The movies of 2014.
Saw a lot of movies from 2014. Even managed to crack the 60s. That decision to see movies I'd usually avoid so I'd know the difference between a good one and a bad one paid off in some esoteric way, after all.
10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Effective continuation of the franchise, with some touching moments amidst the mayhem.
9. Inherent Vice - Twisty noir is rich with 70s atmosphere, full of humorous touches and enacted by a fantastic cast.
8. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Larger spectacle, stronger humor, more emotion...I'll say it: this flies higher than the original.
7. Bad Words - Jason Bateman directs and sheds his nice-guy stripes in this amusing dark comedy.
6. Big Hero 6 - Obscure Marvel comic becomes a colorful animated feature, with a delightful ensemble of characters.
5. Birdman - Beautifully-acted glimpse into one man descent into (and possible rise out of) madness.
4. Captain America: the Winter Soldier - Exciting mix of superhero movie and conspiracy thriller manages to top the original.
3. The Boxtrolls - Charming stop-motion feature with engaging characters and a surprisingly dark streak.
2. Snowpiercer - One-of-a-kind post apocalyptic actioner; a movie that never stops surprising you.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy - Another obscure Marvel title transmogrified into a rollicking piece of cinema.
And then there's...
Chef - Laid-back but very entertaining story of reconnecting with one's roots.
The Drop - Atmospheric crime drama with fantastic performances and some sharp twists.
Edge of Tomorrow - Basically Groundhog Independence Day, but no less enjoyable for being so.
The Hundred-Foot Journey - Gorgeous French scenery and Indian food; a very affable pairing.
The Interview - Surprisingly hilarious (and expectedly ridiculous) given the controversy.
John Wick - Straightforward revenge pic benefits from a good Keanu Reeves performance and impressive action scenes.
The Lego Movie - Wacky, funny, exciting; no masterpiece, but better than it had any right to be.
Muppets Most Wanted - Silly and funny follow-up with great cameos and catchy songs.
22 Jump Street - Sequel has great fun with its meta aspects and also brings the laughs.
X-Men: Days of Future Past - Bryan Singer makes a strong return to the franchise in this lively installment.
Underrated: Hercules, Let's Be Cops and The Monuments Men
Overrated: The Fault in our Stars (Beautifully acted, generally well-made, but Christ on a Segway, that running time!) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Again, marvelous acting and impressive design...undercut by a maddening desire to turn a Lubitsch pastiche into the freaking Terminator. How am I the only one to see this?), and The Raid: Bernadal (This one hurts, as I enjoyed the first movie and the follow-up has many positives to it - the car chase, the prison fights - but it's two and a half hours long! What's more, certain aspects of the film - hello, Bat Boy and Hammer Girl - tip the scales of violence from 'entertaining' to 'torture porn'.)
Guilty pleasures: Brick Mansions and I, Frankenstein
Didn't think this was so bad: Annie, Maleficent and RoboCop
Kind of a letdown: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sabotage and Sex Tape
The worst movies of 2014:
3. Dumb and Dumber To - Yeah, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels looked shockingly old, but complaining about that is akin to bitching about the character design on "Ben 10: Omniverse" - off-putting, to be sure, but hardly the biggest thing wrong with the project. Mean-spirited, needlessly gross, hideously photographed and depressingly derivative of the original. Not even a few stray pleasures (Harry's new roommate, the callback in the credits) can redeem it. Seriously, this is the best they could do in 20 years?!
2. The Legend of Hercules - Renny Harlin's career has had a couple of solid actioners amidst a field of guilty pleasures. This film doesn't even score in the latter category. If the crappy CGI effects (a Millenium Films trademark) don't get you, the 300 plagiarism will. And what the hell was up with Johnathon Schaech's cornrows?!
1. Winter's Tale - In my Letterboxd review, I noted how similar this was to Hulk (also starring Jennifer Connelly!): in taking its ridiculous story heart attack-serious, unbridled goofiness rises to the surface. Purple prose masquerading as dialogue, the best parents ever sending their baby asea in a model boat, the fact that Russell Crowe's demon is named Pearly Soames, Soames' ultimate fate, Colin Farrell's stupid effing haircut...
