Sonic Mania – Review

It may have taken them a long fifteen years, but Sega has finally released a Sonic the Hedgehog game that fans can be incredibly proud of. Developed by Headcannon and PagodaWest Games, Sonic Mania is a true return to form for the blue speedball, receiving rave reviews almost everywhere.

Unsurprisingly, like the previous games, Sonic Mania revolves around stopping Dr Eggman (Robotnik) and collecting the Chaos Emeralds. As they attempt to thwart Eggman’s plans, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles are thrown back into the past. Now it’s a race through time to save the day once again.

The game is similar in style to the original 2D platform games that the franchise is renowned for. Players are able to play as Sonic, Tails or even Knuckles in a variety of different acts. Some old favourites return with some grand redesigns, along with a small selection of shiny new zones.

Sonic Mania kicks things off with a stunning little animated short, and immediately this feels like a fresh start for the franchise. Known for his work on the recently cancelled Archie Sonic Mega Drive miniseries, Tyson Hesse lends a hand in animating this fun intro.

There’s a clear labour of love behind the game, as it’s even developed by a number of fans who are known in the community for their hard work on porting and creating their very own Sonic games. Once lead programmer Christian Whitehead approached Sega about this unique idea, the company decided to help publish it.

Thankfully, Sega made the right choice here. After so many previous pitfalls, Sonic Mania finally gets it right. It’s a superb piece of work, which can provide fans with hours of entertainment. Having recently finished the game, it’s safe to say that it should be recommended to those who have even fallen out with the hedgehog.

The zones have such a clever design to them, meaning that Sonic can traverse across any of the acts however the player wants. Due to the way some of them are designed, zones can be ended in various different ways. Don’t care for the water on a certain level? Get dry and travel to the highest parts of the map.

There’s a huge sense of nostalgia when Sonic is revisiting the old zones, but honestly, the new ones are where the game truly shines. For example, Studiopolis Zone showcases just how great the level designs are, and how the developers have managed to add their own flair to an old recipe. There’s so much detail to be seen as Sonic whizzes on by, so don’t hesitate to pause once in a while to admire the vibrant colours and unique designs.

If there’s any criticism to be made about the game though, it’s that we’ve seen some of these old acts before. The nightmare inducing Chemical Plant and Hydrocity zones make a return, along with that horrifying drowning countdown sound. It’s nice to revisit these zones with a fresh coat of paint, but there was a certain desire to see more new content, especially considering the fact they’re so well made.

Despite this minor criticism, it felt that Sonic Mania was severely missing its very own Ice Cap Zone, so no valid complaints can be made there. Bonus stages make a return again and unfortunately, there’s been no improvement here with collecting the blue spheres. There’s also the addition of the Special Zone, which can be accessed in hidden areas. Special Zones consist of chasing down a UFO, which is a welcome change of pace.

The enemies in Sonic Mania are pretty much the same as their predecessors, but there are a few surprise appearances throughout. Fans of the series will be happy to see a myriad of old faces, and some of the more keen-eyed gamers will notice references to forgotten games.

Players will notice the change in difficulty later into the game, and in one case the final boss in Oil Ocean Zone resulted in some short gameplay breaks. When all lives are lost in Sonic Mania, players have to start from the beginning of the first act. It’s not as harsh a punishment from the previous 2D games, but it’s suitable. Practice just makes perfect with these games.

Unfortunately, a small number of glitches hindered my progress throughout the game. So far, Sonic has managed to completely skip an act one boss, and also get himself perpetually stuck in the spinning motion during a boss fight, presumably for the rest of his life. This can be put down to the fact that the game is brand new so glitches like this can happen. Hopefully, these get fixed though, as other players are having issues.

The sprites have never looked better either, and they’re completely fluid no matter what Sonic is doing.  The same applies to the enemies and especially the boss battles, and Eggman’s creations are meticulously put together brilliantly. Hard work and dedication has been spent on bringing this game to life, and people familiar with sprites will end up blushing during the game.

Of course, Michael Jackson isn’t around to help contribute to the music in Sonic Mania (was he ever?), but it is without a doubt the strongest soundtrack in around 20 years. Whereas Sonic Adventure 2 had some decent songs, Sonic Mania provides some solid remixes and fresh tracks that fans will be already adding to their personal playlists.

Sonic Mania took around five hours to complete, but thankfully there’s an awful lot of replayability here. There’s a Time Attack mode, allowing players to finish the zones in the fastest time possible. Competition Mode makes a welcome return (first appearing in Sonic the Hedgehog 2), where players can race to the finish line.

As is the case with all Sonic games, players aren’t truly finished until all the Chaos Emeralds are collected. Medallions can also be acquired in the game, unlocking special features for different characters. Some will even notice that playing as Knuckles results in a different layout for one level.

For those who fond of the original 2D games, it’s certain that they’ll fall in love with Sonic Mania. It’s even a great starting point for the younger player, who will enjoy the fast-paced action. Considering just how cheap it is, Sonic Mania is great value for money, and it deserves to be played. Hopefully, Sega picks these developers once again, and we’ll see more of this sort of thing.

Sonic Mania is available on all platforms, and it’s a downright bargain. Although I claimed that there have been no well-reviewed Sonic games in fifteen years, I’ve admittedly left out the Sonic & All-Stars Racing games, which deserves recognition for being amazing. Sorry about that.

Top 8 Comics of 2016

This year showcased a wide variety of original graphic novels and comics for almost everyone, as the industry witnessed some brilliant storytelling and stunning artwork. There might have been a few blunders along the way, but cynicism towards the industry waned thanks to the release of some truly remarkable titles.

This short list is comprised of some of the best publications of the year, from a number of different publishers. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out some of these comics, then please support the creators by enveloping yourself in their carefully crafted universes. It’s not too late to hop on either, as a few of these titles will are continuing into 2017.

8. JUGHEAD

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Archie Comics successfully rebooted back in 2015, and since then the publisher has seen a plethora of new talent working on their beloved characters. One of those new creative teams that have achieved something special is the dynamic duo of Ryan North and Derek Charm.

Starting off with issue nine in September, North and Charm built upon the foundations laid by Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson. To continue with a new direction for the title, North introduced everyone’s favourite teenage witch, Sabrina, into the equation.

Her first introduction into this new Riverdale, Sabrina helped take the comic to new heights. Jughead was suddenly funnier than ever before, and there was a new degree of charm to it. Falling head over heels for Sabrina, the burger-loving Jughead unsuccessfully begins to date the mysterious, quirky teen.

