Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

The time has come... here are my Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

Well, this is it. The final list about 2014. As much as I thought 2014 was an awful year all around for movies and should quickly be forgotten, it wouldn't be right to ignore the movies that not only were good, but genuinely great. I'm not going to lie though; I had to scrape to find 10 movies to put on this list. A lot of these movies I think are heavily flawed, but I put my better judgment aside and conceded that sometimes, movies don't need to be perfect to be good. They just need to be entertaining and fun to watch. That's what I look for when I review movies. I look for something that I can always be entertained by and something that respects its audience. A lot of movies are made cynically to cash in a quick buck, or to keep a licence, or just to fulfill someone's ego, but these movies were all highly enjoyable in their own ways. I have seen 41 movies this year, more than I've ever seen before, and we have a list that will be varied, odd, and unlike any other list I've done. At the end of the day though, I will say that these were the best movies released in a year of mediocrity. These are my Top 10 Best Movies of 2014.

Honorable Mention: Sharknado 2: The Second One
I'm probably the only critic that would put this on a best movies list, but I cannot deny that Sharknado 2 was a riot to watch. Everything about this movie is absolutely awful, but it's perfect in its execution. It takes a ridiculous premise and amps it up to 11, taking everything that was nuts about the first movie and injecting it with shark testosterone. Now we have a movie where flaming sharks exist, it rains 2 inches of sharks every hour, and every New Yorker is armed with chainsaws and weapons to fight a hurricane of sharks.

A part of me feels like I should justify my inclusion of this movie on my list, but the other side of me feels like it doesn't need to be explained. Biz Markie owns a pizza parlor and stabs a shark, then chucks it into his oven! Screw high class critical analysis, this is just plain awesome! I can safely turn off my mind with this movie and watch stupid, illogical, and downright terrible action take place. It's a train wreck, but it's the best train wreck I've ever seen. I enjoy this movie on the same level as The Room, and I honestly think this movie deserves to be in that echelon of awful movies that are comedy gold mines. Once you've seen flaming sharks, you can never go back. I just cna't give this a number spot because saying the phrase "This movie isn't as good as Sharknado 2" rubs me the wrong way. Vernacular or not, I can still acknowledge that Sharknado 2: The Second One is a blast from start to finish.

Number 10: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Say, did you know that Wes Anderson is weird? Cause he is. Artistically, poetically weird.

When I look back on The Grand Budapest Hotel, I remember liking it, but not loving it. I thought that it was a good movie with some great visuals and a doll like aesthetic, but nothing more. It had its moments, but it was a bit too surreal and odd for me to outright love. However, as I look back on it, I can't help but find it quirky and charming in its own ways. It's an odd little movie, but there's no denying that it looks great. The shots in this movie are beautiful, and the effects throughout are some of the best I've seen all year. This is a movie you watch more for its technical aesthetics than anything else.

I've never seen a Wes Anderson movie before, but from what I can tell, most of his movies follow this kind of style and gives them a very distinct voice. Everyone says that this is the most Wes Anderson movie he's ever made, and I can see why. His style is potent throughout this movie, elevating what could have been a simple comedy into a surreal and artistic comedy. It's like watching a little girl play with her dolls and tell you the stories she's made with them. The characters seems very delicte, even though some of them are absolutely deplorable. At the same time though, it almost feels like its a make believe movie, like a weird fairytale adapted to the early 20th century. Describing this movie is pretty damned difficult, so all I can say is that it's not like any other comedy around, and it deserves your attention in all of its strangeness.

Number 9: How to Train Your Dragon 2
I will say this about 2014; even though most of the year had mediocre movies in it, most kid's movies turned out to be really good. In fact, I've been seeing kid's movies feature in several best of the year lists. While some of them I personally thought were alright, like Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2 exceeded my expectations more than any other movie this year. I personally don't think that DreamWorks has that many hits under its belt that are legitimately good, but the How To Train Your Dragon series has almost always been a great series. The sequel keeps that sentiment strong.