Archibald Snatcher partakes of cheese in The Boxtrolls, especially at the end
Batman treats his passengers to "real music" - The Lego Movie
The bonding montage of The Interview
Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman investigate a German apartment in Fury
The car chases in Captain America: the Winter Soldier, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and The Raid: Bernadal
The delineation of the money drop in Horrible Bosses 2
Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography for Birdman
The end credits montage of 22 Jump Street
Joaquin Phoenix gets a look at Jena Malone's old picture in Inherent Vice
Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets fixed up in Sin City: a Dame to Kill For
The mouthwatering food of Chef and The Hundred-Foot Journey
The mud fight in The Raid: Bernadal
The night vision fight in Snowpiercer
The opening chase in Brick Mansions
The paintings in Rob Lowe's house in Sex Tape
Quicksilver goes for a jog in the Pentagon kitchen in X-Men: Days of Future Past
Samuel L. Jackson in Captain America: the Winter Soldier and RoboCop
The shot from the point of view of the tank in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
A surprising amount of movies where a bad-ass/jack-ass softens (somewhat) through a burgeoning friendship with a child: Bad Words, The Equalizer, St. Vincent and A Walk Among the Tombstones
Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini in The Drop, especially the latter's 'respect' speech
Ty Burrell in Mr. Peabody and Sherman and Muppets Most Wanted
The visuals of The Book of Life, especially the Land of the Remembered
Holy shit, was that...?
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in Annie
Mikhail Baryshnikov in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Jason Isaacs in Fury
David Patrick Kelly in John Wick
Romany Malco in Top Five
Alison Pill in Snowpiercer
Eric Roberts and Maya Rudolph in Inherent Vice
- Will Forte as Abraham Lincoln in yet another Phil Lord/Christopher Miller project? Pretty sneaky, sis.
- One trope I've always been intrigued by: the one F-bomb in a PG-13 movie (it even inspired its own entertaining - if incomplete - supercut: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxqNSYjBO5g). This year saw quite a few examples: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Big Eyes, Non-Stop, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Expendables 3, Get On Up, St. Vincent and perhaps my personal favorite of the year, Hercules.
- From the 'weird!' files: I got a pair of actresses confused this year. It didn't even occur to me until months after the movies in which I saw them in had faded from memory: Mirelle Enos from Sabotage and Miranda Otto from I, Frankenstein. (I blame their similarly constructed names.) Even though Sabotage was less than I expected, one has to admire Enos for taking on a role at a complete remove from her worried wife parts in World War Z and Gangster Squad.
- Despite an amusing (and Razzie-nominated?!) performance by Kiefer Sutherland, Pompeii was a bland actioner assembled from recycled parts. One thing that pissed me off about it: that the characters (and/or the writers) genuinely thought there was time for score-settling battles in the midst of a volcanic eruption.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2. An electrical engineer doesn't think to wear protective gloves whilst handling an electrical connector...and directly over the naturally-occurring open tank of electric eels. The finale that feels like a "Robot Chicken" sketch come to life...this one, in fact. (Seriously, no one thought to yell at the kid to run away or pull him to safety? "You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us", my ass!) That damned web hand! This fucking movie made how much?!
- Seriously, can someone explain what the hell Whoopi Goldberg was doing in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
- I mentioned Get On Up getting stiffed for Oscars and, thinking back, it's not hard to figure why. It's one thing when your lead character breaks the fourth wall while they're, say, atop a ladder peering through a sorority house window. For your lead character to peer into the audience after he just got through slapping his wife around...how big do your balls have to be to allow something like that?
- I'm about to spoil Sex Tape, but who cares, really? One of the copies of the video file ends up in the possession of the son of Jay and Annie's best friends who then proceeds to blackmail the couple for 25 grand. What does this fucking have to do with the price of milk? (And, of course, the little monster's parents don't believe Jay and Annie when they spill the beans.) Were the writers so desperate for a new source of conflict that they decided to reach deep into their asses for it? And then there's that moment at the end where not-Eddie Haskell visits Jay and decides to sweep what happened under the rug because Jay and Annie's son is the only friend he has. I swear to the Almighty, I actually said (but not loud enough to draw attention to myself), "Break his neck!".
- Producers of Rio 2: it's bad enough that the circus freak formerly known as Miley Cyrus is indulged by followers and news outlets the world over, but a "Wrecking Ball" reference? I can't even...
- Trailers give away too much, especially gags. Granted, this is the world today, where nothing can be kept a secret (thank you, Julian Assange), but it's very disheartening to be exposed to bits long before I can see them in a theater. Imagine how much funnier the airbags bit in Neighbors or the (clever) crossover cameo in A Million Ways to Die in the West had been had I not seen them in trailers. (Then again, Doc's reaction to the picture in Inherent Vice - which was also in the trailer - made me laugh, but then, I only saw that trailer once and it slipped from memory until I caught the film. Sometimes, it's better when a gag sneaks up on you.)