Of course, when Sabrina doesn’t get her way with Jughead, her dangerous magic comes into play. Jughead is a delightfully fun and hilarious read, and Charm’s artwork is the perfect choice for the story. It’s a late contender for the year, but it’s one to look out for in 2017.

7. DOOM PATROL

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Another late entry into the year, Gerard Way’s reimagining of Doom Patrol has proved to be successful, entertaining and most importantly, just as bizarre as previous entries. With splendid artwork from Nick Derington, Way has managed to create a title which is accessible to new readers, whilst welcoming the old ones back into the fold.

This new series is part of the Young Animal imprint, which is an attempt to replicate DC’s Vertigo for a new audience. So far, it’s proved to be a hit, and it doesn’t hurt that Way’s 1.5m followers on Twitter have been dedicated to following any of work post-My Chemical Romance.

Doom Patrol embraces the bizarre with fresh faces, in the form of ambulance driver Casey Brinke, and her eccentric singing roommate Terry None. Thrown into a world of weirdness, Casey gets to meet familiar Doom Patrol members, whilst discovering a mysterious past.

It’s a title that doesn’t follow standard storytelling structure, and it should be approached by those who want something wholly different to the usual superhero fare witnessed on the shelves. It’s early days yet, but Doom Patrol is set to be one hell of a ride.

6. MEGG & MOGG IN AMSTERDAM (AND OTHER STORIES)

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Written and illustrated entirely by Simon Hanselmann, Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam is the sequel to the funniest book of 2015, Megahex. However, despite being sold as a comedy to many, Hanselmann’s second graphic novel touches upon all too familiar subjects; anxiety, depression and cat’s anuses.

To escape the daily struggles of life and to fix their failing relationship, Megg and Mogg decide to travel to Amsterdam to enjoy its many vices. Of course, they can’t go anywhere without their friends, the insufferable Werewolf Jones and the empathetic Owl.

Hanselmann’s work has a beautiful, vibrant colour palette which really adds a nice dynamic to the many stories involving drug binges, sex, and mental health issues. There’s really nothing quite like Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam right now, and it’s almost criminal to miss out on one of the most unusual books of 2016.

5. DARK KNIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY

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DC has offered Batfans plenty of material to read this year, but it was this year’s original graphic novel that really took the spotlight. A True Batman Story is an autobiographical tale, written by Paul Dini with artwork from the hugely talented Eduardo Risso.

During his career as writer and producer of the hugely successful Batman: The Animated Series, Paul Dini’s life was dramatically altered after suffering a brutal assault one evening in Hollywood. This book recounts his recovery process and how his life was changed, with the visual aids of Batman and his loved villains.

A True Batman Story takes a completely different approach to telling a story which fans are used to, but that’s what makes it stand out from the rest. Dini’s narration of this horrible event in his life is an insightful look into his personality, and Risso’s art really helps bring that era of Batman back to life. For fans of the best animated series ever, this is essential reading.

4. KAIJUMAX: SEASON TWO

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The first season of Kaijumax surprised a few readers last year with its vibrant colour palette, its cutesy monsters and shockingly adult themes. Set up as a serious prison drama involving kaiju, writer and illustrator Zander Cannon continued to impress and astound his readers with Season Two.

The comic continues its focus on the main fugitive Electrogor, who is stuck in a world that doesn’t want anything to do with kaiju. After his escape from prison, Electrogor plans to the cross the Pacific rim in hope of reuniting with his children. However, during his journey, he encounters kaiju parolees, drug addicts and Lovecraftian monstrosities.

It’s a must-read for kaiju lovers, as Zander Cannon infuses his sheer wealth of kaiju knowledge into this book, whilst maintaining a fine balance of humanity within. Readers will be rooting for Electrogor to reach his kids, whilst being fascinated with some of the weird subplots supplied throughout.

Kaijumax is a grand achievement, where Cannon has managed to take a successful first season into entirely new territory. It’s action packed, dramatic and even upsetting in parts. Kaijumax is not to be missed.

3. HEAD LOPPER

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Imagine Adventure Time’s colourful visuals, mixed in with some of the elements of the Hellboy universe. Sprinkle some solid storytelling on top, with a side of beheadings, and you have Andrew MacLean’s breakout hit of 2016, Head Lopper.

Fantastical, colourful and downright entertaining from the first page, Head Lopper surprised loads of readers this year. It quickly turned into a critically acclaimed title, and within four issues, MacLean had established a universe that was here to stay.

The story follows the fearless warrior Norgal and the incessant, nagging severed head of Agatha the Blue Witch. Hired to slay the sorcerer that wreaks havoc on the Isle of Barra, Norgal faces a number of dangerous, blood-thirsty beasts.

Head Lopper is unarguably Image’s best title of the year. It’s tight, focused and enjoyable throughout. MacLean’s art is a visual treat for the eyes, all perfectly framed with every page. The graphic novel collecting the first four issues boasts a grand collection of extras, including a new story, sketches and notes from the talented creator.

2. TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

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IDW’s greatest publication to date, Transformers MTMTE wrapped up this year to reboot with the Lost Light. Written by James Roberts with artwork from series regular Alex Milne, More Than Meets the Eye is a title that has never faltered once in telling a rich, compelling and emotional story.

More Than Meets the Eye follows the crew of the Lost Light, a space vessel in search for the legendary ‘Knights of Cybertron’, a mythical group that once existed on the Transformers home planet. Led by the cocksure Rodimus, his merry team of odd, dangerous and sometimes drunk Transformers get involved in madcap adventures in space.

Writer James Roberts throws his characters of MTMTE into uncharted territory throughout, and with his innovative writing and Milne’s highly detailed artwork, the title succeeds where every other Transformers comic has failed.

For some, the prospect of reading a Transformers comic may be daunting, especially considering how meaty Roberts’ dialogue can be, but once that effort is put in, new readers are rewarded with some of the best writing seen in the industry today.

The comic tackles several themes, such as politics, relationships, religion and most importantly for the Transformers, identity. It’s given birth to the first ever gay relationship in the franchise, whilst simultaneously creating a community of fans that like to take the characters into their very own, r-rated adventure…

More Than Meets the Eye is a masterpiece within the comic book industry, and James Roberts should be applauded for his ability to craft such an interesting, thought-provoking and exciting read. Comic book readers, roll out and read it already.

1. GIANT DAYS

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Having established himself as the king of slice-of-life comic books, British creator John Allison treated his devoted readers to BOOM! Studios publication, Giant Days, way back in March 2015. Since then, alongside artists Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin, the series has evolved into one of the best comics on the shelves right now.

