Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Top 25 Favorite Films of 2014

2014 for the most part sucked!

My grandfather and uncle died this year. My favorite sports teams either choked in the playoffs or in one team's case, was screwed by terrible officiating in their playoff game. Stars that I respected and admired were dropping all over the place. We had all this bullcrap with the news (I really don't want to get into that). We had WWE deciding to suck, then get good, then go to even lower levels of suck.

However, one of the things that did not suck was movies for the most part. Yeah, I have had 20 nominees for the 2014 GINO Award, but I would like to add that some of those I didn't mind personally, they just weren't liked by others and I watched 114 films this year. Normally I would do a Top 10, but the honorable mentions would choke up the list if I did that so I'm doing Top 25.

Now a few things before I begin, yes....some of these films were released a year earlier, but they were given the most wide release they were going to get, this year. Also, I didn't see movies like Wild, Under the Skin, and The Imitation Game so if one of your films is not on the list and also not on the worst of the year list that will come later, I might not have seen it or if I did, I might not have liked it as much as you did. First, let's get some honorable mentions out of the way because yeah, they were there.

See No Evil 2
See No Evil 2 was a film to a sequel that you may have noticed I actually inducted into Monster Crap and I have heard people trash this film. I am not going to be one of those things because with better actors, better directors, and a film that makes Jacob Goodknight (whose name they actually say several times in this film, unlike the first one) not a teddy bear and into an intimidating monster. Unfortunately it barely missed out of the Top 25.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Oh look....a film that might piss some people off because it isn't on my Top 25 films. Well, I'm not as much of a Wes Anderson fan as many critics are. However, even I can enjoy this film for it's strange humor thanks to a great cast of people you may have heard of like Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray.