It does everything that a sequel should do. It expands upon character histories, acknowledges major paradigm shifts from the last movie, and adds in even more aerial battles. This movie is a spectacle to watch, and seeing everyone fly through the air on dragons is always a joy to watch. HtTYD2 raises the stakes of the original movie and make it even bigger and grander. This is a huge blockbuster in all definitions of the word. Battles are heavily featured and they're always a delight to watch. Seeing massive dragons come lumbering from the ocean is a joy to watch, and nothing beats the war that's shown in this movie. If I could harbor any serious complaints towards this movie, it would be that the ending is a bit lackluster, even though it does set the stage for what will surely be a great sequel. No matter how you slice it, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the sequel that we all were looking for. It delivered on all of its promises, and I commend it.

Number 8: Interstellar

Yes, the movie that I raved about and call one of the best movie experiences I've ever had is only my number 8. While I still stand by everything I said it that review and that this movie is a tour de force, I realized something while making this list. Interstellar is good for about 30% of the movie. That 30% left me shaken, drained, awe inspired, and gave me a rush I haven't felt in years when seeing a movie. The other 70% though was just okay though. 

That's not to say that this movie is bad by any means, but the more I think back on the movie, the more I think about which moments I loved. I loved when they arrived on the first planet, the repercussions of their time down there, the transmissions between the daughter to her dad, Matt Damon, and entering the 5th dimension. However, that accounts for only a fraction of the movie, a fraction of a 3 hour epic. And during those 3 hours, I remember being bored in the first hour, waiting for more exciting things to happen in the second hour, and chomping at the bit for McConaughey to finally see his daughter. It was a lot of waiting for great moments, but it was still waiting nonetheless. 

Again, I really loved this movie, but a lot of the movie was simply waiting for huge things to happen. Hell, the first hour is just waiting for them to get to space, which is where all of the action takes place. This movie is imbalanced like nobody's business, but it's still a marvel to watch. It's a space story that wants you to know how smart it is, and it actually is smart. I wouldn't say that this movie is as good as Gravity, but it is one of Christopher Nolan's better movies. I liked it, but just be aware that it's going to take a while to get to the good stuff. 

Number 7: The Interview
Just so we're clear, I'm no putting The Interview on this list because of some free speech and pro America agenda. I'm putting it on the list because this is the funniest movie I've seen all year, controversy or not. 

In a way, I'm glad the controversy happened, because it inadvertently raised awareness about the movie and increased its opinion in the public eye. Because of that, more people saw the movie than it probably would have just as a straight theatrical release, and they saw a movie that was funny in all of the right ways and actually pretty unique in its own ways. Admit it, setting a movie, let alone a comedy, in modern day North Korea is unique and gives a lot of leeway for an interesting atmosphere and approach to comedy. This is a weird kind of comedy where the jokes don't necessarily come from the comedians themselves, but from their setting. Normally, these jokes wouldn't hit if they were done in New York or Chicago, but by telling these jokes in a place as unfunny and serious as North Korea somehow makes them even more funny. 

James Franco and Seth Rogen do a great job delivering on the jokes and their timing, as always, is near perfect. They're a great comedic duo and make this movie even better to sit through. Randal Park does a great job as Kim Jong-Un, making him into a sympathetic villains that has some great scenes with Franco. This is like taking any of Rogen's other movies and adding a twist of political/spy thriller into the mix, which I greatly appreciate. To me, Rogen is a man who writes movies that would be alright without an all star cast, but this script stands on its own. I firmly believe that This is the End is a movie that is only good because of it's cast, while The Interview is good because everything just plain works. But do you know what the best part is? You can watch it right now online. Give it a look and have fun.

Number 6: Oculus
I may need to stop saying that I'm not a fan of horror, because whenever I talk about it, I rave about how good it is. The best way for me to describe my relationship with horror in a nut shell is that I hate slasher horror movies, but I love psychological horror movies. I'm going to make that distinction clear from now on, since for me to preface every horror review with the phrase "I'm not a fan of horror" isn't true anymore. That being said, Oculus is probably the best psychological horror movie I've seen in years. This is a movie that actively screws with the audience every chance it gets. Sometimes it's straight about its scares, while other times it destroys your preconceptions before going in for the kill. 

I got into this movie late this year, but make no mistake that Oculus is scary in all of the right reasons. Yes it has slasher elements inside of it, but they work at being scary because we see characters progress from being normal people into these terrifying monsters. When they becoming raging lunatics, it's all the more scary because we're just wishing that they could go back to being happy and normal again. That is until you realize that the movie is expertly cut to feature two different time periods. The hallmark of a good movie is that even though I know what happens during the earlier time period, I'm still on the edge of my seat and hoping that the characters live. 