The setup is delightfully simple; Esther, Daisy and Susan are three women who are beginning to start the rest of their lives. During their time at university, the three main characters are faced with mystery moulds, complicated relationships, soggy festivals and a surprising amount of carpentry.

Despite not sounding like the most intriguing plot, Giant Days is brought to life with Allison’s technique for sharp, snappy dialogue and perfect characterisation. Every single character in Giant Days feels real, and they’re brought to life with some absolutely solid artwork.

Taking over from Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin has managed to perfectly match the writing talents of Allison. His style is unique, providing exaggerated expressions and dynamic posing throughout the book. Panels are carefully constructed, and it appears that Sarin improves with every issue.

Allison allows a great deal of development for Giant Days, and hopefully the series lasts for many years to come. The artistic goth Esther, the quiet Daisy and the abrasive Susan all go through the motions in the comic, and it would be absolutely criminal to leave their life story after graduation.

It’s a real treat to see a UK based comic thrive, as Giant Days appears to be amassing more readers with every new issue. If you haven’t treated yourself to 2016’s best comic of the year, then do so already. You deserve it.

Ant-man – Film Review

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The twelfth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-man, had an interesting and unsettling turn of events in May 2014. For three years, British filmmaker Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), worked with Marvel Studios as director, to help conceptualise and bring Ant-Man – a size-altering burglar – onto the big screen.

Despite Kevin Feige stating that they had their perfect director for the project, Edgar Wright and Marvel Studios abruptly split, citing creative differences. The script had been written by Wright and Joe Cornish, but the film was handed over towards Peyton Reed. Ant-man truly had a chance to transgress the superhero genre but instead we were now being treated to the same director of The Break Up and Bring it On.

Nonetheless, it appeared that all the other pieces of Ant-man were put together nicely. Paul Rudd was cast alongside Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly, and it seemed that Rudd might just be the perfect choice for the hapless cat burglar, Scott Lang. The film also retained the original script from Joe Cornish and Wright, and it can be argued that Marvel Studios haven’t necessarily made a bad film yet (Iron Man 3 was superb, ingrates).

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As it turns out, Marvel Studios have managed to have another hit on their hands. Regardless of Wright’s departure, Peyton Reed and Marvel have produced one of the finest instalments in the MCU yet. There are a number of reasons for this, but after the average Age of Ultron (which felt like a yet another step towards a bigger event), Ant-man feels like its own movie.

It doesn’t transcend the superhero genre, but it perfectly mixes comedy and action into one delightful mix. Edgar Wright’s imprint has been left here, and that’s a telling sign with the final fight sequence, which holds the medal for one of the funniest moments in the entire MCU.

As if anyone had any doubts, Paul Rudd effortlessly plays the character of Scott Lang. He’s not the most empathetic character ever, but his love for his daughter, charisma and technique all make for an interesting lead. Evangeline Lilly also shakes off any bad memories of her past career as Hope, the daughter to Michael Douglas’ character, Hank Pym.

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One of Ant-man’s key strengths is its storytelling. Exchanging floating islands of death for a more character driven storyline, Ant-man proves that sometimes less is more. Providing a tighter focus on family relationships, Ant-man feels like it has more weight to it. The stakes are high, but it’s not done in an obnoxious manner. The story progresses seamlessly throughout, as the two-hour running length smoothly passes by.

Thankfully, the CGI is almost flawless. Everyone remembers Honey I Shrunk the Kids and its great set pieces, but Ant-man is on another level. Utilising different sizes in a blink of an eye, Ant-man somehow manages to pull it off perfectly. It doesn’t appear as being unbelievable, even when Ant-man is riding his favourite flying ant. That’s commendable.

Whether Ant-man clicks with some audiences’ remains to be seen, but for fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, they’re really in for a treat. It might just be the most fun had with a Marvel movie since Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a welcome change. Too many superhero movies nowadays are downtrodden and laden with darkness and drama, so it’s a pleasure to see Ant-man provides something different.

What’s next for Ant-man? His team up with The Avengers is inevitable, and here’s hoping they flesh out Scott and Hope’s characters even further. They’re the most interesting bunch in the MCU, and they can easily hold their own. Ant-man succeeds at being a breath of fresh air, which is rife with comedy, action and ants.

DLCman: Arkham Knight

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Six years ago developers Rocksteady Studios redefined the superhero videogame genre, with their action-adventure Batman: Arkham Asylum. Borrowing a majority of the voice actors from the critically-acclaimed cartoon series of the 90s, and key writers such as Paul Dini, Rocksteady Studios provided fans with a Batman game to be proud of.

Arkham Asylum utilised Batman’s detective abilities to an impressive scale, and the game provided an incredibly fluid combat system. The game showcased a variety of favourites from Batman’s rogues gallery, and Rocksteady incorporated some of the best ideas from several different incarnations of the Bat, such as the cartoons, Tim Burton’s Batman, the comics and Nolan’s first film.

The critical success of the first game demanded a sequel, which was set to be bigger and better than the last and just two years later, fans were graced with a sequel that accomplished that feat, Arkham City. Exploring the relationship between Batman and the Joker, the game expanded on its gadgets, its villains and playability.

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Arkham City left some interesting Easter Eggs for fans after they finished the main storyline, with the heavy implication that the Scarecrow was involved in something diabolical. Fans desired to explore the streets of Gotham with the next instalment, and the idea that Rocksteady were ready to introduce Scarecrow as the main villain was titillating.

Four years later, and Rocksteady’s final outing with the Dark Knight arrived, in the form of Arkham Knight. This was the big one. Allowing Batman free roam of Gotham was an exciting idea, with the story focusing on a mysterious new villain aiding Scarecrow. All the pieces were set in place for an unforgettable Batman experience.

Upon the game’s release date, several pre-order packages provided different experiences for gamers. One package included a playable Harley Quinn add-on, with another, allowing for the use of the Red Hood. Thankfully, some select retailers were packaging both parts, but customers found this frustrating as different exclusives were everywhere. Rocksteady eventually announced that either packs would be available through purchase of the season pass though, for an additional price.

These two DLC add-ons were a telling sign of things to come, as these downloadable packages were nothing spectacular. Each segment lasted approximately 15-30 minutes (depending on player performance), and are utterly forgettable. Adding nothing to the story, both are big disappointments, and especially for fans of Harley Quinn. Despite Rocksteady providing her a unique move-set, it lasted for an appalling length of time. Of course, most pre-order content is mediocre, but let’s not forget these are pieces of the planned downloadable content.

