Alrighty people, here's my annual movie post.
This year, in order to prepare for it, I put the movies I saw into a spreadsheet. In what was supposed to save work, added a ton. My list is usually based on movies I saw in the theater, but these days there's a big chance that I'll wind up seeing a movie from this year online. So what I did is write down every single movie I saw along with its release year according to iMDB. I also cataloged all the older movies I've seen for the first time, as well as my re-watches. Anyway, this is gonna result in a few different categories for the big list this year. I'm still gonna devote the bulk of it to 2014 movies though.
Top 33 2013 Movies of 2014
Lemme get these ones out of the way first. Every year I have this dumb issue of seeing some residual movies from the previous year shortly after my previous year-end list. Lots of these are just movies that were still in the theater that I never got around to seeing and lots of these are movies I had no means to see because their original release didn't include Salt Lake City. This happens often and it's a little bit annoying for my record-keeping purposes, but for the sake of organization I'm gonna go ahead and stay true to the 2013 release date even though many sort of really came out in 2014. Many are high-profile movies that were up for Academy Awards last year, but many others weren't even released in theaters. Eclectic bunch, this.
33 Knights of Badassdom
Lots of geek cred on this one with Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage. Very lazy with the laughs though and hardly treats larping with the same respect the non-geeky Role Models does. The movie ends with the day saved by embarrassing joke heavy metal.
Another comedy about the end of the world, but pretty boring. Anna Kendrick is quite cute but not written funny enough.
31 Escape from Tomorrow
This one was guerrilla-filmed at Disneyland without the Disney authorities knowing. It’s supposed to be a sort of weird allegory about the terror beneath the wholesome. The story of how it was made is far more interesting than the movie itself, which understandably looks like a lot of home video footage along with cheap green screen effects during scenes they couldn’t clear in real life. The Russian girl from The Americans is in it as a teenager which is mind-blowing since she looks 30-ish on the TV show.
30 Cutie and the Boxer
A documentary about two Japanese artists and their relationship. He’s the popular one, but his girl is the one that wants a big break. The movie plays like a narrative more than any other documentary I've seen. In this case it’s a detriment. I doubt everyone who sees it would feel the same.
29 Dave Foley: Relatively Well
Stand-up comedy. I may have watched a few of these, but didn’t put them on this list. Oh well, it’s hard to determine which ones would be “specials” and which would be “movies.” Anyway, while very funny, Foley’s work here is far more cruel and bitter than I would have anticipated. I’m glad he got it out of his system though.
28 Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (R-rated version)
I was never much of a fan of the first movie, so I understandably was underwhelmed with this one. I maybe should have tried the original version instead of the R-rated one. I recall the previews having a few lines from James Marsden that made me laugh that weren’t in the version I saw. After seeing the movie I jotted down a couple of notes: 1) "Every 1's a Winner" by Hot Chocolate is a cool song and 2) Rumble with Kanye VJs and ESPN actually pretty amazing. I don’t actually remember either of those things.
27 Lone Survivor
I hear the book is quite good. The movie has a scene right out of Hot Rod where our hero keeps falling down a hill.
26 The Croods
I remember enjoying the look of this one. It’s funny, though, how computer generated cartoons are far more forgettable than hand-drawn stuff even though it looks a lot better.
Documentary on John Milius. he’s the guy who did a lot of stuff for Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn. Didn't convince me that he was a wonderful filmmaker, but the real draw is seeing how small and full of personality Hollywood used to be.
I’m sure you saw it. It’s full of old and depression.
23 The Institute
This documentary is about a real-life immersive secret game. I was hoping they'd talk more about the planning and logistics of pulling the game off. It was mostly from our side of things, so it left me wanting more information for my own real-life game.
It’s a good idea to enjoy Abigail Breslin while she’s still child-like and somewhat adorable. This weird horror movie from a ghost family’s point of view is stuck in a weird medium of awareness. The plot had a few too many layers of universe rules to really buy and runs impossibly far with the twist.
