Forget overblown pap such as 'Pompeii', give your blu ray of 'Guardians of the Galaxy' a break for a day or two, and pop that bargain bin copy of 'The Legend of Hercules' in the bin. The following are five of the best films of 2014 that you possibly may have missed or been put off by. I hope I raise your interest in them, and please let me know your thoughts on these, or any that I may have missed. 'Interstellar' and other popular movies do not qualify. Not even you, 'Lego Movie'. Blockheads!
Based on the novel by Dean Koontz, 'Odd Thomas' bypassed cinemas and went straight to DVD after being held back from release for over a year due to legal wranglings. Anton Yelchin plays the title character whose name is indeed Odd Thomas, a young man who can see dead people as well as beings he refers to as 'Bodachs', strange entities who appear when something catastrophic is about to happen. Sticking fairly closely to the novel the film is quirkily funny, spooky, surprising, and by the film's end really quite heart wrenching. 'GI Joe' director Stephen Sommers works with a lower budget here but this is one of his better films. I hope more adaptations are made from the 'Odd Thomas' series of books, but its DVD only release may have squashed that, and if you see a Bodach hanging around around Hollywood then that is probably true.
Child of God
In the year that Cormac McCarthy wrote a pretty terrible screenplay for the pretty terrible Ridley Scott movie 'The Counsellor' came this James Franco directed adaptation of one of McCarthy's novels, and for me it sits on a pedestal alongside 'The Road' as one of the better films based on his works. Actor Scott Haze turns in an award worthy performance as Lester Ballard, a man living outside of society's rules, roaming the landscape after his home is destroyed and eventually becoming a cave dweller. The character should be unlikable and abhorrent to us, yet for me anyway, he becomes somebody to root for. And this is after a bout of murder and necrophilia. It is a disturbing watch, but Haze totally embodies this savage character to make this a compelling watch. Perhaps one to watch after a meal rather than before. Again it bypassed cinemas and went to DVD and VOD platforms.
Under the Skin
A science fiction film where an alien inhabits the body of Scarlet Johansson, picks up men (who think they are in for a night of passion) on the streets of Scotland, and kills them. A 2014 remake of 'Species'? Not at all, thank goodness. Johansson is brilliant as the alien trying to make sense of what it means to be human, and much of the film is seen through her eyes, as she struggles to understand human emotion including grief when she stands idly by as a man desperately tries to save his drowning family. Mesmerizing and haunting we see the alien trying to understand the human race by literally getting under their skin. It is played in a realistic fashion. As she drives around the city we see real people through her eyes. Forgetting for a moment the question of how she learned to drive so quickly - it took me forever to learn (damn you parallel parking) - we are gripped by the sense of reality before us. These are not extras on the streets, but real people going about their lives, probably oblivious to the cameras filming them from the car. We see them as the alien sees them, with curiosity from a distance, and it may make you look at people differently next time you go outside. We really are an unusual breed.
This film did not get a wide cinema release due to various issues over the cut of the film. A shame as this would have looked amazing on the cinema screen. Despite taking place almost entirely on a train, the outdoor wintry vistas are bleak and beautiful. In the near future the Earth has experienced a deadly ice age and the only survivors are on the Snowpiercer, a train travelling around the world on a loop. The wealthy are situated at the front of the train and the poor at the back, and Chris Evans, taking a break from Captain America, leads a revolt against this unjust class system. This is symbolic of real life of course, and while the politics of the film are interesting, as well as another warning about global warming, you may be more interested in the terrific action as Evans, alongside John Hurt and Jamie Bell, try to get to the front of the train and to the corruption within. A thrilling film that continually surprises you with its inventiveness. You may never complain about your train service ever again. Dratted leaves on tracks!
This is probably a harder sell to you compared to the other films on this list. Yes even you necrophilic 'Child of God'! I caught this film on the Lovefilm streaming platform as it also bypassed cinemas, and while not expecting much at all I was actually very surprised at how good it was. A pair of homeless drifters set out to rob a house while the wealthy owners are away, and then decide to stay awhile and live a life of luxury while they can. The owners come back early however - hello Richard Dreyfuss and Lolita Davidovitch - and all variety of complications take place. I don't want to say much as you need to experience the twists the story presents, but let me tell you that is a beautiful and emotional film. At times bleak and very sad it is ultimately hopeful. If you are not moved by this film then you are probably a cannibalistic cave dweller or a beautiful alien who doesn't understand what it means to be fully human.