Monday, January 19, 2015

The Movie Guru's Top Fifteen Films of 2014

Here we are, folks. It's finally time for me to reveal my picks for the fifteen best films of 2014. I spent weeks putting this list together and agonizing over which films would make the list and in what order. However, it all came together nicely and I'm proud of this list. It was an incredible year for cinema and there were some truly spectacular movies this year. I put together this list with six honorable mentions, one special exception and my fifteen favorite movies of the year. Without further ado, here are my picks for the fifteen best movies of 2014 along with some honorable mentions.

22 JUMP STREET

I didn't expect much from 22 Jump Street, but I was pleasantly surprised. 22 Jump Street has some truly hysterical moments and is undoubtedly one of the best sequels ever made. One of the year's best comedies and a movie that barely missed my top 15 list.

BIG EYES

An emotional roller-coaster with a terrific performance from Amy Adams, some great costume designs and a brilliant score from Danny Elfman, Big Eyes is Tim Burton's best in years.

CHEF

After Cowboys and Aliens and Iron Man 2 missed with fans and critics, Favreau definitely bounced back with this terrific little film.

THE INTERVIEW

The Interview will likely go down in history as the movie that almost got canceled because of terrorist threats and that's kind of unfortunate, because it's also a terrific little comedy with great action and funny performances.

STRETCH

This zany, bizarre Hollywood comedy has great energy and is a blast from start to finish with some of the best voice-over in years.

THE RAID 2

The Raid 2 features some of the most vicious carnage ever depicted on a movie screen with some truly cringe-worthy moments.  The crime elements are also fantastic (this film is like The Godfather if Michael was a martial arts expert) and that's what separates The Raid 2 from other action films. It's smart, it's intense and it's one awesome, bloody ride.

And one special exception......

LIFE ITSELF


Life Itself was an incredibly powerful film, one that shook me deeply to my core. I loved the film so much, but I really wasn't sure about where to put it on my list. And then I saw one critic, I don't remember who it was, place it as an overall honorable mention because he simply couldn't rank it and compare it to other films. So I'm sorry dude, but I'm going to copy you there. Steve James' documentary about the late great Roger Ebert is such a personal film for me and I was so affected by it. In all likelihood, I will never watch it again (it's simply too hard to watch a great man go through so much pain), but when I did watch it, I was mesmerized. It was a brilliant tribute to a great man.

Now finally, for my top fifteen films of the year.

15. INHERENT VICE


Inherent Vice is a deep dive into a world of bizarre and lovable characters that manages to be funny, smart and deeply felt. This was the most recent movie that made it on this list, but I just couldn't shake it. The characters, the atmosphere, the soundtrack- I simply could not shake this film. I had so much fun with Inherent Vice and I simply loved this movie. Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Katharine Waterston were all terrific in the film and Paul Thomas Anderson's direction is brilliant. Sure, the plot is difficult to follow, but there is so much great stuff going on that you won't care. You might not get all of it, but it's a very enjoyable ride.


14. CALVARY


Calvary is one of 2014's most under-seen and underrated films, a dark, uncompromising look at humanity, religion and death. Brendan Gleeson anchors this film as Father James, the priest who's life is threatened by an unknown parishioner early in the film. Father James spends the rest of the film trying to help people in his town, but eventually, he realizes that some just can't be saved. John Michael McDonough's film is full of rich dialogue and great characters- not a moment on screen is wasted. Calvary is an ambitious film achievement that takes on so many interesting subjects and uses them to create a complex, interesting film.


13. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER


Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the most impressive Marvel Studios film yet, because it didn't play it safe. There was real action, real characters and real consequences. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo created a terrific paranoia thriller with some brilliant action pieces thrown in. Simply put, The Winter Soldier solidifies the Captain America franchise as Marvel's go-to series for intriguing, unique action flicks. If Marvel continues down the path that The Winter Soldier set, we're in for several treats over the next few years.


12. EDGE OF TOMORROW


It's a shame that this movie didn't do well at the box office, because it was a real treat. Edge of Tomorrow is a darkly funny action flick with wit and charm to spare. Despite the box office disappointment, Edge of Tomorrow will likely go down as the film that helped to rebound Tom Cruise's career and solidified Emily Blunt as an action star. Some of the action in this movie is truly amazing and the overall look and feel of it is great. Edge of Tomorrow didn't quite hold up as well on rewatch, but that doesn't make it a lesser film by any stretch of the imagination.


11. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST


You never truly know what you're going to get with the X-Men franchise, but thankfully, Bryan Singer delivered an emotional and action-packed installment into the series with X-Men: Days of Future Past. This reboot/sequel for the superhero franchise features some truly spectacular action (Quicksilver's scene is one of the better set-pieces this year), a frightening vision of the future and some spectacular performances. James McAvoy delivers one of the most pained and terrific performances that I've ever seen in a superhero film. He knocks it out of the park. And the supporting cast is brilliant, with Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence all giving stellar performances. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best entry into this series so far and puts the X-Men franchise on a path to success.