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The main story in Arkham Knight might be the strongest of the trilogy to date, but it certainly isn’t without its faults. Any Batman veterans will guess the identity of the Arkham Knight fairly easily, and after the initial reveal, Gotham doesn’t really feel dangerous anymore. Throughout the game the ante is raised, only for it to be subsequently lowered later on.

Arkham Knight’s side missions are also a mixed bag, with some incredible additions and some truly pointless ones. The third game in the series introduces a classic character long overdue into the game, whilst introducing players to a more recent villain from the comic books. There are glaring omissions though, and for fans of Asylum and City it almost seems criminal that characters such as Mr Freeze, Clayface, Bane, Killer Croc or Ra’s/Talia do not turn up in any form throughout the game. Personally, the severe lack of Freeze is most upsetting.

A lot of villains may have had their time and space throughout the trilogy, but lets not forget that this is supposedly Rocksteady’s send-off for the caped crusader. Whilst nearing the true ending for the game (100% completion), it feels that it’s missing something. Some loose ends are tied, but it almost feels like Rocksteady have forgotten about the simple things, like Clayface’s incident with the Lazarus Pits or even Killer Croc mauling Scarecrow. It’s apparent a lot of things have been left out, and perhaps the game will then be padded with horrible DLC.

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Yes, downloadable content has been a thing for ages now, we’re all blissfully aware. But this time, it appears that it’s crippled the Arkham series, which should’ve have been clear with the absurd pre-order packages. The next pack is set to be for Batgirl, which gamers can only hope will have some saving grace. There are no doubts Azrael or any forgotten villains will be added in the future, just for some extra money.

Usually, it’s best to wait for the Game of the Year edition with some titles. Arkham City added in Harley Quinn’s Revenge and a whole bunch of other stuff, but City as a standalone game had a beginning, a middle and an end. Arkham Knight on the other hand, doesn’t have a proper ending. It goes out with a whimper, even when you’ve accomplished everything in Gotham.

It’s upsetting, because the Arkham series have been superb, but you can see where these planned DLC packs have hurt Arkham Knight. The ending is ambiguous and a huge disappointment for fans, and one villain uncharacteristically utilises a tank to defeat you, despite ranting endlessly about being an expert in hand-to-hand combat. It hardly feels like there’s any real reward to the gamer for following the Dark Knight’s adventures in Gotham for the past 6 years.

If players want to fully experience Arkham Knight, an excess of at least £70-80 has to be spent on a season pass and the game itself. The gaming industry has taken such a horrible turn in recent years, and it’s a damn shame that Rocksteady may have caught the bug too. Players shouldn’t have to fork out ridiculous amounts of cash to receive the complete experience, as it’s a blatant cash grab until the collected version comes out. Sure, you can wait a year for the collected edition, but ditch the internet or social media as a whole during that time to avoid any spoilers.

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It isn’t all bad. Rocksteady have somehow managed to improve the combat even more so, and utilising the efforts of your sidekick during a massive brawl is tons of fun. The Batmobile is well refined, but then Gotham is infested with so many unmanned tanks, that players will get sick of the sight of another heap of metal attacking Batman. Players may not like sheer extent of Batmobile missions.

The halfway point in Arkham Knight is where it all really kicks off, and it truly felt like something special. There’s a real sense of dread, and it appears that all hope is lost. Of course, Batman overcomes the odds because he’s Batman, but it all occurs in such a lacklustre manner. Also, there’s almost no thought put into the Riddler’s challenges this time round. Only a select few are fun, but there are so many locations that had Riddle material written all over them, such as Crazy Quilt and Music Meister’s respective stores.

Arkham Knight is an experience, but it is full of missed potential. It is riddled with inconsistencies, glitches, pointless missions and disappointing endings. However, it will sell plenty and then be regarded as a best-seller due to different versions, and players getting suckered into the various DLC packs. This might be Rocksteady’s last game, but be sure WB Montreal will eventually pick up Batman at some point in the near future and milk the Arkham series for all it’s worth.

Oh, and let’s not mention the PC port.

Or the treatment of Barbara or Catwoman.

Reviewing Daredevil and the future of Netflix

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Back in 2013, Netflix announced an exciting new deal with Marvel Studios to produce a selection of live action series based on some of the best characters from Marvel’s comic books. Situated in the established Marvel cinematic universe, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones were signed to receive 13 episodes per season, before culminating in a team-up, The Defenders.

The first of these series was scheduled to be Daredevil, a superhero crime drama by showrunner Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods). The show would focus on the blind lawyer known as Matt Murdock, who tackles crime in and outside of the courtroom in Hell’s Kitchen. With his superhuman senses, he attempts to make his city a better place.

The character of Daredevil is synonymous with having some of the best talent in comic book history, and he boasts some of Marvel’s finest work to date. From Frank Miller’s ground-breaking masterpiece, to Bendis/Brubaker’s captivating run and Waid/Samnee’s recent reinvigoration, Daredevil has had it all.

However, he hasn’t had the same luck with movies. The wounds are still sore from Fox’s attempt at Daredevil, which was a cinematic travesty. Despite the fact that the director’s cut was bearable, everyone remembers that park scene. So, Netflix had their work cut out for them to produce something that finally did the character justice.

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Have no fear though, as Netflix qualms any concerns. Casting British actor Charlie Cox (Stardust, Boardwalk Empire) was possibly the best decision they made for the show, as they discovered someone who embodied the charm of Murdock and the vehemence of the horned devil all in one delightful mix.

The same praise can be said for Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Law & Order: Criminal Intent), who plays the intimidating crime lord, Wilson Fisk. Known as Kingpin to others, D’Onofrio provides one of the most impressive performances of a comic book villain ever. Alongside these two stars, Daredevil also features Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood) as the vulnerable Karen Page, and Eldren Henson (Mighty Ducks) as Murdock’s friend and associate, Foggy Nelson.

Daredevil manages to seamlessly focus on both aspects of Murdock’s life, with drama and action intertwining with ease. Some fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed, with several sequences that’ll leave jaws agape. One corridor sequence in the second episode – filmed all at once without cuts – is even being commended for its technical achievement.

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It’s worth nothing that Netflix manages to clean the taint that is given to superhero television shows. Due to the high production values of Daredevil, it abolishes any concerns of being likened to cheaper network programmes, such as Arrow or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The cinematography is fantastic, with some moments feeling like they were ripped straight from the pages of a comic book.