And then we have an ending that completely shatters everything you thought about the movie. The last ten minutes are a roller coaster ride from hell, and I was left speechless by what I saw. I couldn't have believed that the movie had balls big enough to screw with us in that way. I won't spoil what happens, but let's just say that each time period has the exact same ending, but the context of it makes it all the more depressing and morose. I can't stop hurling praise at this movie. It's a movie that respects its audience, yet messes with them out of sheer respect. Not many people have heard of this one, but you all need to check out Oculus for yourselves. 

Number 5: Guardians of the Galaxy
Do I need to explain why Guardians of the Galaxy is on this list? It was the most talked about movie of the summer. It's quotable as all hell. It's a great space adventure, hilarious comedy, and action packed superhero movie all in one. It has a soundtrack pulled straight from the 70's, and it was the highest grossing album on iTunes in August. It had Groot and Rocket Raccoon, some of the best characters of the year. People still talk about it to this day and some people say that it may even be better than the upcoming Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

So are we clear why this movie is here? We sure...?

Okay, let's move on.

Number 4: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Why is it that even though this movie is ranked number 4, I still feel like that's not good enough for this movie? Birdman is brilliant in every respect of the word. Everyone's been talking about it for the past several months and it's a front runner for the Oscars this year in numerous categories. And you know what, it deserves every praise that it gets. 

It's an emotional, dark, and rather depressing tale about an actor that wants to finally be taken seriously, and Michael Keaton just owns this movie. Michael Keaton acts like he's never acted before, and this movie will remind you of just how good he is. I'm actually kind of confused why this movie was considered a comedy at the Golden Globes, cause it really isn't. Yes there are lighter moments and a lot of funny bits in the movie, but this isn't a comedy in the slightest. It shows the real life world that actors have to brave through, the struggle to maintain relevance in a medium that is always changing, and the difficulty of being taken seriously as an actor. It's a powerful movie that I still think every actor should go and see no matter what. 

So why am I putting it at number 4 if I feel that this movie should be higher? Honestly, I can't say I really know. I tried putting it higher up, but I feel like it would give a bad name to the top 3 movies, and yet putting it below Guardians of the Galaxy just seems wrong. No matter what, Birdman is going to be an anomaly on this list. It's going to be a must see movie that everyone should watch, critics will adore, and people will hopefully be talking about for years to come, but I can't say honestly that it's better than my top 3 movies. As hard as I try, knocking one of those three down for Birdman would literally kill me. And so, here we are. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) at number 4. Go figure. 

Number 3: The Book of Life
Hands down, this is the best looking movie of 2014. I've never seen an animated movie before that looks this good, this polished, and this beautiful.Every frame on animation in this movie is stunning to watch, and the character designs are some of the most creative and brilliant designs I've ever seen period. Xibalba and La Muerte in particular are out of this world brilliant, and the Land of the Remembered is one of the best settings for a movie in recent memory. Everything about this movie looks unbelievable, and I loved watching every second of it. 

Not only that, but The Book of Life is a movie that delivers several great messages and morals to kids that rarely are shown in movies. While it has a more traditional overall moral that you should be true to yourself no matter what, it also teaches kids about the importance of death and remembering. Even if a loved one dies, they're not gone forever. This movie teaches children that as long as you remember the deceased and everything that they've done for you, they will always be with you. No one can truly die. That's a message that you never seen that often in kids movies. When we grow up in a world where Disney kills of parents like nobody's business and death is often a tragic element in many of their stories, The Book of Life takes the approach that death is meaningless as long as your loved ones still remember you. 

I loved every second of this movie. This was my biggest joy of 2014, and every time I think back on this movie, it's nothing but warm thoughts. There's nothing quite like The Book of Life in existence, and I'm happy for that. I want the rest of the book series to be adapted into movies, because if the other two books are this good and this creative, then you can never have too much of a good thing. The Book of Life is emotional, powerful, and one of the best movies of 2014. 