A Fighting Man
A Direct To DVD boxing film starring Dominic Purcell that I actually liked? Yeah, I'm shocked too. The thing about this boxing movie that separates it from other boxing movie is it looks at both fighters who need to win this fight and both are people who may have flaws and may have things that make them not totally hopeless. There really is no villain in this film except for this sleazy promoter, but he shows up and is basically tossed aside quickly twice in the movie. There are twists and turns with characters that you think may have this type of relationship with a person and you find out they do not (see Famke Jamison's character for a perfect example of that). Also add to that a cast of respectable actors who give good roles and you have a boxing movie that looks like it will be generic, but has actually meat to it once you get into the film.
Sharknado 2: The Second One
There is no film that was so hyped as being so intentionally and comically bad as Sharknado 2 (look at the TV ratings for when this film premiered that broke records). And you know what? This film delivered on being enjoyably funny and campy. It's great to see so many celebrities (who did cameos) never take themselves to seriously 24 hours a day, seven days a week and just go into a film just to have a freaking good time. In fact, I dare say that I may have enjoyed this film more than I did the first one. Yes, the plot and obstacle is freaking ludicrous, but that's the freaking point and sometimes, don't you just want to watch a movie and just be able to laugh at those facts. Only if you are a snob would you not want to do that.
Disneynature does it again with an adorable documentary that makes you enjoy watching a family of bears (who don't talk) just go through this world and survive. Also add to the fact our narrator John C. Reilly seems to like what he is actually watching and is given color commentary at times to what is going on. Also this film is beautifully filmed and it made me also remind me of one of my favorite films in 1989's The Bear.  Give this one a watch and try not to say "Awwww..." even once. I don't think you will succeed.
So with those honorable mentions out of the way, let's get to the Top 25.
25. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
This is definitely a better movie than Rise of the Planet of the Apes and I even liked that film. However, what puts this so low on this list while I'm sure Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be higher on the year it came out is the number of good movies this year. Compared to the rest of these movies, Dawn is just well......a flick you will enjoy in the theaters and considering how darkly lit the film was when I saw it in 2D, do not see the 3D version. But for the film itself, you got the awesome visual of apes with machine guns riding on horses and you are taken into a world where there are bad humans and good humans as well as bad apes and good apes. Once again....Andy Serkis is great as Caesar.
24. 3 Days To Kill
Screw what the critics said about this film, this film is great. Kevin Costner (who I am not a huge fan of to begin with) plays really well this former assassin who is dying and is trying to get his family back together because you know, with all his killings, he was never much of a father. And the moments with him trying to make it up to his daughter are really good. However, as the title kind of hints, he has to get back in the game and only has 3 days to kill this bad guy so he can get this "experimental" drug that will make him live a little longer. Not only are the interactions with his daughter great (as I previously mentioned), but the interactions with this one guy who is the bad guy of the driver are really funny seeing as he doesn't want to be an asshole to this guy as he does like him, but he kind of has to because he has to get some information on his target.
23. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Yeah, this film might not have been as good as X-Men: First Class, but it still is a damn good X-Men flick. This time Wolverine has to go back in time to stop Boliver Trask from getting killed because if he does, well....the future is going to be fucked because the Sentinels will kill everyone. And with time travel, you have several of the characters from the X-Men: First Class films returning as some are good and some are well....evil (You can kind of guess which is which). And because of the events of this film.....the events of X-Men: The Last Stand no longer happened and we can all be happy about that.
22. The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies far as the Hobbit films go, this one will ultimately be in the middle for me as not as good as The Desolation of Smaug, but better than An Unexpected Journey. In some ways, I do like these films better than the book as they explain more and in some ways, the book is better than the films as some of the changes and additions are rather confusing while some changes and additions might also have not been necessary (see Legolas). The big problem ultimately is you really don't know who the five armies are as it is not as well explained in this film as they have been in the book. In fact, the Wargs (who were one of the armies on the bad side in the book) are not even in the damn film. But the good changes include giving Thorin Oakenshield more of a chance to redeem himself as he goes through some not kind changes after they get to their destination and giving the humans and elves more reason to want some of what is in the Lonely Mountain.
21. Top Five
Ah yes....another film that has gotten a lot of hype, but is rather low on my list as this isn't even my favorite comedy of the year. So why is this film that people have compared to Annie Hall not higher on my list? Well, it may be like Annie Hall, but in my mind, that isn't exactly great as I have NEVER been a fan of Woody Allen's works. However, this film is really good as a story and for what little I had to laugh at was very funny indeed. Chris Rock (who also wrote and directed this film) plays a comedian who really is tired of being typecast (as he is with the role of Hammy The Bear) and really doesn't want to be much of a comedian anymore (he has pretty good reasons for feeling this way as you will find out). He also has had a bit of a drinking problem which he is trying to overcome and has this wedding to some reality star coming up so he does this interview for a newspaper he doesn't like (because their film critic has not been kind to his works) and while there is a bunch of stuff opened up that might make these two like each other more than originally thought, there may also be this one big secret the reporter has that might tear these two apart.
20. The Interview
Yep....this is my favorite comedy. The film that pissed North Korea off and was banned by several chain theaters because they didn't want to face the ire of North Korea. This film about an interview show that gets the invitation from the North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Un to do a face to face interview with him. And of course also in this imaginary timeline, Kim Jong-Un and North Korea are ready to launch nukes that they have. Now I normally don't like Seth Rogen comedy (I didn't like This Is The End), but this film was funny and I recommend you watch it, not just because it will say a big F*** You to North Korea who tried to censor us.
19. Edge of Tomorrow
I was not looking forward to this movie when I was looking at all the previews. But then I heard people saying that this film is funny and that they actually use the whole getting killed and coming back thing very well so ultimately, I decided to see this film and yes, I enjoyed Tom Cruise's character at the beginning getting exactly what his pompous ass deserved, but learning from it and becoming a better person for it and ultimately ends up being the hero. And recently I found out this idea came from a manga. With a film where almost everyone gets to shine as far as comedy goes in this really good science fiction action film, I can't give any more of a recommendation than that.
18. Odd Thomas
Once again, another film that is hated on by critics, but yet I enjoyed this one. Also I know in Canada, this was released in 2013, but here it was widely released in 2014. Considering who stars in this film and who directs it, I should hate this film. But I liked the love story, the whole gimmick of him using his sight and communication with dead people as a way to solve past crimes and prevent future crimes, the paranormal creatures in the dark all over the place, and the action. It is also helped by performances by Willem Dafoe and a twist that you may have seen coming, but is still absolutely heart-breaking when it is revealed.
17. The Boxtrolls
This is the first of several animated films you will be seeing on this list. I honestly love great stop-motion animation and this film has that. Oh I will admit, it is not as good as Coraline or ParaNorman, the films that this film is being hyped as from people who made those films. And yes, there was one scene where the guys cared more about a giant piece of cheese getting away than the fact that someone may be the villain in disguise and what the villain is saying is a lie. But I enjoy the chemistry between Eggs and the rest of the Boxtrolls, who are definitely different from Eggs for a reason that you know immediately. Also at the end of the film during the credits, there is this great nod to the people who make this animation.
16. Filth
Yes, another film that was released somewhere else in 2013, but in the US in 2014. James McAvoy (who was Young Professor Xavier in X-Man: Days of Future Past) is great as this sleazy detective who basically does so many drugs and is an asshole to his workmates. Oh with all of that, he should be extremely hatable, but he acts it so well that you can't help but like him. Also, you get to see into his head with this crazy doctor (played by Jim Broadbent) and those scenes are freaking awesome. The big twist at the end is very worth it when solving the crime that is being investigated throughout this film basically being something you already know who did it.

15. Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal does an excellent job as this sociopathic who becomes one of those so called new type of cameramen who shoot accidents or crime scenes and selling them to news channels. He manipulates his way into a position to where the news channel he choses (with the mourning news director he sort of has a thing for) needs him. This guy is such a lowlife and yet in the end, he succeeds tells us how far things are going in today's news.

14. The Sacrament
I know this is another film that showed at a film festival in 2013 in Venice, but it was widely released here in the US in 2014 so it counts to me. Anyway, this film is probably going to be the only found footage movie to make this Top 25 because Ti West is excellent at showing the nightmarish and scary atmosphere of being at a Jonestown type situation. It is absolutely terrifying to see how ultimately nuts and power hungry this Father character is and just how sad it is that these people are following everything he said. And for the longest time, I considered this the best horror film of 2014. But as you know, things can change at any moment because it only takes one move to supplant that at the top spot of the genre for me.

13. Gone Girl
The film that has been getting a lot of buzz from critics with the cast it has and the director behind the scenes is not that surprising (although seeing Tyler Perry in a great movie is a bit of a shock). The actress though who steals this film is Rosamund Pike, who plays this manipulating wife who fakes her own kidnapping (and "death") and frames her jerk husband for it. Now ultimately it shows that her husband is able to prove that he had nothing to do with it so she frames somebody else and comes back to him. Ultimately, the ending is depressing as nobody gets their just desserts and we end with miserable people having to live together because if they don't, it will end badly for them as far as public perception goes.

12. How To Train Your Dragon 2
While not as good as the first film, this film was still awesome. Introducing the main character's new mother makes us see how the main character ultimately had the gift for being able to be a dragon whisperer as his mother is exactly just that, with her own place of dragons with their own alpha. And then we have another person who is able to control dragons and plans to rule everyone with it. He seems to have succeeded with a major death happening in that moment, however good does ultimately prevail. However, I'm going to say this now as DreamWorks is dead set in milking the hell out of this series with a third film announced....just stop DreamWorks. Not every good film of yours needs a freaking sequel.

11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Yeah, at the last freaking day...this film ends up just outside the Top 10. And now you know looking at all these films that just missed the Top 10, why I could not do a Top 10. I saw this film with my dad and we both took away the same things about how great this film was. Scarlett Johansson is able to be given more dimensions to her Black Widow character that now people want to see a Black Widow movie. If you know about the comics universe, you really already know who the Winter Soldier is, but what you will be sort of surprised by is that Robert Redford allowed himself to become a villain in this series. Also what is surprising is the breakthrough actor for me is Anthony Mackie who plays an excellent Falcon. However, as you will find out...this wasn't even my favorite Chris Evans film.