Whilst Daredevil hasn’t always been a dark and gritty superhero since his creation, Netflix takes inspiration from Frank Miller and Bendis’ take on the character. For those looking for a swashbuckling adventure, you’ll be left slightly disappointed. Whilst this show doesn’t lend itself to the dark ridiculousness of some other comic book heroes, it is still a series littered with murder, human trafficking and suicide. However, there’s a slight sprinkle of comedy, which mostly comes from Foggy Nelson.

Whilst Daredevil is shared within the Marvel cinematic universe, there isn’t a great deal of references towards other events/heroes. The Battle of NY gets mentioned, but that’s about it. Some keen eyed viewers may recognise some small bits in later episodes, but this is really Daredevil’s story. Not having Frogman at all is a bit unforgivable, though.

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References aren’t necessarily essential anyway, as you’re pulled in with an enthralling story and some superb acting. The bar has now been set for other superhero shows, as it’s beautifully shot, perfectly cast and brilliantly crafted. It might just be the television highlight of the year, which is a mighty achievement regarding other shows that have been on recently, such as Better Call Saul.

General feedback has been positive since the release, and it can be safely said that Netflix’s deal with Marvel Studios will be hugely beneficial. Their new model to create their own content has been their best idea yet, and anyone torrenting Netflix’s content is doing a disservice to themselves and the great product provided. Hell, even if you can’t afford the meagre cost, just sign up for free.

The next comic book property lined up is A.K.A. Jessica Jones, which is currently being developed by Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter). This time round, viewers will follow the story of Jessica Jones, played by Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad), who starts up her own detective agency after a tragic end to her superhero career.

The series will be based on Bendis’ Alias, which was the first title to be published under the MAX imprint at the time, allowing it to appeal to an adult audience with R-rated content. It provided Bendis with creative freedom within Marvel, and Jessica Jones soon became an important part the Avengers soon after that.

A.K.A. Jessica Jones will also establish some fan-favourites from Marvel comics, such as Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Patsy Walker ‘Hellcat’ (Rachael Taylor). David Tennant also stars as the evil Killgrave (aka The Purple Man), who might just be one of the most vile villains in Marvel comics. Dr Who fans might be in for a shock with his unique role.

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Following Luke Cage’s introduction, he will be receiving his very own show alongside his team-mate and fellow Hero for Hire, Iron Fist. Each character will be getting the 13 episode treatment too, focusing on Cage’s life as an ex-con with bulletproof skin, and Iron Fist’s life as a millionaire bestowed with awesome mystical powers.

The Defenders will bring all of these characters together for a mini-series, to face their biggest threat yet. Speculation over who they’re facing has begun amongst fans, with ideas ranging from a full invasion from The Hand (evil occult ninjas), to stopping the devastating killing machine known as The Punisher.

With Marvel gaining the rights back for The Punisher, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see news of Thomas Jane being involved with Netflix any time soon. Despite the critics’ response of the 2004 film, Thomas Jane’s depiction of the Punisher was spot on. Just three years ago, he reprised the role in this incredible short film, ‘Dirty Laundry’:

Whether or not The Defenders decides to utilise The Hand remains to be seen. They’re an integral part of Daredevil’s history, and they are closely linked to his love interest Elektra. Therefore, it might be best to implement them at a later date. Nonetheless, these two theories may not even be included at all. For all we know, it could be Stilt-Man making his own empire.

Outside of the Netflix/Marvel deal, a Punisher series based on Garth Ennis’ MAX run would greatly benefit from the freedom of Netflix’s model. At this point there a few characters they could use, such as Blade, Ghost Rider, Cloak and Dagger, Power Pack, Elektra and Hawkeye.

Whilst it might not be worth touching Blade and Ghost Rider any time soon, it would be criminal to leave Cloak and Dagger without a mini-series at least. If Netflix ever decided to include Hawkeye in any form on television, then they should look no further than the most recent Matt Fraction and Aja/Wu run on the character. The possibilities are endless.

It’s an exciting time to be a Marvel fan, with Netflix now gaining traction with their new television series and Marvel’s films now entering the third phase. Hopefully A.K.A. Jessica Jones is also a hit, and that the rest of the series allows for an extended deal for both parties involved. Either way, the future looks bright for this partnership.

The Best Comic You’re Not Reading.

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When it comes to recommending comics, people appear to show a slight disdain for anything Transformers related. It’s understandable really, as the comics haven’t had the best track record and Michael Bay’s movies are complete drivel. Thankfully, publisher IDW manages to shake off that image of greasy objectified women and dull robots, with their ongoing comic series; Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye.

Nearing its 40th issue, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye is written by James Roberts, with artwork from series regular Alex Milne. Previously, Roberts caught the attention of Transformers fans when he co-wrote ‘Last Stand of the Wreckers’, which was a harrowing tale of sacrifice and betrayal. This attention led to him taking charge of his own title, which is arguably IDW’s finest publication to date.

The concept is simple, and it feels surprisingly fresh for a Transformers comic. A band of Autobots and Decepticons board the Lost Light, a space vessel in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron, a mythical group that was believed to have once existed on their home planet. Led by the cocksure Rodimus, his merry team of weird, dangerous and sometimes drunk Transformers get involved with whacky adventures in space.

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Of course, not everything goes to plan, even during their departure from Cybertron. Following an unexpected quantum jump, the Lost Light is thrown into the depths of space, where a number of bizarre individuals attempt to overcome a stowaway predator, a fatal zombie plague and one of the deadliest threats in the entire galaxy. Throwing the Transformers into such uncharted territory allows for creative freedom and some innovative storytelling, which reels in the reader with every passing page.

It’s not just the quality of Roberts’ writing, but it’s the sheer quantity of it all. Nowadays, it’s not very common in this industry for comics to be so layered with action and dialogue, but it takes a decent amount of time to finish even a single issue, let alone an entire volume. Readers may even feel obliged to give IDW more money for a single issue, due to how ridiculously dense it always is. If you’re currently reading the title, do not hesitate to reread some panels as you’ll discover some clever foreshadowing throughout.

James Roberts also introduces a selection of fan favourites in More Than Meets the Eye, and he provides character development which hasn’t been witnessed in previous Transformers incarnations. Whilst reading, you’ll witness the hilarious bartender Swerve, the maniacal Whirl, and the Autobot who is almost never amused; Ultra Magnus. There’s a multitude of fantastic and unique characters in this comic and readers are sure to find a favourite amongst them all.