10. NIGHTCRAWLER


Dan Gilroy's sick and twisted media thriller is both a wickedly smart satire and a disturbing character study and it all hinges on Jake Gyllenhaal's incredible performance as sociopath Louis Bloom. Gyllenhaal gives his all to the polite, driven and downright creepy media journalist that will do anything and everything to become successful. This film sticks with you and it's a good test to see how far any audience will go before they absolutely despise a main character. With a strong script, great acting, an electrifying score and cinematography that perfectly captures the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, Nightcrawler is a film that will not be forgotten any time soon.


9. NEIGHBORS


Neighbors might seem a little out of place among all of these dark, disturbing masterpieces, but there was no way that I could leave this absolutely hilarious comedy off my list. Neighbors is one of the funniest and most ribald comedies in years, a film that simply goes for it. The party sequences are stellar, the themes are actually pretty mature for a raunchy R-rated comedy, and the actors are terrific. Where most comedies play it safe, Neighbors goes way out there with jokes that are unpredictable and incredible. It's a great comedy and a film that I will be watching for a long time.


8. BOYHOOD


You can't talk about Boyhood without discussing the fact that the film is a stunning achievement of cinema. This movie was made over the course of 12 years and that certainly was a major draw for me. But we also can't deny the fact that Boyhood is also a great film and one of the most quietly powerful films of the year. It has great performances, a fantastic soundtrack and individual scenes that are poignant and beautiful. Boyhood is a cinematic masterpiece that won't soon be forgotten.


7. SNOWPIERCER


One of 2014's biggest surprises for me was Snowpiercer. I had heard about the film before, but when I rented it, I had no idea that I was about to watch one of 2014's most stunning films. Chris Evans is fantastic in this disturbing and incredible trip through a messed up society that is ravaged by class issues. The action scenes are invigorating and some of the individual moments (Evans' monologue is awesome) are fantastic. This is a great sci-fi film from director Boon Jong-ho, one that has brains and brawn in equal measure.


6. FOXCATCHER


Bennett Miller has proven in the past that he can direct mature, precise flicks about complicated characters, but he does some of his finest work yet with the disturbing psychological drama Foxcatcher. Anchored by three terrific performances, stellar directing and cinematography and an awkward atmosphere that sucks you into the film, Foxcatcher is one of the more rewarding experiences of the year. It's painful, intense, sad, darkly funny at times, and absolutely devastating. It's a knockout punch from one of the best directors in Hollywood.


5. WHIPLASH


If Whiplash is any indication, we're going to be talking about Damien Chazelle for a very long time. Chazelle's Whiplash is a beautifully directed film and it has one of the better scripts of the year. Not to mention the two knockout performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Those two are the most electric screen pairing of the year and Teller's character has a very compelling story arc. This is a film that manages to feel both small and epic, terrifying and inspiring. That is so hard to do and it makes Whiplash all the more impressive.


4. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL


Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel is probably the film on this list that I've watched the most. Out of all the films I've watched this year, I've been most frequently drawn back to The Grand Budapest Hotel (and The LEGO Movie). It's a beautifully designed, terrifically acted comedy with wit, charm and a dash of sadness that is simply perfect. The Grand Budapest Hotel is an excellent film and another masterful addition to Wes Anderon's already amazing filmography.


3. THE LEGO MOVIE


The LEGO Movie was the most fun I had in the theater all year. It's also the funniest film of the year by a country mile. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller created one of the best animated comedies in recent memory, an instant classic that appeals to adults as much as it does to kids. If you don't walk out of The LEGO Movie singing Everything is Awesome, something is wrong with you. With great visuals, amazing voice work and a brilliant score from Mark Mothersbaugh, The LEGO Movie truly was awesome.


2. GONE GIRL


David Fincher has made some masterpieces in the past, but Gone Girl might just be his finest achievement. A twisted, jaw-dropping satire of marriage and the media, Gone Girl is one of the most entertaining movies of the year. Rosamund Pike delivers a truly disturbing performance and Ben Affleck is the best he's ever been (and so is Tyler Perry). Even when you know the mystery, Gone Girl is still a great time and that is thanks to Fincher's direction and Flynn's witty screenplay. I adored Gone Girl and I can't wait to see more films from this team in the near future.


1. INTERSTELLAR


It's a boring pick. I've been thinking that for the last few weeks. Interstellar was my most anticipated movie of the year, and now, it's my #1 film of 2014. Was there really nothing that truly surprised me in 2014 and made me say "Wow, that was incredible." No, there certainly were films that dazzled and amazed me. But Interstellar simply lived up to the hype. Big time.

I saw Interstellar three times in theaters and each time I came away with something new and fresh. The first time around, I was deeply shaken by this film. I had just seen something, but I wasn't sure exactly what I had seen. The second and third viewings allowed me to get a deeper understanding of the densely layered plot (most of my confusion was a result of mishearing something or mixing up different things) and I was able to fully appreciate the vision that Nolan put on screen. Interstellar is one of the most ambitious films in history because it explores things that have never been done before. It's a 169 minute film that feels like an hour and a half. With great performances, a gorgeous score and amazing cinematography, Interstellar is another Nolan knockout. This bold, beautiful vision is my favorite film of 2014 and one of the best films of the decade so far.


Those were my picks for the best films of 2014. Let me know what you thought in the comments below and also, what were your picks for the best films of 2014?

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