10. Big Hero 6
Disney does it again in a year there was no Pixar film. While not as good as Frozen (which should not be surprisingly how ultimately memorable Frozen has become in our lexicon), this film belongs in the Top 10. While this may be based on a Marvel property that Disney was able to get in their animation studios via a trade, Disney's Animation Studios was able to make it its own. With colorful characters and colorful atmosphere, we are taken in by this world of man-made superheroes thanks to a boy genius (who has a tragic moment to make him want to do this) and a robot that you will love named Baymax.

9. Snowpiercer
And here is the other movie with Chris Evans movie that I enjoyed more than Captain America: Winter Soldier. This film was held back for a few years from being released because the producers wanted him to cut out some scenes and the director refused and in all honestly, I'm glad the director took the stand he did because watching this movie, I don't know what should have been cut out. It's basically a post-apocalypse universe thanks to a quick fix to the Global Warming problem (that while I do believe is a problem, but not as bad as everyone is making it out to be) where people are stuck in this train and you basically see how bad the class separation is where the really poor are forced in the back and fed jelly substance (that you find how awful it is) and have some of their kids taken so the train can keep going. With how badly they are treated, you can see how these people would ultimately decide to revolt and have to go through the train to confront the main guy just to find out how manipulated this whole thing was.

8. The Raid 2
Sometimes you need to watch a movie of people kicking ass all over the place and this movie definitely lives up to that. You get to see limbs broken and blood and gore and all that fun stuff for an action movie. You even get characters like a brother-sister tandem that are efficiently deadly with their weapons of choice. The fight choreography of this film is awesome. This film is once again a film where our main character had to take down a crime lord, but this time it is not isolated to a single building so you get a lot more room to breathe with more action and more bodies. Sadly, I don't have much memory of what happened in this film other than what I just mentioned.

7. The Wind Rises
I know this was released in Japan in 2013 and was shown in some LA theaters that year too, but it was widely released in this country this year. It had a limited engagement in one of the theaters that are close by so my friend (who loves anime) and I went and saw this film. I am sad that this is Hayao Miyazaki's last film because this film was great and gave us perspective from a plane designer in Japan when Japan were one of the evil countries in World War 2. Here you get to see how much Japanese people got treated like crap by Nazi Germany (even though they are allies) and you get to see how this designer may have designed the planes, but as far as the war went...that was about it. Also, he has this relationship with this girl who has tuberculosis so you know that isn't going to end well. With how this film was done, it is both an uplifting film and also a tragedy. I definitely did not leave this theater without some teary eyes.

6. John Wick
This film is better than it had any right to be. Keanu Reeves had a terrible 2013 with that terrible 47 Ronin film (that was nominated for the GINO Award), but makes up for it with this great film about a retired assassin who comes back to the craft he was awesome at because somebody decided to be an asshole and kill his dog (which was the last gift given by his wife, who died of an unknown illness). Through actions of the character and through descriptions from other characters of him, you get to see throughout this film just how much of a badass this character is and let's be honest, you don't tick off John Wick.

5. The Babadook
This ended up being my favorite horror movie of the year and damn is this one successful at scaring the hell out of you. No film has made me in a scared manner go "Oh my god" than this film about a creature that may or may not exist. From the kid who believes in monsters to the point that his mother gets called into school because he brought weapons like a freaking crossbow to a mother who despite denying it's existence sees more and more that she is believing in this creature's existence. Could this terrifying monster that torments a person indefinitely exist or is it just a figment of your imagination is ultimately the question you have to ask yourself and in some way, the answer to that question is ultimately left to you as the viewer. Even making a creature that may look ridiculous can be rendered terrifying if done correctly and first time director Jennifer Kent exceeds that in this Australian horror film.