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The series is currently in its second run having undergone a refreshing shuffle of characters, after the events of Dark Cybertron. Ex-Decepticon Megatron is now captain of the Lost Light, and not only are fellow travellers questioning his allegiance, but readers too. That’s the beauty of this comic, as Roberts’ manages to develop an already established character for the old and new readers, whilst maintaining interest.

Meanwhile, the comic has recently introduced a mysterious coffin, time travel hijinks and disappearing objects. It fulfils all the needs of a comic book reader, by utilising all of these fantastical science fiction elements. More Than Meets the Eye likes to keep you on your toes by keeping it fresh and this second run is no exception.

Of course, James Roberts’ script is aided by Alex Milne, who is arguably one of the franchise’s best artists to date. It’s a visual look that hasn’t really been approached before; stylishly cartoonish and colourful, whilst retaining a level of detail that is appropriate for a Transformers title. Milne has previously worked for the doomed company Dreamwave, but it is now IDW that benefits from his talent. He was underutilised previously, but now he’s firing on all cylinders.

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If you’ve not been won over yet, it must be acknowledged that due to not confining to the strict formula of previous titles, More Than Meets the Eye manages to impress diehard fans, and new readers who are unbeknownst to the concept of transforming robots in space. It’s a grand accomplishment, as the transformers themselves don’t necessarily feel like soulless robots.

It certainly feels like an established universe, and whilst readers may have difficulty in differentiating their ‘bots from their ‘cons, they’ll soon be invested in these characters and that’s when the tears will flow.

It’s also due to the themes that it tackles, which really transcends this comic from every other version of the Transformers. There are in-depth debates about religion, politics and identity which appear all throughout the comic, and it is fascinating how rooted these problems are in their society. These themes are displayed heavily in flashbacks, and concurrent throughout.

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More Than Meets the Eye even boasts its first unofficial gay relationship in the Transformers universe, and whilst that might not necessarily feel like new territory for comic readers, it’s worth noting that it’s a first for a franchise, especially for one based on selling toys. It’s a welcome change and yet another reason why this comic is so accessible. Just don’t go visiting some particular 18+ fan sites, unless you’re into that kind of thing.

To put it simply, the characters feel real. They have their own emotions, beliefs and motives. So, be afraid when Roberts’ lulls you into a false sense of security, only to have a horrible twist down the line. It will happen, and it will hurt.

Transformers comics haven’t fared very well in the past, and whilst the Marvel series has a special place in the fan’s hearts, it is More Than Meets the Eye that truly stands as being the finest comic book accomplishment in the Transformers history to date. It succeeds where other series have failed.

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It is a sci-fi adventure that takes the reader for one hell of a journey, which never falters in telling a rich, compelling and emotional story. Milne’s artwork is utterly superb and near faultless, providing the reader with an incredible look into such a great universe.

If you’re still put off by the fact that it’s Transformers, then so be it. Just be aware that you’re missing out on of the finest publications on the shelves right now, in an industry that is run down by mind-numbing event, pointless reboots and average storytelling. Also, those other comics don’t have the ex-Wrecker Whirl, and that’s awful.

Top 20 Films of 2014

Based on UK theatrical and festival release dates, here are the Top 20 Films of 2014.

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20. Starred Up

Director: David Mackenzie // Link to trailer

When describing Starred Up, it can be defined with one word; visceral. However, it is also violent, realistic and unashamedly British. Rising star Jack O’Connell is Eric Love, a 19 year-old with a short fuse. Due to being too dangerous for a youth offender’s prison, Love is transferred to a different jail, where his father is kept. Through the help of therapy, Love tries to settle in with his new inmates, but the volatile relationship with his estranged father is too much to handle. O’Connell’s performance might be one of the toughest roles of the year, as Starred Up is unquestionably raw, explosive and of all things, not to be sniffed at.


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19. Locke

Director: Steven Knight // Link to trailer

Steven Knight’s Locke follows one tense and emotional evening for Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), who is a dedicated family man and construction worker. Shot from the confinements of his car (with a few traffic cutaways), Ivan Locke has a secret that will drastically affect his livelihood. Whilst the film’s narrative structure isn’t purely original, it is carried by the weight of the charismatic Tom Hardy, who finally sheds the tough persona we’ve seen in some of his recent work. Locke is a gripping film, and it’s a testament to Tom Hardy’s talent, as he can keep you enthralled and invested in the movie, despite the surroundings. For a brilliant character performance, look no further than this.


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18. Obvious Child

Director: Gillian Robespierre // Link to trailer

Robespierre’s directorial debut managed to impress this year, with a movie that tackles the sensitive subject of abortion with maturity, wit and compassion. As aspiring comedian Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) recovers from an emotional break up, a one-night stand results in an unwanted pregnancy. Suddenly, the twenty-something has to deal with the threat of adulthood looming over her directionless life. It’s a breakthrough performance from Jenny Slate, who is joined with a great cast, superb writing and a movie that surprisingly feels authentic. It’s an inventive take on the genre, and it’s about time a film such as this should feel genuine, as it abolishes stereotypical female leads, all whilst maintaining poignant tone.


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17. Life Itself

Director: Steve James // Link to trailer

Renowned documentarian Steve James recounts the extraordinary life of film reviewer Roger Ebert, with an affectionate and truly personal film. Shot during his last moments, Life Itself explores the wonderful life of Ebert, touching upon several aspects, such as his peculiar relationship with the late Gene Siskel. Life Itself is a fantastic way of recognising and remembering one of the greatest cinematic staples of our time, without being overly sentimental. Roger Ebert’s life is an inspiration to many, and this film ranks as being the best documentary of the year.


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16. The Raid 2

Director: Gareth Evans // Link to trailer

Gareth Evans blew audiences away with his brutal, gut-wrenching Indonesian film; The Raid: Redemption back in 2011, but this year saw the release of its sequel which surpassed the qualities of the first. The Raid 2 follows the skilled Rama, who is set to uncover the corruption within his own police force. Set only moments after the first movie, The Raid 2 dials the action up to eleven, with jaw-dropping fight sequences and outstanding choreography.  If there’s one stand-out character in the action genre this year, it’s the deaf-mute Hammer Girl.


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15. Fury

Director: David Ayer // Link to trailer

Starring a great ensemble cast, Fury is set in Germany during 1945, as the allies make their final push behind enemy lines. A Sherman tank led by the hardened ‘Wardaddy’ (Brad Pitt) is out-classed by the Nazi forces, whose firepower and armoury is vastly superior. Along with the new recruit, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), Wardaddy’s crew are exposed to the brutality of the SS. Ayer’s film is an unsentimental take on WWII, which is comprised of grotesque scenes and tense action sequences. Thankfully, the film never reaches the jingoism of other recent war movies (see: Lone Survivor), and it excels with its cast (Shia LeBeouf surprising many), and Ayer’s excellent direction.