This little found footage horror gem was much funner than the first one. It’s an anthology so if you’re not into the current story you can always wait a few minutes. My favorite pieces include a zombie POV from a bike helmet cam and another one with security footage in a building run by a cult.
20 The Unknown Known
This documentary is pretty much a one-on-one with Errol Morris and generally regarded as warmongering Donald Rumsfeld. Morris uses his technique of interviewing the subject as the subject stares directly into the camera, giving us the impression that we’re the ones asking Rumsfeld to explain things. Rumsfeld plays smart and dumb in all the right places to make the story less satisfying than one would want.
19 Computer Chess
Okay, now this one is a weird one. It takes place during a nerd convention of computer chessers and is filmed in what looks like strange 80s VHS. I saw this the same night I saw Her, which is fitting since they probe a little bit on AI.
18 2014 Live Action Short Oscar Nominations
These are Oscar-nominated shorts, so there is the thrill of that, but like most short films many of these are pretty boring. It’s almost as if the filmmakers know that in creating a short film they’re already at a disadvantage in creating something boring, so they have to try as hard as they can to get the boring in. A few were mildly pleasant, but the French short about a woman and her fellow employees working together against the clock to help her escape an abusive relationship easily made the entire viewing worth it and was one of the best things I saw all year.
17 Sound City
Here’s Dave Grohl’s documentary about his favorite recording studio. I was rewarded with stories of a musical period I’m interested in. Since seeing it, I wonder if a documentary on any other major studio would be just as interesting. Of course there were a lot of digital vs. analog comparisons which seems to be a theme of documentaries I find interesting over the past few years. It was fun having Reznor address the issue and proving that digital can be done right.
16 Dear Mr. Watterson
Most of this documentary is sort of a Chris Farley show-worth of people relentlessly talking about how great the Calvin and Hobbes strip is. The real money is Berke Breathed discussing a bit of their competition and rival philosophies. There's also some great bits of discussion regarding the benefits and hindrances of Watterson's stance of absolute non-marketing.
15 Dirty Wars
I remember enjoying this documentary, but little else. I suppose I watched too many 2013 documentaries to be completely lucid on all of them. This is one of several war documentaries questioning the way the United States does things. I do remember this one is real-life scary, so I picked the wrong one to mis-remember. I also remember the conclusion wasn’t super conclusive in a really freaky, OMG we’re all gonna die kinda way.
14 Bad Milo
I saw three movies on my birthday. This was the best one. It’s about a demon that lives in Ken Marino’s butt.
Steve Coogan kind of rules. I didn’t expect this type of thing from him, but the movie is as touching as expected for its type.
12 The Wind Rises
I’ve always felt a little guilty that I don’t like Miyazaki as much as I should. The films are always beautiful, but I tend to get sleepy whenever I watch them. I think it’s because they don’t follow the same story structure we’re used to. For The Wind Rises it’s almost like it has 12 acts or something. Still quite good. Nice touch having human voices act as the sounds of the planes (almost as if the planes are human themselves). The whole movie is a wonderful mix of dreamy combined with reality.
I think kids like this one so much because, like The Wind Rises, it has an unconventional story structure. It’s sort of refreshing to focus on two protagonists playing off each other rather than giving equal time to a separate antagonist. It can be done. Somewhat.
You saw this and you know what it’s about. Kind of weird that such a thing isn’t kind of weird anymore. Totally dug the production design with those wooden computers.
9 2014 Animated Short Oscar Nominations
Animated films have the added benefit of extra work, so they tend not to fall into the usual trappings that the boring live action shorts fall into. For these, I remember the French/Belch number was quite nice.
8 The Square
Interesting documentary about the community in Egypt to discuss, debate and attempt to enforce democracy in Egypt. Sadly, most of the effort is disputing between several factions that want the same thing. However, it’s interesting that the Egyptians found a passion for freedom, accountability and patriotism that most Americans lost hundreds of years ago.
