We’re a little more than halfway through two-oh-one-four, and while Oscar season still awaits us, I had already seen the best film of last year by March. Though I anticipate Interstellar to make it a race, I doubt I will ever see anything quite like 2014’s #1, so without further ado…
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Admittedly, this is a very Wes Anderson film, so if you don’t go in for that sort of thing, maybe you should skip on to number fo’. Budapest is a complicated frame story within a frame story, shifting plot and images around so quickly the viewer might suffer whiplash (albeit enchantingly pleasant whiplash) in order to keep up. Everything is as serious and silly as Anderson intends, full of heart and sincerity. The cameos and frequent one-liners beg the film to be viewed several times before grasping its genius; it remains one of the most fun times I’ve had at the movies this year.
4. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Future Past continues the modern sophisticated adaptations capturing exactly what comics intended in the first place: social commentary and allusions wrapped in gorgeous pictures and witty dialogue. Brimming with Oscar/Tony/Golden Globe-winning talent, even a scandal couldn’t keep the the Men down. For my money, it’s second only to The Dark Knight in the pantheon of comic book films.
Read my full review here.
If you’re suffering from apocalypse fatigue, have I got the cure for you! Equal parts surrealism and delightful ridiculousness, this dystopian genre homage comes to you via director Joon-ho Bong, the Korean master who directed my favorite monster movie, The Host. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of satire… you should probably venture elsewhere. This is not the film for you. For those still hanging about, looking to have fun at the movies, follow Chris Evans as he struggles through a literal caste system taking a group of revolutionaries from back to front on the last train on Earth. A bat-poop crazy (forgive me) ride of rich visuals, going-all-in acting, and completely predictable-yet-satisfying plot points, Snowpiercer is worthy of all its praise.
Read David’s review here.
2. The Lego Movie
I apologize in advance; however, it must be said: this film is AWESOME. Whether it reignites your passion for cinema or for the tiny, foot-destroying, magical building blocks it portrays, The Lego Movie is simply genius. Surprisingly poignant, uproariously hilarious this Chris Pratt-star-maker still leaves me grinning ear to ear. I don’t understand a person who has yet to give this film a try, but take a chance on Emmet as he discovers that being ordinary might just make you the most special person in the universe.
Read David’s review here.
Not only the best film of the year (not likely to be topped, though this might just give it a run for its money) but the finest cinematic experience I’ve ever had. Since experiencing Richard Linklater’s love letter to growing up in March, I’ve gushed and pleaded. I cannot say much more than: go see it.
Read my original review here.
Sigh. Look, this film is not without its laughs, especially those concerning Rose Byrne’s first-time mother character Kelly. Beyond a few chuckles, it’s boring, juvenile, and predictable in the worst way. I…just…can’t.
Read my original mini-review here.
Pretty much sums it up perfectly. Though, frankly, I tried in my review.
3. The Other Woman
Let’s just set aside the fact that a film starring three women does not even pass the Bechdel test. Instead, let me point out its lazy writing, juvenile bathroom humor, and complete waste of Leslie Mann. The premise sounds promising: a life-long career woman falls in love and is contemplating settling down for the first time in her life when she discovers her dream man is married…and a serial cheater. To see the film from the perspective of “the other woman,” not as a caricature or villain, could have produced a fantastic film; unfortunately, all of the characters were more one-dimensional than the pictures on the Guess Who? board game. The husband could not just have the flaw of being a serial liar; he had to be a complete scoundrel — begging the question, “Why do these women fall for this bastard again?” Mann’s Kate is a loser whose antics I felt wrong laughing at due to her possible Asperger’s. Seriously. All this film taught me is that if my husband cheats on me, it’s my fault, and revenge is the only way to feel better about myself. Negative.
2. 300: Rise of an Empire
I was dragged to this feast of breasts and blood by my darling husband of thirteen years. “But you loved the first one!” Although not entirely true, I did enjoy 300, not loved… but I digress. I acquiesced with a tub of popcorn and a venti latte; twenty minutes into the film, the love of my life leaned over and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
The major issue I have is that the film should have focused on the far more complex character of Artemisia played by the incomparable Eva Green. Unfortunately, her screen time is limited and her character is reduced to this guy’s temptress fantasy. Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) — a poor excuse for a Leonidas rip-off – is all abs and no muscle (I am quite proud of that metaphor). Not even worth a Saturday afternoon F/X viewing. Steer clear.
Read Sean’s review here.
1. Transformers: Age of Extinction
Don’t blame Michael Bay (except for existing). This one’s all in the writing. I’m looking at you, Ehren Kruger – the once-promising writer who burst onto the screen with Arlington Road (1999), a superb psychological thriller starring Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins, and who now spends his time penning every Transformer film since Revenge of the Fallen. Oh, and he is responsible for Reindeer Games. These are the inane scripts where plot, character, and physics do not matter. Things blow up, some dude in a ridiculous outfit makes an off-color joke, and a teenaged pin-up’s mascara runs down her face.
Here’s the thing, and it is something even Bay points out: everyone will see Transformers: Age of Extinction. Why? Here are five simple reasons:
- It’s a Transformers movie. More than meets the eye! Optimus Prime + this = MIND EXPLOSION.
- It’s the definition of “A Summer Blockbuster:” and we all still go in for that sort of thing.
- You were once a kid. You have kids. You hate kids. This film is for both.
- Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci…are adorkable.
- It’s Rated PG-13.
Does it matter that the Megan Fox teenaged daughter character is so insufferable she petulantly attacks her loving father at every turn, rubbing her secret boyfriend in his face simply because she is a brat? Does it matter that the plot makes no sense whatsoever? Nope. Not one little bit. Everything wrong with modern filmmaking in nearly three hours. THREE HOURS. I’d rather sit through THIS twice than watch Optimus Prime cry again.
Best Performance By an Actor: Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Not my favorite film of the year by a long shot — in fact, I think it is completely overrated; a view not shared by my colleagues. With its one-dimensional characters, inanely predictable and thinly veiled conflict, Dawn left me quite unfulfilled after its high praise. However, I cannot gush enough about its lead. Andy Serkis is not only Hollywood’s hardest working actor but also its woefully under-respected star. I am thoroughly convinced Serkis is the only talent who could have given Caesar the depth and gravitas that radiates off of the screen and almost surpasses the film’s flaws. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance in a mediocre film.
Best Performance By an Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Arquette provides the emotional current for the Best Film of 2014; her multifaceted real maternal figure is all at once fragile, strong, and incorruptible. Patricia Arquette gives the performance of a lifetime, and I consider it a privilege to watch her play.
Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Biggest Disappointment: How to Train Your Dragon 2
A mean-spirited war movie with a one-dimensional villain hiding in a tremendously animated children’s movie; I was quite taken aback by Dragon 2’s failure.
Read all about it here.
Biggest Surprise: Edge of Tomorrow
I’m not sure I can name one person who could not enjoy Tom Cruise dying over and over in increasingly brutal ways. It is true that the source material is a far better story with braver writing and exceedingly more interesting characters, but Tomorrow deserved a better box office haul for its originality, effortless flow, and superb cast. Emily Blunt — engaging as always – steals every scene she inhabits and offers inspiring emotional depth for an action film. Smart, timely, and surprising, Tomorrow deserves your box office dollar. You can still see it. (Also…I hated the ending, but you won’t. Most people didn’t. Case in point, David’s review.)
STILL TO COME:
Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Birdman, Into the Woods, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Gone Girl, Exodus:Gods and Kings, The Hobbit:Battle of the Five Armies, Fury, Foxcatcher, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
What’d I miss? What are your bests and worsts? Post a comment below!