Number 2: Snowpiercer
From the very beginning, I was in love with this movie. This was the biggest underdog of 2014, but by God did it fight to become popular. Originally, this movie had a very limited theatrical release in July, but universal praise and glowing reviews helped this movie gain awareness in popular culture. Even now, while not many people know about the movie, the people that have seen it shower nothing but praise on this film, and for good reason. This is just one of the best movies of the year. 

I heard from a friend that this movie is essentially The Hunger Games on a train, but that would be doing this movie a great disservice. This isn't just a movie that's in the shadow of The Hunger Games. This is an adult movie that surpasses that series with deep characters, phenomenal world building, and a genuine sense of revolution and rebellion. Every moment from this movie is great, whether it's a smaller moment like what happens to kids on the train, or a grand moment, like the battle of the Water Supply Car. Everything about this movie is just so awesome and so indescribable that I'm not doing it justice. 

What I think I love most about the movie though is that it lays its story down perfectly. Everything talked about later on in the movie was foreshadowed earlier on, whether you were paying attention or not. Everything has a purpose in this movie, no matter how small it is. I've watched this movie numerous times, and I'm still finding little hints and tricks that the director put inside to give the audience a clue what was going on. Every scene is a rush, every fight is a rush, every moment is a rush, this whole movie is just a rush to watch. If you haven't seen it yet, it's already on Netflix, so you have no excuse to not watch it. If you're still hesitant about seeing one of the best movies of the year, then just know this. Captain America fights an army of guards with an ax lit on fire. Man this movie kicks so much ass! But at the end of the day, there could be only one. The rest of these movies were good, but my number 1 is legendary. It should be heralded as one of the best movies of the decade, let alone the year. So what is it? Well here you go. 

Number 1: The Babadook
Yeah, you never saw this one coming. A movie that I didn't review. I saw this after the new year started, and since I was so busy with all of the other Best of 2014 lists, I had no time to write a review of The Babadook. Let me just go and set the record straight about this movie. 

The Babadook is a masterpiece. It is as close to perfection that a movie can achieve. It's one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, yet there's not a single jump scare in it. It's a movie about depression in every way, shape, and form, and it's one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen. I never cover my eyes during a horror movie, but The Babadook made me do that several times. I can't think of a single thing that this movie does wrong. 

It's about a mother who lost her husband the same day that her first child was born, and the boy has been an annoying hellspawn all his life. He was kicked out of several school, can't make friends with other kids, and is even violent towards other kids. When the mother reads her son a book though called "Mister Babadook", then things start to get dark. The boy thinks he sees Mister Babadook wherever he goes, and it scares him beyond belief. What follows is a story of paranoia, family, and a monster that may or may not be real. 

Everything about this movie is great. It's acting is solid, its use of sound is minimal, yet effective, and the monster himself, Mister Babadook, is a monster that should share the same rank of terror as Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. He's scary beyond all belief, but we never actually see him. We only see glimpses of him, or just something that may or may not look like him. The fact that his storybook also shows gruesome murder and some of the most terrifying darkness in recent memory, juxtaposed with a cute nursery rhyme, and you get a movie that is unlike any other horror movie out there. 

I don't think I can adequantly explain how good The Babadook is. It revitalized my love for movies all over again, making me rave about a movie that no one's ever heard of and preach its brilliance. The last time I did that was for Spring Breakers, which also won my choice for the Best Movie of 2013. When I see a movie that completely floors me and has me chomping at the bit for more, then you have a great movie. The people that have seen The Babadook call it one of the scariest movies ever made, and with good reason. Yes horror movies have existed before The Babdook, but I can safely say that it's going to be a long time before we get a horror movie as good as this one. This is a one of a kind movie that I feel is one of the best movies of the decade. It does everything a good movie should do, but above all else, it stays in your head. It's been weeks since I've seen this movie, and The Babadook will not leave my head. I keep trying to get it out of there, but it just won't leave, cementing itself as one of my favorite movies of the year, and one of the best horror movies I've ever seen. I love this movie more than words can say. I love this movie for just being the best movie of the year. So in the style of The Babadook, here's a quick little rhyme for you. 

Go watch this on TV.
Go watch this on a screen.
No matter where you see this, 
The Babadook will make you scream...

And that's all for 2014! I hope you all enjoyed the past few lists, and I'll be back at the end of January with more reviews and more content! I'll be back soon with Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

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