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14. Edge of Tomorrow (Live Die Repeat)

Director: Doug Liman // Link to trailer

Now being labelled as ‘Live Die Repeat’, Doug Liman’s science-fiction movie is equally as explosive as it is entertaining. Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, military officer William Cage (Cruise) gets thrown into an alien warzone, with a seemingly invincible foe. Killed within moments of joining this war, Cage discovers that he’s trapped in a constant time loop, which resets to the preceding day.

Edge of Tomorrow opened to an underwhelming box-office response (perhaps due to the terrible marketing), but Liman’s movie proved to be one the most exciting action flicks of the year, and it further proved that Tom Cruise can be a fantastic lead. It has spectacle, superb concepts and it’s surprisingly funny in places. It’s blockbuster film-making done properly.


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13. The Guest

Director: Adam Wingard // Link to trailer

Adam Wingard’s The Guest is destined to be this year’s biggest cult hit, as it boasts some incredible one-liners, questionable acting, quirky humour and an effortlessly cool synth soundtrack. With an inexcusable US box-office taking of just $280,000, The Guest manages to capture all the classic tropes of 80s thriller/horror movies, with a superb leading role by Downton Abbey’s very own Dan Stevens. It is a pure delight from start to finish, with the final 20 minutes becoming one of the most entertaining and ridiculous sequences of the year. Adam Wingard excels in genre film-making, and The Guest is no exception.


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12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Director: Joe Russo and Anthony Russo // Link to trailer

The Russo brothers managed to transcend the superhero genre this year with The Winter Soldier, which was suspenseful and politically relevant. Loosely based on the critically acclaimed series by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the film focuses on a dark secret from Steve Rogers’ past, along with the corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D. Full of dazzling visuals and some of the best hand-to-hand combat seen in the superhero genre, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to be one of Marvel’s best efforts yet. It takes the genre seriously, whilst managing to entertain and surprise.


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11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Director: Matt Reeves // Link to trailer

Taking place a decade after the events of the first film, Matt Reeves Apes sequel focuses on Caesar’s nation of evolved apes, who are threatened by the occurrence of a small band of human survivors. The film’s themes are based on trust and survival, as the story has a surprisingly captivating hook. Dawn features some of the best motion capture work to date, which is partly thanks to the talents of renowned actor Andy Serkis and even Toby Kebbell.

The film expands brilliantly on its predecessor, by becoming one of the smartest and most entertaining blockbusters of this year. The CGI is cutting-edge, and whilst it blatantly sets up the third Apes movie, there are no concerns considering Matt Reeves is signed on for the sequel.


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10. Frank

Director: Lenny Abrahamson // Link to trailer

Perhaps the most thought-provoking movie of the year, Frank is an endearing comedy with a memorable performance from Michael Fassbender. The film follows young musician Jon (D.Gleeson), who finds himself joining an avant-garde band; The Soronprfbs. Quite the eclectic mix of people, The Soronprfbs attempt to record an album and tour. Frank touches slightly upon the subject of mental illness, and it does so quite commendably. It’s an unusual and clever movie, and it’ll leave viewers thinking for weeks.


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09. Dallas Buyer’s Club

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée // Link to trailer

Dallas Buyer’s Club is a career best for Matthew McConaughey, starring as the real life Ron Woodroof, whose life was turned upside down during the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Ostracised by most of his friends after discovering he’s HIV-positive, Ron Woodroof explores alternative treatment for the disease and attempts to best the FDA. The film boasts an incredible performance from McConaughey, along with an eye-opening role from Jared Leto. Dallas Buyer’s Club sports a remarkable story, which manages joy and sorrow into one delightful mix.


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08. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson // Link to trailer

Arguably Wes Anderson’s most accessible movie to date, The Grand Budapest Hotel turned out to be one of the most charming pictures of 2014. Elaborately shot with stunning compositions throughout, The Grand Budapest Hotel recounts the story of the great Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge of the famed European hotel, who is framed for a murder he did not commit.

It’s the quintessential Wes Anderson movie; offbeat, funny, beautifully shot and wholly sentimental. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a visually engaging movie, and it stands as being one of Anderson’s finest accomplishments to date, in his long list of wonderful and heartfelt movies.


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07. The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese // Link to trailer

Based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is an incredible piece of work, starring Scorsese’s new go-to actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Returning to what he’s best at, Scorsese brings forth an R-rated overindulgence of sex, money and drugs. Undoubtedly DiCaprio’s finest role to date, The Wolf of Wall Street also showcased the abilities of Jonah Hill and newcomer Margot Robbie.

Whilst The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t in the same league as Raging Bull, it stands as being Scorsese’s funniest film to date. It’s an outrageous black comedy, which is unabashed and unapologetic with its content, lucidly presenting the depravity of its characters. Jordan Belfort’s corruption is an engaging story, which is superbly written and acted brilliantly. At the age of 72, it appears Scorsese is showing no signs of letting up.


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06. What We Do in the Shadows

Director: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi // Link to the first six minutes

Movies within the comedy horror genre have always struggled to get it right, and 2014 has been no exception. The abysmal waste known as A Haunted House 2 was released, and Life After Beth failed to impress despite everyone involved. However, this fresh and unique take on ‘mockumentaries’ and vampires managed to be 2014’s funniest film of the year.

Following four vampires sharing a house in New Zealand, What We Do in the Shadows embraces the mundane issues of normal everyday human life, whilst mixing elements of the undead into the mix. Not only do these vampires pay rent, finish chores and visit nightclubs, they also antagonise the local werewolves, avoid sunlight and deal with the rigorous diet of human blood.

It’s a fantastic premise, and hilarious from start to finish. The casting is simply perfect, with Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clements having one of the funniest and most memorable lines of the movie. What We Do in the Shadows truly is the first great vampire comedy to grace our cinema screens.


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05. Guardians of the Galaxy

Director: James Gunn // Link to trailer

Marvel’s biggest gamble to date, Guardians of the Galaxy took a fairly unknown superhero team and turned into it a box-office success, as it became the 2nd highest grossing movie of 2014. The film follows an unusual team of criminals, who band together to stop Ronan the Accuser from destroying the universe. Despite its generic plot, Guardians of the Galaxy excelled with some of the funniest comedy seen in sci-fi film, a fabulous 80s soundtrack and some of the best casting seen in the genre.

