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Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 10 Films of 2014

I've come to realize that I absolutely hate doing year-end movie lists at the very end of the year. While I do watch an unnecessary amount of films, I tend to really finish watching all of the "good" films as the Academy Awards draw near. That's a good solid two months of film watching, and films worth putting on lists like these, that I miss out on the first time around. One of my favorite films of 2013 was Nebraska (currently streaming on Netflix *wink wink*). I didn't have a chance to watch the film in 2013, so I left it off of my initial list. I am confident that I will do the same this year, especially considering I need to see films like Whiplash, Birdman, and Boyhood. I'll post my "true" best of 2014 list some time in late February or early March, but for now, here is my list of the Top 10 Films of 2014.

10) Veronica Mars
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Starring: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, & Krysten Ritter

Brief Description: I will say that one of the benefits of doing a year end best of list that you know is going to change is that you get to talk about movies that NO ONE is talking about. Case In Point: the Veronica Mars movie. I never watched a single episode of the show when it originally ran, but I did catch up on the first season via Amazon Prime before I saw the film. Despite me having no nostalgia for this show whatsoever, this movie became Comfort Food for me, There's nothing incredibly daring or innovative or even captivating that Rob Marshall did with the film, yet everything worked and you never wanted the story to end. You do need to watch at least the first season of the TV show before you see the film (and probably the entire series to fully understand everything) but it will be well worth it.

9) Wish I Was Here
Directed By: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Josh Gad, Joey King, & Mandy Patinkin

Brief Description: Another movie I know isn't going to make my true year end list, so eff it, I'm going to talk about a movie you should see that you haven't yet. I have no idea at what point we all collectively turned on Zach Braff, especially considering we all (rightfully) loved Garden State, but I think it was the point where he officially announced that he wanted this film to be funded through crowd sourcing. I think we all assumed that Braff was a rich actor who could afford to fund his own indie film, so screw him for asking for a hand out. I truly believe that backlash caused a huge resentment towards this film from both audiences and critics alike. However, if you actually sit down and watch this film without any judgments or resistance, then you're left with an Indie flick that's full of a tremendous amount of heart that we all can relate to. If you liked Garden State, you will like Wish I Was Here. Oh, and P.S. watch this interview to learn why Zach Braff had to use Kickstarter and why you're wrong for hating him.

8) Fury
Directed By: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt & Logan Lerman

Brief Description: There's greatness in Fury that makes it worthy of any Top 10 list. The extended "playing house" scene in the middle is a fantastic showcase for both Brad Pitt and young Logan Lerman's acting chops which helps compliment other battle scenes like the fight between German and American tanks as well as the film's climax. However, the true downfall of Fury is that there just isn't anything left to say about WWII. Between films like Saving Private Ryan and mini-series' like Band of Brothers, there just doesn't seem to be any new angle left to take on the subject (well, unless you're Quentin Tarantino, but that's a different blog post). The film tried to take on a new angle with the focus being around tanks, but ultimately, the grander picture fell flat. However, if this film ever comes to a streaming service near you, I highly recommend the watch because I believe the good outweighs the bad.

7) Interstellar 
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, & Jessica Chastain

Brief Description: I wrote about Interstellar when I first saw the film, so if you'd like to read more in depth about my thoughts on it as well as what it means for Christopher Nolan's legacy, I urge you to check it out. If you just want a quick synopsis then I'll just say this: Do not go into Interstellar thinking you're going to get the next Nolan masterpiece, but the film is extremely interesting, and if you have a chance to see it on a grand scale (a la IMAX) I encourage you to do so.

6) Snowpiercer 
Directed By: Joon-ho Bong
Starring: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, & Tilda Swinton

Brief Description: Snowpiercer is a dystopian South Korean science fiction film from a first time director about class warfare. In an attempt to stop global warming, humanity has made the Earth so cold and unlivable, that the remnants of mankind are stuck on a train that circles the globe forever. The super poor are forced in the back of the train like cattle while the uber-elite get to stay in the front of the train in luxury. Curtis (Chris Evans) is one of the uber-poor and leads a revolt to steal control over the train. Because Snowpiercer is from a first time director, there are admittedly many points that are uneven, but because the film is so fun and keeps you engaged the entire time, you easily overlook its faults. The acting is also pretty damn good as Chris Evans shows off his range and Tilda Swinton gives an Academy Award winning performance. Maybe I'm just a sucker for sci-fi flicks, but I highly recommend you catch Snowpiercer on Netflix streaming today.

