rise. What’s left of San Francisco’s population live in ruins, with an uneasy peace between the two species.

With nods to Rise, Dawn builds on its foundation but begins to focus on the plight of the apes and humans more equally, seeking to explore how the two species can forge a relationship when Earth as we knew it is no longer and the odds are markedly in the apes’ favour.

Without a doubt, the stars of the show are Caesar and the apes, stunning examples of motion capture from Peter Jackson’s Weta that made it so easy to form emotional attachments with and forget that the animals we were seeing on screen weren’t flesh and blood.

A third film, with the place-holder title of Planet of the Apes, is slated for July 2017. I’m confident that it’ll follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, and eagerly await the next chapter in the series.

GuardiansGuardians of the Galaxy – ★★★★

“Simply put in two words, this is ‘great fun’.”

I’ve always enjoyed comic book adaptations, and for a long time the X-Men have been my favourite characters. This could be an indicator as to why I enjoyed Guardians so much, as it’s a group of heroes rather than placing the spotlight on one in particular.

Guardians is a fun, fast paced origin story that creates the next generation of intergalactic superheroes from a bunch of murderers, mercenaries and misfits. They’re slightly meaner and more criminally-minded than Professor X, Cyclops and co, using cyber-genetics, weapons and old-fashioned fists to get their point across.

Since seeing Guardians in August, I’ve re-watched it at home, boosting my original four-star rating to four and a half. While it can be predictable – something I’ve come to expect with most films now; a side effect from watching so many films – it is 110% pure enjoyment, from the fantastically Eighties soundtrack to the use of contemporary references and insults.

Chris Pratt is a hugely likeable actor, and I look forward to seeing him in this year’s Jurassic World; he hadn’t previously taken leading man status until last year, with his starring roles in Guardians and The Lego Movie. Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Bradley Cooper ably support, as does Vin Diesel as the unforgettable Groot.

As part of Marvel’s Phase 3, a sequel is in the pipeline and I can’t wait to watch the next instalment, as well as find out what’s on AWESOME MIX: VOL. 2. My only hope is that the Guardians don’t feature with any of the Avengers too soon, as it would be great to follow the Guardians on their own path and learn more about them first.

Gone GirlGone Girl – ★★★★½

“Stunning film; Fincher is on top form with a true thriller.”

Looking at his back catalogue, I’ve seen seven of Fincher’s 10 feature films, with just The Game, Zodiac and The Social Network left to watch. Of the ones I have seen – Alien 3, Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl – I can firmly say that he excels in thrillers, with Benjamin Button being an odd choice.

Gone Girl is much in the same vein as Dragon Tattoo, with another fantastic score from NIN’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross playing against a clever script, dark lighting and strong lead performances. Perhaps it could also be said that Fincher is excelling in book-to-film adaptations too, though I haven’t read either of the above, or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, so can’t comment.

When I went to see Gone Girl, with three male friends, I was left a little shell-shocked when the credits started rolling; I was feeling a little uncomfortable and on edge, agreeing with my friends that when love, lust and power are involved, people can be downright scary.

The choice of leads was inspired. Over recent years Affleck has been enjoying a McConaughey-style renaissance, choosing dramas and thrillers over big budget actions. With his clean cut, all-American appearance, he was the perfect fit for Nick Dunne while Rosamund Pike, who previously had minimal leading lady experience, was superb as Nick’s wife, Amy. Indeed, I haven’t been able to look at her in quite the same way since.

When watching films I love to be ‘on the edge of my seat’, particularly when it comes to thrillers. I have been known to start shouting at characters, urging them to do this or that. When it came to Gone Girl, I was so close to the edge that I was in danger of being on the floor.

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