The film boasted a selection of breakthrough characters, who became fan favourites this year, especially the talking alien tree, Groot. Chris Pratt, who also plays the leader Starlord, proved to be the most charismatic leading man of the year.

It was a pleasurable surprise for cinemagoers, as Guardians is arguably Marvel Studios best movie to date. It is the quintessential blockbuster, chock full with awesome CGI, action, comedy and wonderful characters. James Gunn proved he’s a truly capable director, and his sheer attention to detail should be admired. Here’s to the upcoming sequel.


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04. Gone Girl

Director: David Fincher // Link to trailer

Based on the best-selling book by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl is another outstanding piece of work by director David Fincher. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl tells the story of how one man’s wife goes missing, and how he ends up becoming the number one suspect.

It’s an exhilarating piece of filmmaking, and Rosamund Pike managed to surprise everyone with her role as Amy Dunne, which a career best. Gone Girl has Fincher’s trademark fingerprints all over it, as it’s ultimately stylish, dark and character driven. Somehow, Fincher always brings out the best with the actors he works with, and this film is no exception.

It’s an almost perfect thriller, which really kicks into gear after the first hour. A selection of unsettling scenes really set the mood for the final act, which will leave jaws agape. Gone Girl manages to pick apart various subjects, such as the media, the economy and its effect on marriage, and the fatal flaw in any relationship; dishonesty. It’s an inherently smart thriller, with some captivating performances. It might not be Fincher’s best, but it’s still up there.


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03. The Lego Movie

Director: Chris Miller, Phil Lord // Link to trailer

Essentially a feature-length advertisement for the Lego brand, Miller and Lord’s animated masterpiece really resonates with viewers of all ages. The movie follows the hapless Emmet, a construction worker who is mistakenly selected as the prophesied ‘Special’, as it is foretold that he has the gift to thwart the evil and tyrannical Lord Business.

Surprisingly, The Lego Movie stands as being one of the best animated movies in recent years, which is all down to a wonderful mix of talent. It boasted the strongest casting of any film this year too, with 2014’s leading man Chris Pratt, the manliest man Nick Offerman and the acting legend Morgan Freeman, to name some.

It is a beautifully constructed piece of work, and whilst it doesn’t necessarily tread new narrative ground, it still feels fresh and unique. It consists of some great underlying themes, such as conformity and individuality, without it being obnoxiously thrown into the viewer’s face. It manages to appeal to almost everyone, with a heart-warming and thoughtful story, which is brought to life with Miller and Lord’s fantastic direction.


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02. Nightcrawler

Director: Dan Gilroy // Link to trailer

Strikingly cool, Nightcrawler is undoubtedly the best thriller of 2014. Starring a gaunt Jake Gyllenhaal, Dan Gilroy’s movie focuses on the subject of crime journalism, and a group of freelance news crews in LA who sell their shocking footage to bidding news stations. Gyllenhaal’s character, the morally ambiguous and manipulative Lou Bloom, is the actor’s most mesmerising performance yet.

Gilroy’s directorial debut is deliciously twisted with its material and Gyllenhaal flourishes as Lou Bloom, and it’s equal in style as it is substance. It’s satirical in nature and as sharp as a razor, as the script never falters with its disturbing content. Of course, it’s primarily character driven, but it’s aided with a decent cast, and a pure visual feast.

As the film progresses, Nightcrawler does a fantastic job of providing some feeling of discomfort, which can be felt during the devastatingly effect final act. The car chase for example, shows Gilroy’s strengths, as cars frantically speed across the LA streets in a frantic sequence, which results in a killer ending.

It is a career best for Gyllenhaal, who has wowed audiences in the past with Donnie Darko, Zodiac and to a lesser extent, Prisoners. The upcoming film Enemy is also another notch on Gyllenhaal’s fantastic filmography. Nightcrawler deserves to be watched, as it’s a no-nonsense, twisted masterpiece.


01. Boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater

2014’s best film was Richard Linklater’s ground-breaking triumph, which is unlike anything else that has been in cinemas this year. Filmed over the period of 12 years with the same cast, Boyhood is about how one six-year old, Mason, grows into adulthood. It’s an incredible piece of film history, which intimately documents the human condition.

Alongside the main lead Ellar Coltraine, the film also stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s divorced parents, who assist as the ideal vehicles for Mason’s journey. The film touches upon all those fond memories of growing up; the first romance, Harry Potter, leaving school, family issues, that first drink and of course, discovering what you really want from life.

Despite the technical achievements of Boyhood, the film can still be recognised as a coming-of-age film that really hits all the right notes. It can resound remarkably well with someone, with its several tender moments, its drama and ultimately, its humanity. Linklater hit the jackpot with Coltraine too, who really manages to ground the film with his natural performance.

The late Roger Ebert once believed that films are machines that generate empathy. They allow you to understand and connect with the feelings of a specific character, and in Boyhood, Ebert’s statement has never been more significant. You get a glimpse of one young man’s transformation, which would not be as effective if Coltraine was replaced throughout the years.

It’s not often that you get to experience something like Boyhood. It’s remarkably condensed into its 166-minute running length, and during that time we are treated to moments of real life moments. It’s truly ambitious and intelligent, and it is Linklater’s finest work to date. There’s no doubt that Boyhood will be recognised for years to come.

 



 

So there we have it, the top 20 films of 2014. It’s been one hell of a year, and in retrospect there are a few movies which will be remembered for their storytelling and craft for some while. Despite not being in this list, there are a number of other movies that should be recognised, such as the unique horror The Babadook, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and perhaps even the ambitious yet flawed Interstellar. There were a few abominations this year too, such as Ninja Turtles and Tammy, and we have had some unfortunate disappointments. Here’s looking at you, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.

All in all, 2014 was still a great year for film. For a medium that is supposedly dominated by the superhero genre, it’s interesting to see that there’s at least been some diversity, and almost every single one of those superhero films released in 2014 has been received favourably. Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past was a refreshing return to the franchise, and Guardians of the Galaxy dominated the box-office this year. It’s interesting to note that The Amazing Spider-man 2 had a decent take this year, but critics opinion is generally split, so it’s future is still unknown.

2015 is surely set to be an explosive affair too, with the return of several franchises. Jurassic World has a June release, with the new Avengers and Terminator being nearby. Also, there’s that new Star Wars film out in December, if anyone’s heard about it. Having said that, there’s sure to be some amazing films which aren’t massive blockbusters. Here’s to the following year.