5) Nightcrawler
Directed By: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal & Rene Russo
STARS: 3.5

Brief Description: Jake Gyllenhaal has been trying to work with interesting directors and give interesting performances for a while now. From Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko to Denis Villenuve's Enemy, Gyllenhaal is trying to up his acting game with each film role he chooses. It seems that he has finally reached the pinnacle by giving an epicly creepy performance in Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler. The film follows Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom as he goes from a petty thief to owning his own freelance videography business. The film is hauntingly beautiful as it tells not only a straight-forward tale about a creepy fucking dude, but it also serves as an indictment on the sensationalist society America has become. You can also read on why Nightcrawler is the better version of Gone Girl.

4) How To Train Your Dragon 2
Directed By: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, & Gerard Butler
STARS: 3.5

Brief Description: I can't for the life of me figure out why the How To Train Your Dragon flicks aren't more popular. actually ranked the two films as the best two films that Dreamworks Animation has ever done. I was the one alone on an island screaming that the first one is a better film that Toy Story 3 and I'll be on that same island saying how How To Train Your Dragon 2 is better than The Lego Movie. Dragon 2 is an epic tale about a small Viking village that now happens to co-exist with dragons. The film's young protagonist- Hiccup (Jay Baruchel)- must journey to discover who's behind the band of thieves that's now kidnapping these dragons. This is a wonderfully entertaining film about family and community with stunning visuals. The flying scenes are some of the most incredible pieces of film making you'll see this year; you actually feel like you're flying on a dragon.

3) Edge of Tomorrow
Directed By: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt
STARS: 3.5

Brief Description: I can completely see why Edge of Tomorrow was not a huge commercial success this summer. Tom Cruise was coming off of some "eh" movies like Oblivion and Jack Reacher, "Edge of Tomorrow" is a really fucking stupid name for the film, and the trailers weren't able to do the movie justice. While this film really is a science fiction version of Groundhog's Day, that doesn't encapsulate how smart, awesome, and well-constructed it really is. Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity) has a really good eye for action/adventure and gives the audience the thrill ride they deserve. Tom Cruise sort of plays a little against type here as well as he's really a sniveling coward who is thrust into this action-hero role which was a refreshing change of pace. You can give all the elevator pitches you want about Edge of Tomorrow, but at the end of the day, it's just a really good and really entertaining film. The only reason it's not #1 on my list is because it drags a little it upon multiple viewings when you know where the plot is actually going.

2) Neighbors
Directed By: Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, & Dave Franco
STARS: 3.5

Brief Description: For some reason or another, great comedic talents don't last very long. However, Seth Rogen seems to be bucking that trend by being hysterical going on a decade. The dude just continues to make hilarious films over and over again. I think part of the reason for his success is because he's growing up with his audience and his fans. In The 40 Year Old Virgin, he's just hanging out with his friends at an entry level job. In Knocked Up, Rogen is still a young guy who just happens to get a girl pregnant (and of course is the first of his friends to do so). In This Is The End, he has to deal with what happens when you grow older and your friends start drifting apart. In Neighbors, Rogen is married and has a baby. He actually plays the adult whereas it's Zac Efron who plays the young kid. Rogen still smokes weed and still has his man-child sensibilities, but as he adapts his comedic strengths to his age, he continues to make laugh-out-loud funny films. Oh, and the small scene Rogen shares with Efron about Batman might be the funniest thing you'll see all year.

1) Guardians of the Galaxy
Directed By: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, & Vin Diesel
STARS: 3.5

Brief Description: There's absolutely no reason Guardians of the Galaxy should have worked. It was an extremely random Marvel property starring a talking squirrel, a talking tree that only says his name, and it stars a supporting cast member from a little-watched sitcom. It turns out that when you have extremely talented people behind your projects, it's easy to succeed. Despite only working on small projects like Slither and Super, James Gunn came into Guardians knowing how to tell a coherent and engaging story while injecting as much humor as you can. The script is smartly written and all of the actors help give depth to the words on the page. The special effects are top-notch (as you'd expect from any Marvel project) and all of the fight scenes are really good. Guardians even went above and beyond by adding great music to their film. Guardians of the Galaxy is this generation's Star Wars, and if the new J.J. Abrams film fails creatively, then Generation X is going to be arguing with the Millennials about Guardians vs Star Wars until we die.


- American Sniper
- Birdman
- Boyhood
- The Imitation Game
- The Theory of Everything
- Whiplash
- Wild



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