Sunday, January 11, 2015

Top 22 Movies of 2014

Alright, so every year I create a list of my favorite movies.  I unfortunately did not have the chance to see Selma, Nightcrawler, Boyhood and Whiplash.  Those are the biggies I regret.  

22.       The Lego Movie

I had to watch this movie a second time to truly uncover the genius of it.   You’ve all seen it.  The best part is Batman’s rock tune he wrote. 

21. Chef

Jon Favreau’s come-back.   He plays a chef wanting to experiment with his entrees, but the owner of the restaurant will not let him.   Yes, the metaphor slaps you across the face pretty hard, but it’s sweet and mostly works.  His relationship with his son reminded me of my old man.

20. Obvious Child

The boldest romantic comedy out there.  Jenny Slate plays a woman who got pregnant by a nice guy during a one night stand.  She plans to have an abortion, the nice guy from the one night stand supports her.  The end.   It’s never about a choice by Slate’s character or the dude who got her pregnant.  This is what she wants and he support it.   It's charming and funny as hell. The movie doesn’t pull punches.   

19. Only Lovers Left Alive

This is the best looking Jim Jarmush movie to date.   It stars the always wonderful Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as two vampires that have lived through history and are in a bit of rut.   Now, them being vampires is really secondary to the movie.  It’s really an exploration in humanity and lost chances (or causes).  

18. Neighbors

This one surprised me.   I laughed a lot and I’m not a huge Seth Rogan fan.   The marketing, including the poster, mostly focused on the Zac Effron and Rogan which is unfortunate.  They left out the most important character that had just as much screen time: Rose Byrne.   She makes the movie.  If it wasn’t for her, it would not have made this list.   Hey Hollywood - It’s time to include the marketing to ladies as well.   So while Effron and Rogan are funny in the film, Byrne frankly burned them!

17. Blue Ruin

This revenge movie is interesting because the revenge actually takes place in the first act.  It’s more about the repercussions.   Some have described this as a modern day Fargo.   I get the comparison, since both are crime related and have a distinct dark comedy to it.   It’s a solid movie with star Macon Blair really holding the film together nicely.   But of course, it’s no Fargo.   

16. Guardians of the Galaxy

More than likely you saw this movie considering it was the biggest grossing movie of the year.  Now, I love me a good space opera and Star Wars rip-off, so this was right up my alley. I also love weird shit like talking raccoon and a one phrase talking tree.  I love Chris Pratt.   I love great music.   What a great combination.    My favorite part of the movie, could be the opening credit sequence with Chris Pratt singing “Come and Get Your Love”.   Once that title sequence happened, I knew I was in for something special.  

Here is the intro to the movie if you haven't seen it. 

15. Grand Piano

This had a feel of an old Hitchock movie, with the use of music and shadows.   However, the concept is beyond ridiculous, but sometimes in movies, you just gotta go with it people.  Basically, John Cusack somehow rigs a piano to blow up if the pianist, played by Elijah Wood, hits a wrong note during a performance.   I know.  I know.  It’s ridiculous.   But somehow, somehow, they made it work for me.  I don’t know how, but they did it.   

14. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Yeah, I know.  You hate Wes Anderson.  I get it.  His movies can come across as smug, claustrophobic, maybe even a bit too put together, but still, do me a favor and give The Grand Budapest Hotel a shot.    He’s at the top of his game with this murder mystery heist movie.   The movie is doing so many brilliant things, like playing around with aspect ratio depending on the time-frame he is shooting in, working with stop animation and just technically doing what he does best.   But the most brilliant thing of all is casting Ralph Fiennes in the lead role.  He plays a distinguished concierge at a prestigious hotel who later becomes unhinged after being accused of murder.  Anderson's best movie since The Royal Tennenbaums.  


13. Mistaken for Strangers

Now this one surprised me.  It’s a documentary about a band I dislike called The National.  But really, it’s not about The National at all.  It’s about the lead singers less focused, disheveled, beer drinking brother who goes on tour with them and decides to make a documentary about the band.    It’s a sweet film about family, about art, about not judging a book by its cover.   I was deeply moved at times, however, most of it was just so damn funny.  

12. Top Five

I am a HUGE Chris Rock fan and own all his stand-up specials.  He’s the most brilliant comedian out there.  Unfortunately, he isn’t the greatest actor and he has chosen roles that just never fit him.     In Top Five, he did the smart thing.  He created his character off himself.   Rock is a huge Woody Allen fan, so to me, this is basically Chris Rock, writing, directing and starring in his own Woody Allen type movie.   I dug it.   I also found Rosario Dawson so damn delightful.  

11. Coherence

This science fiction tale feels like a modern day Twilight Zone episode.   It mostly takes place in one setting: A dining room during a dinner party.   I don’t want to say anymore other than that.  OK, well weird shit happens when a meteor is flying over earth.    This movie is so low budget it needed a kick-starter campaign.  That charmed me.    

10. The Imitation Game

I knew very little about this movie, besides it starring Bennedict “The Game's afoot” Cumberbatch.  The movie is based on a true story about a code-breaker during WWII.  It’s mostly plays as a simple, but riveting procedural.   However, it took an interesting turn delving into topics like gay rights and individuality. 

9. Tusk

Haters gottta hate people.  Kevin Smith’s Tusk was dismissed way too quickly.   I understand that when there is a loud mouth personality like Smith, it’s easy to want to hate on his work.   I can’t say, I’m in love with everything he’s done, but Tusk is truly a unique film that takes twists and turns and goes places no other movie has this whole year.   Smith should be commended for that.   It’s also his best looking film, using darkness and shadows to create a nice creepy palette.  Michael Parks could be the freakiest he’s ever been as a man obsessed with walruses.   Justin Long puts in a great manic performance basically playing Kevin Smith.   Some have criticized the movie’s tonal shifts.    I was endeared by them.     It reminded me of old Roger Coreman movies that purposefully fucked around with structure and tone.   Also, big tip of the hat to the make-up in this film.   

