Best and Worst of 2014 in Film

So 2014 was actually better than I was afraid it would be movie-wise. I was right that there was very little to actually enjoy, but there were more pieces of substance than I would have thought.

However there were also some REALLY bad moments.

But let’s start with the good. As usual I can’t bring myself to say we had a top 10 films because while there were enjoyable films…they just don’t deserve to be on a top anything list (maybe top brain candy but not much else).

So let’s start with the honorable mentions: John Wick, The Equalizer, The Other Woman, The November Man, Days of Tomorrow’s Past (which we are all thankful for getting rid of previous terrible movies), and Million Dollar Arm.

But let’s get to the actual 8 movies that made the list for the top movies of 2014.

  1. Unbroken:

“We beat them by making it to the end of the war alive.  That’s our revenge.”

unbrokenThis movie almost didn’t make it.   It takes a very moving and powerful story and deals with it in the surface level way possible. Any level of depth would have helped this movie immensely…however there was none. It is still an inspiring tale that everyone should see, but you only need to see it once.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy:

guardians-galaxy-bigRonan: You’re mortal! How…

Peter Quill: You said it, bitch. We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.

This movie was really fun. Not much to it, but it unquestionably has the best soundtrack of this year (or any year in recent memory) plus just a slew of great lines. To hell if it’s little more than “Space Avengers,” it was really fun.

  1. Edge of Tomorrow:

We should just reset.

There were so many ways this “Starship Troopers” doing “Groundhog Day” could have messed up, but it masterfully avoided every single pitfall that we all thought it could fall into. And once again Tom Cruise proves that while he may be less than the hallmark for sanity in real life, he can expertly play any role (comedy, drama, action) expertly.

Edge_of_Tomorrow

  1. Veronica Mars:

“Our story is epic. Spanning years, continents. Lives ruined, blood shed.”

This movie makes it here for two reasons. One for doing the all important thing of tying all the loose ends of a story up. Take a hint Hollywood (especially the TV divisions) if you have a series have a plan on how to end the damn thing so fans have closure. Second because, while some of the more intellectually shallow have complained about richVeronica Mars Hollywood people using Kickstarter to fund a motion picture, I applaud it. Because this is the future for film making, between the fact that the internet makes distribution significantly cheaper and now this idea that the public can fund movies…welcome to a whole new era where capitalism could rule process even more…where those of us who want something in between the low brow trash comedies and action films and the overly pretentious “art” films that come out year after year leaving little to nothing for real intellectuals to actually admire.

  1. Exodus: Gods and Kings

“Do you know what ‘Israelite’ means in their own language? ‘He who fights with God’.”

“‘He who wrestles with God’. There’s a difference.”

Despite what ideologues who were never going to be happy have to say, this was a great Exodus Gods and Kingsmovie. Instead of just redoing The Ten Commandments Ridley Scott chose to use the story we know, not as discussion of the law or power…but of man’s relationship to God, and how faith is not in any way an easy to understand or easy to follow thing. It tends to offend those who want a simple understanding of God, but is the kind of mature film that we need more of.

  1. Gone Girl:

“You two are the most fucked up people I’ve ever met and I deal with fucked up people for a living.”

Well this was a very well done and utterly disturbing film. It starts with the story you think you know, husband whose wife goes missing under suspicious circumstances and we all know he did it…to something much, much darker. Now some critics have said this is a Gone Girldiscussion of marriage in the modern world, and I think that is simply too cynical and depressing even for critics…but it is an apt warning about being sure you’re marrying the right person.

black hole

  1. Interstellar:

“We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we’ve barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.”

As always Christopher Nolan delivers on his implicit promise to always give us great movies that make us think.   This film, as all Nolan films seem to do, gives us themes dealing with Love, Courage, Time, Hope, and the human ability to overcome any obstacle thrown our way and not go gentle into that good night.

 

  1. Winter’s Tale:
Winter's TaleWhy would so many things conspire to save one little girl’s life? But what if it wasn’t just Abby? What if she is no more or less special than any of us? What if we are all unique, and the universe loves us all equally? So much so that it bends over backwards across the centuries for each and every one of us. And sometimes we are just lucky enough to see it.  No life is more important than another. And nothing has been without purpose. Nothing. What if we are all part of a great pattern that we may someday understand? And one day, when we have done what we alone are capable of doing, we get to rise up and reunite with those we have loved the most, forever embraced. What if we get to become… stars.

The unexpected gem of 2014, this box-office flop is really the best movie of the year. A story of good and evil, love and redemption, faith and miracles, and our purpose in life, this is a moving tale that is probably the best you could ever do when transferring this immensely complex book to film.  But I can’t say this enough, everyone should see this movie.  If you don’t cry several times throughout the movie you’re probably not human.  It is moving, beautiful and uplifting.

No matter how far we tip the scales our way, no matter how many of them we turn dark, nothing seems to break their capacity for hope…We’re losing, Lucifer. One bright star at a time, we’re losing.

Now onto the terrible movies. Which was the worst movie of the year? Was it Winter Soldier for hardly dealing with the Winter Soldier and turning Captain America into traitor Edward Snowden? No. Was it Monument Men for trying to incompetently be a WWII Ocean’s film. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit for letting the utterly useless Chris Pine ruin yet another classic character with his utter inability to act (seriously this man must be stopped)? No, but not for lack of effort on Pine’s part. Robocop, 300: Rise of the Empire, Godzilla, The Amazing Spider Man 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Expendables 3, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies for all being completely unnecessary and useless reboots/sequels? No, but sadly don’t expect this trend to end anytime soon. Grand Budapest Hotel for once again showing that Anderson knows all the parts needed in a funny movie, but not the magical recipe of how to put them together? Chef for being pointless? Noah for being on drugs? Divergent, The Giver, and The Maze Runner for driving in the final nail to the once great genre of dystopian fiction? The Fault in Our Stars for committing the unspeakable sin of thinking Anne Frank’s place is a good make out spot? Lucy or Transcendence for just being stupid beyond the telling of it? No to all.

Though they may all deserve a place in the Hall of Shame there can be no question that the worst film of 2014 is Atlas Shrugged Part III. A cast that didn’t know how to act, a script that didn’t understand how people act or talk, a director who clearly doesn’t know the first thing about film, pacing and cinematography that make the Lifetime channel the home of Oscar quality work, and special effects that make me yearn for glory days of the original Star Trek.   Ed Wood on his worst day could have done better than this. Seriously this movie gives Battlefield Earth its money as worst film ever funded by a cult. (The Counselor is still a worse movie but only because everyone with that movie should have known better). This is made all the worse because the source material while not the pinnacle of literature, wasn’t this bad, it wasn’t nearly this bad. A few things to learn from, if you’re going to make a series of movies (1) make sure you have the money to do all three movies before you start (2) make sure you have the cast signed to all three movies (3) make sure you have the director and writer signed for all three movies. Part I may not have been cinematic genius but it was better than Part II & III and it is clear they should have just shot all three parts in one long session with the same cast and crew and then just moved on from there.

As for 2015…I hold little hope. There are a few movies I think I will find entertaining, but mostly it’s sequels and reboots of crap that should never get a sequel or reboot. In fact as of right now, what I know of the movies being released next year I am almost prepared to say that next year I will not even have a top 5 movies…possibly even a top 3. I really hope I am wrong (I was last year, so let’s hope…it might be a good year to catch up on reading).

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