7 2014 Documentary Short Program A Oscar Nominations
The one like The Square, but in Sudan was super good. The 109-year old holocaust piano player and the one with the gay and the skinhead were okay. Not as good. The holocaust piano player was the one that one. Obviously. Good documentary shorts can’t compete with that premise.
6 The Punk Singer
Documentary on Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill. This is probably the most exposure to feminism I’ve had in a while and I obviously have a ways to go. She's strangely and obviously sexy, which I hope she's okay with me thinking. Somewhat intrigued with the music as well, despite its threat. See also: Le Tigre.
5 Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Steve Coogan kind of rules. This time it’s in an especially dry British Comedy that also stars Chief O’brien from Star Trek.
4 Jodorowsky's Dune
Is there an end to documentary ideas? This one is a documentary on a movie that wasn’t even made. What would have been Dune is an intriguing idea: instead of an auteur collecting a bunch of laborers, a mad man collecting a cadre of other mad men and instilling in them a warrior cult idea about his vision. Dune could have been the most majestic disaster in cinema and I would have loved it, I’m sure.
3 The Sacrament
Jim Jones-like cults fascinate me a bit. This found-footage movie uses footage of a film crew infiltrating the cult. Like most movies, the night scene is a bit spooky and weird. Unlike most movies, the real horror happens the next day in very broad daylight.
2 Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley’s dad may not be her dad. But that’s really just the start. The documentary mostly focuses on culture’s reliance on storytelling and perception and how the truth is different for everybody. In keeping with the theme, it’s difficult to tell what is legitimate footage and what has been recreated.
1 We Are the Best!
It’s 1982 and two adorable tone-deaf Stockholm tween girls manipulate a Christian musician classmate into joining their punk band to point them in the right musical direction. The movie is delightful and fun and touches on the perfect amount of young teenage drama. The band’s big number, “Hate the Sport” (written after an especially annoying gym class) is an anthem I think most of us can get behind.
Top 65 2014 Movies of 2014
Alrighty, here’s the big list focusing on just the 2014 movies specifically. All of these should be contenders for 2015 Academy Awards (the ones on the list above could have been contenders in last year’s Oscars). I may have fudged the dates on a couple of Sundance movies, but they were at Sundance in 2014, so I mean, c’mon.
Hmm. Let’s look at themes a little. Right now, before I type it all up I think a movie theme of 2014 is time. It just hit me that time played a factor in all sorts of different ways for quite a few different movies (maybe it only applies to the three on my mind at the moment, we’ll see).
Hopefully I didn’t forget any. Obviously remember that I didn’t necessarily see every movie (especially a bunch toward the end there). I’m also not including our 48-hour Film Project screenings or other things like that. Those happened. No need to forget (we won the audience choice award this year!).
65 Low Down
Saw this one at Sundance and it’s as boring as sacrament meeting. It kind of feels like it was entirely made up of deleted scenes that could have been taken out of a better movie. The story’s kind of like Inside Llewyn Davis, but the guy never takes the subway anywhere.
Ugh. James McAvoy plays a bad cop. It’s messy and gross and I'm not just being a prude because it was also boring. I think it had an idea of doing something thoughtful in contrast to everything depicted in the title, but the silly move failed with me, only showing the contrast of an indeterminate movie tone. Imogen Poots is in this one.
63 Let's Be Cops
Hey, I love this irreverent idea. I only wish the movie stuck with it instead of giving us a hilarious montage (that’s completely depicted in the movie preview) and then giving us an hour of characters actually attempting remorse or something weird like that.
62 Need for Speed
Imogen Poots is a favorite of mine thanks to her sparkly eyes and velociraptor mouth. Unfortunately, like many of her roles it turns out, she’s reduced to constantly gazing at douchebags. Aaron Paul had the role of a lifetime on Breaking Bad, unfortunately that also might be true because he seems to be uninteresting in any other roles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Fast & Furious series is dumb, but it’s got a spectacular fun beyond the dumb. The same dumb fun is elusive in Need for Speed.