8. Frank

When I first got on stage (it was actually a basement party in college) to play guitar and sing, I was so nervous I could hardly play a chord.  My hands were jittery, my voice was cracking and I was sweating like a pig.   So the idea of wearing a paper machete hat while I sing, does seem oddly appealing.   That’s what Frank is about.   But it wasn’t just that, I connected with the idea of both wanting to experiment with art, while at the same time, wanting people to desperately like it.   It’s a sinful admission I know, but it’s true.   I also simply love the idea of putting one of the biggest named recognizable actors, Michael Fassbender, hidden for most of the movie.   By the way, his performance is outstanding.  

7.  Edge of Tomorrow - Live.Die.Repeat

This was one of the biggest box office flops of the year, which is just a damn shame, because it is smart and spectacular.   It’s basically Groundhog’s Day in a futuristic war setting.   Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are equally energetic and engaging.   I could not take my eyes off of either of them.   And the humor, oh man, the humor.   Even though this is a sci-fi movie, I laughed out loud a lot on numerous occasions, thanks to an outstanding Tom Cruise performance.   Great stuff!

6.  Under the Skin

I don’t want to give away too much of the premise.  However, the movie does something that I wish more movies would do.  The director literally throws you in the middle of the story.  And like Mathew “alirght, alright alright” McConaughey, Scarlet Johansen is simply at the top of her game these days, picking unique movies and challenging roles.   She knocked this out of the park.   Everything about this is spectacular, including the amazing score and interesting premise of using hidden cameras to record real people (non-actors) that Johansen seduces, not knowing they were being filmed.  

5. The One I Love

Like Under the Skin, I don’t want to give anything away.  ANYTHING!  Alright, well I’ll tell you that most of the movie stars just two actors Mark Duplass (The League and Director of Puffy Chair) and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men).  It’s a magical love story.   I loved everything up to the last 10 seconds.   I’m going to make my own cut of the movie that eliminates the very last few seconds.

4. Gone Girl

I went into this movie knowing nothing about the plot or any of its twists.  Of course, it was an extremely popular book, but I knew nothin’ I tell ya.    While at times I feel David Fincher is a bit overrated (Fight Club – most overrated movie ever), this material seemed to fit his sensibilities perfectly.   It was some riveting shit.   I love watching a movie and truly not knowing where the story will wisp me away to.  

3. Captain America: Winter Soldier

That’s right, Captain America: Winter Soldier made it this high on the list.   I give Marvel credit for allowing their movies to play around in different genres and taking risks, unlike DC.   In the vein of All the President’s Men, Captain America: Winter Soldier is basically a 70’s paranoia thriller.   Besides the third act, there actually isn’t a lot of action.  However, when it is on screen, the action is phenomenal.  Unlike most action scenes, you can actually tell what’s happening and you know surroundings around.  So people, don’t dismiss it because it’s a super-hero movie.   I know it’s easy to do, but DON’T DO IT! Plus, who doesn’t want to see Samuel L. Jackson kick major ballz?

2. The Babadook

The director of The Exorcist, William Friedkin, recently stated that The Babadook is the scariest movie ever made.   I would emphatically disagree with that, but what I did find fascinating was the different levels and themes the film is playing with, like single motherhood, mental illness, fighting your demons and longing for something you just can’t have.   So while the movie was freaky and absolutely had scary moments, I was mostly hooked on the relationship between the mother and the son, putting the pieces of the puzzle together and interpreting it.   

1. Birdman

I cannot deny Birdman the number one spot.   Besides the technical achievement of making the film appear as one unedited shot (it’s truly remarkable), the characters, the energy of the film, the story, the meta-ness, the almost lucid dreamy feel of it all….well it stuck with me weeks after seeing it.   Some critics (I’m looking at you Filmspotting), dismissed the film too quickly as a gimmick, some didn’t like the ending (I’m looking at you Slash Film), some thought Michael Keaton is not worthy of the praise he is receiving for the role (I’m looking at you again Filmspotting).  That’s not how I saw it.  Michael Keaton was the perfect and only choice for the lead of this film.   Since the film contains non-stop continuous one-shots, we get to be an invisible character in the rooms.  We get to be a fly on the wall while the craziness ramps up to  opening night of a Broadway play.   We get to see actors actually acting and interacting with each other as if it was the play they were putting on in the movie.     Birdman may not be for everyone, but damn, it feels like it was made for me.   Big props to the music (great drum score), the director for deciding to step away from being such a “Debbie Downer” (Alenjandro G. Inarritu who made Happiness and Beautiful), Edward Norton and Emma Stone for some truly great moments on screen and to the Director of Photography (Emanuell Lubeski) for just nailing the difficulty of the project. 

There is no movie like Birdman.


X-Men: Days of Future Past - Pretty fun movie with the best slow motion sequence in a movie, possibly ever.

Hunger Games Part 1 – Lawrence is just born to play Katniss.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – If the story didn’t hinge on misunderstandings and coincidences that seemed to have been inspired by Three’s Company episodeS, it would have been much higher on my list.

22 Jump Street- The movie works due to Hill and Tatum’s chemistry.   I also fell in love with the self-referential humor.       

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – I love these movies…almost made the list.

The Interview- Fuck Kim Jong Un, that why….Actually, I do think critics are being too tough on this movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed the craziness of it all. 

Cold in July
Life Itself
Cuban Fury
Bad Words
Sin City 2: A Dame to Die For
The Muppets Most Wanted 

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