4. The Lego Movie
When I saw this movie in February, I was concerned that I may have seen the best movie of the year already and considering that would mean 10 more months of movies not as good was not something I was looking forward to. Thankfully, considering where this movie is....I found 3 more movies better. In a film based on a toyline meant to sale toys, you could not have asked for a better film for people who loved Legos. This film with an insane plot about master builders with the average guy holding the special fighting the evil President Business Plan has a twist that I was greatly thankful for as it basically said Legos could be enjoyed by anyone and that while we do give you manuals on how to make what this set was made for, you can make whatever the hell you want because your designs (if you have the creativity) could be better than whatever we had in mind. It is a thank you from the people of Legos to the people who made their product as important of a toy and if you are a fan of Legos, I recommend to the highest level, you watch this film.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel has done it again this year after last year's okay entries of Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 by making two films that are pretty awesome and nothing says fun more than this film based a really obscure Marvel team that people were wondering if this could succeed. Well as you know, the answer was "You're damn right, it is going to succeed" and it is going to be better than even the more safe product of Captain America. It made the most money of any film in this country domestically and you could see people coming back for more with this film. It is funny, witty, sometimes emotional, and a film that you can rock to with an awesome soundtrack. Chris Pratt (who was ironically enough also the star in The Lego Movie) does an amazing job as Star-Lord with his humor of being a kid because he was taken at a very young age, never truly grew out of the 70s and 80s in Earth culture. You have Batista playing Drax and surprisingly, he does great as the musclehead who is oblivious to almost everything. You could not ask for better actors to voice the role of Rocket Raccoon and Groot than Bradley Cooper and Groot. And finally, Zoe Saldana once again knocks it out of the park as a female sexy alien who has very selfless reasons for being a good guy (although at the beginning, you might think she is evil). Even supporting characters like Michael Rooker as Yondu and John C. Reilly as Rhomman have their moments to shine. See this movie and yes, We Are All Groot

2. Godzilla
FINALLY.....we get an American Godzilla movie that can wash away almost all that hatred from that 1998 piece of crap that tried to pass itself off as Godzilla. Gareth Edwards knows what the fans want and what they wanted was the real Big G to come in and cause havoc while saving us from a bigger threat. We got Godzilla being unstoppable and we got Godzilla's signature Atomic Breath (both of which that other Godzilla film was sorely missing) and we also got the best way for Godzilla to give a monster a fatality that I have ever seen (and that includes the Japanese films). Sure, people are going to complain about Godzilla not being in the film enough for them, but as some of my other online critics have noted, in these films, Godzilla has been notorious for taking his sweet ass time to kick major ass. Sure, people are going to say Godzilla is fat and to those people, no....Godzilla just has a lot of muscle, which is not something I have too much of an issue with. Sure, people are complaining about the human characters, but in my mind....they were serviceable and not offensive unlike that other film. I would like to say to Mr. Gareth Edwards this...Thank You for finally giving us Godzilla fans an American film we could all sink our team into and enjoy.

And while I almost had this film at #1 for the longest time (which would have been pretty predictable for me), at the last month it was dethroned by the film that ended up #1. and that is.

1. Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)
Yep....a film that had been hyped for a long time for me before I finally had time to see it and the film lives up to the hype for me (maybe even better than the hype). Every actor in this film who you think might be good is excellent in this. The only actor who I was not fond of was the guy who plays the actor who originally was supposed to get the role that Edward Norton's character ultimately gets, but then again....his character was supposed to be a terrible actor who we are thankful gets taken out via a mishap on stage. Zach Galifianakis (who some people tire of his humor) is great at actually acting like someone other than the usual role he plays, which is the attorney best friend of our main character. Michael Keaton really does deserve an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor playing a character who like Chris Rock in Top Five, has been pigeonholed into this one role as Birdman (a take off of his run as probably the best Batman) and is trying to escape that typecasting. But unlike Chris Rock's character in Top Five, he does so while being haunted by his visions of Birdman and the Birdman voice, which proves that he never lost touch with being Batman even though it was more than 20 years since Michael Keaton played the dark knight. He is also trying to do Broadway instead of serious films which is also unlike Chris Rock's character in Top Five. Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Edward Norton are also amazing in this film and honestly, I can't really say anything bad about this film. I cannot recommend this film any more as being the perfect in between for people who want a film that is fun and people who want to take deep meaning from that film.

So I'm glad I was able to sketch out my Top 25 films for this year, and don't worry....while you may have the Monster Crap GINO Award nominees and this list, I am not forgetting that I need to say my personal worst films of the year (which will be a Top 10 because I found 10 really bad ones) and spoiler.....the Top 2 worst ones are not GINO Award nominees due to the fact that they probably don't have a monster in it.

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