Friday, July 18, 2014

The Best Films of 2014 so far

2014 has been an incredibly awesome year so far. Sure, we've had a few disappointments (How To Train Your Dragon 2, Transcendence, Muppets Most Wanted), but there have been a plethora of great films. From animated films like The LEGO Movie to comedies like Neighbors to big action blockbusters like Edge of Tomorrow, 2014 has been stellar across the board. Here are my 10 favorite films of the year so far.

10. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

On the surface, this movie is just another passable YA romance adaptation that has nothing to offer anyone who isn't a fan of the book. However, The Fault In Our Stars ends up being much more than that. It's a sweet, yet sad romance film that has two charismatic leads in Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley and a great supporting cast led by the terrific Laura Dern. It's an entertaining film from start to finish and it affects you emotionally as well. I was very surprised by The Fault In Our Stars and despite some problems I had with the ending, I really loved this film. One of the biggest surprises of the year thus far.

9. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Wes Anderson never fails to deliver candy-colored spectacles and The Grand Budapest Hotel just might be his best one yet. Led by an Oscar-worthy performance by Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a beautiful and hilarious dark comedy. The performances are great and everything just flows from Anderson's style. The set design, the music, the action scenes, everything is simply his. It's a fantastic film from a visionary director at the top of his game.

8. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

It's always a good thing when a movie lives up to your expectations and X-Men: Days of Future Past certainly lived up to mine. The sequel to the brilliant X-Men: First Class might not quite reach the heights of its predecessor, but it comes awfully close thanks to the breathtaking action scenes and the surprisingly emotional story. Hugh Jackman and Michael Fassbender are great as usual, but it's James McAvoy who steals the movie. He gives the best performance ever in a Marvel superhero movie and moves you almost to the point of tears. It's a brilliant performance in a brilliant film that delivers on every level.

7. LIFE ITSELF

Roger Ebert is a figure that made a profound impact on my life, so I was bound to love the documentary on his life. However, I was not truly prepared for Life Itself. This is a film of immense power, a film that will make you laugh and cry and will certainly touch your heart. Ebert had such a love for life and a desire to show his life, warts and all. It's absolutely beautiful and astonishing. It's a hard watch at times, but it's such a life affirming film. A movie that can't be missed.

6. 22 JUMP STREET

2014 has been an extraordinary year for comedies and 22 Jump Street is one of the best examples. I enjoyed 2012's 21 Jump Street. It was a funny, well-acted comedy that was much better than it had any right to be. However, I loved 22 Jump Street. If not for Seth Rogen's Neighbors, this would be the funniest comedy of the year. There are so many laugh-out-loud scenes during this movie and it's done so well that you just can't help but love it. The chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is brilliant and the action beats are terrific as well. Ice Cube is great in his supporting role and the meta humor is simply fantastic. One of the rare sequels that is better than the original.

5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Marvel ended up in a slump last year after The Avengers rocked cinemas the year before. Iron Man 3 was an entertaining film with some great moments, but I could barely get through it on a repeat viewing and it is relatively inconsequential to the cinematic universe. I enjoyed Thor: The Dark World for what it was, but it also is a film that I don't have any interest in rewatching. With all that being said, Marvel roared back to life this year with the terrific Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which just might be the best Marvel movie yet. It's a serious film, it's a suspenseful film and it has an impact on the rest of the universe. The Winter Soldier is a textbook example of how to make a sequel- make it darker, make it more complex and continue to develop the characters. The Winter Soldier accomplishes all of that while still incorporating some light humor. It's simply one of the best superhero films I've ever seen.

4. NEIGHBORS

Seth Rogen is on a roll right now and Neighbors might just be his best film to date. The frat-boy comedy is essentially a modern update on Animal House, but it's the rare film that deserves to be placed in the same category as that beloved film. It's a raucous, filthy comedy with plenty of laugh-out-loud scenes and moments that will have you saying "Did they just do that?" It's the rare comedy that just goes for it. There's no holding back. Not to mention that the soundtrack and the party scenes are brilliant and the acting is top-notch. Zac Efron steals every scene he's in and Rose Byrne is also electric. Neighbors could have been another stupid frat comedy, but it ends up being one of the best movies of the year. It perfectly imitates the Animal House style of anarchic comedy while giving it a modern, pot-fueled update. Simply hysterical.

3. SNOWPIERCER

Very rarely do we got a sci-fi film as fantastic as Snowpiercer. The bold and brilliant film from director Boon Jong-ho is a mesmerizing, frightening vision of the future that only gets more dark and disturbing as it goes along. Chris Evans leads the stellar cast and is absolutely breathtaking as Curtis, the world-weary revolutionary who is tasked with leading the passengers to the front of the train. The supporting cast is strong as well, but it's Evans who steals the film, especially with his amazing monologue at the end of the film. The action scenes are beautiful and the social commentary is quite interesting. I really hope more people get to see this one because it is so, so good.

2. EDGE OF TOMORROW

In a year where the blockbusters have actually been quite stellar, Edge of Tomorrow came as the summer's greatest surprise. Tom Cruise was coming off a string of bad movies (Rock of Ages and Oblivion were both intolerable), nobody knew if Emily Blunt could carry an action pic and director Doug Liman wasn't exactly a superstar. But somehow they did it. Somehow the people behind Edge of Tomorrow made one of the year's best blockbusters, a visually beautiful, action-packed and hilarious sci-fi extravaganza that is absolutely terrific. The script is witty and the pace never lets up. It's just a brilliant film and one that I will definitely not forget.

1. THE LEGO MOVIE

Typically, the months of January and February are cinematic dumping grounds. And for the most part, all of the films this year fit that cliche. The only film that didn't fit that mold was The LEGO Movie, a cinematic masterpiece. That might seem like high praise, but I'm telling you, it fits. The LEGO Movie is one of the best animated films of all time, a film filled with imagination, heart and boundless energy. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are some of the most talented filmmakers in Hollywood. They're able to apply a certain style to every film they make and it just works. The LEGO Movie is the rare movie that deserves to be called an instant classic. It's that good.

The honorable mentions for me were Chef, which was a fun film with a stellar second half, A Million Ways to Die in the West, a hilarious comedy that paid homage to the western genre well, Non-Stop, an edge of your seat thriller that is one of Liam Neeson's best yet and Million Dollar Arm, an energetic and engaging baseball drama.

The worst films that I've seen this year are:

-Maleficent
-The Purge: Anarchy
-Transcendence
-Ride Along
-Muppets Most Wanted
-The Monuments Men

Well, the first half of 2014 was absolutely terrific. Here's to hoping that the second half is just as good.

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