61 That Awkward Moment
Imogen Poots again. She’s in three of the bottom five movies of the year. She laughs at every douchey thing Zac Efron says in the same way she unnecessarily beams at Aaron Paul in Need for Speed. The bro-centric banter in this one is like frat boys attempting to write a Sex and the City script. Replace any charm that could be there with smug sarcasm.
60 Bad Words
Love Jason Bateman, but not funny enough. It also has a silly adorable kid, but is too raunchy and terrible for that kid to be so cute all the time. The kid gets treated the way women are often treated: abused, but begging for affection from an undeserving someone
59 Art of the Steal
Here’s a bizarre low-budget Ocean’s 11-like heist movie that was strangely relegated to the independent movie house, where it didn’t fit in too well. It had forced heist-y dialogue, but like most heists, plenty fun. Funner in hindsight, strangely. I actually took that “funner in hindsight” note when I saw the movie several months ago. As I type this now, I’m struggling to remember who actually appears in the movie.
58 Son of God
There was an awesome montage at beginning that went over several Bible stories in rapid succession. I learned later that this was because the movie is cobbled together from some kind of Bible TV show. Kudos to showing Magdalane as more of an apostle than a prostitute. Pilate was a little complicated and Joseph of Arimathea was black so that’s cool. The movie isn’t overly spectacular and wouldn’t grab me if I weren’t already familiar with the Bible and just waiting for my favorite non-boring parts to happen.
57 Begin Again
This one was made by the guy who made Once, so a comparison between the two is inescapable. The stories are similar, but I found plenty of sincerity in Once, whereas Begin Again feels processed and impersonal. Matter of taste of course. I felt Keira Knightley’s big song was far superior after it was manufactured through the pop process.
56 Love Child
Wow. I barely remember this. Another Sundance one. It’s about the culture that included the Korean couple who played online games while their daughter starved to death. Interesting subject matter, but I suppose it’s unremarkable enough that this is likely the only time in your life you’ll ever read about it.
55 God's Pocket
Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles. We’re privileged to see him trip and fall in slow motion, so the world is treated to that. Weird tones. I couldn’t really read if it was supposed to be funny or sad or dramatic or dull. The direction was kind of confusing in that way. The weird ginger from Antiviral is in it.
54 Horrible Bosses 2
Funny moments, but certainly not as complete of an idea as the first one. Seems to have less bite than the first one too, which is always a sequel mistake. It tends to contribute to a sort of phoniness. I never complain about just hearing Charlie Day yell, though.
53 The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Feels really long. Kind of like in Man of Steel, they sorta destroyed a city for no real reason. There was no particular menace to any of the villains. Jamie Fox became a villain because his feelings got hurt instead of a desire to take over the world. Yeah, maybe trying to take over the world is a boring motive, but stick with the classics on this one.
52 The Hundred Foot Journey
Fun feel-good about food. Forgettable story and unrelatable motives, but the food shots. Ahhh, the food shots.
51 The Grand Budapest Hotel
Yeah, I’m wrong, but I’m an absolute non-fan of Wes Anderson. I mentioned this in 2012 that Wes Anderson movies feel like they were directed by the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers AFTER they’ve taken over humanity and eradicated all human emotion. Anderson seems to be refining his own look and it’s getting narrower and narrower. If he let go of his mathematic, precise quirk I’d really appreciate him more I think. The skiing part was probably the best.
50 A Most Wanted Man
Another one of the last ones by Philip Seymour Hoffman. No wonder he was so stressed. He was making every movie ever at the same time. This one is a spy thriller change-up by not having thrilling action sequences. Yeah, a fresh change up, but when you dull up the spy industry, where do you go after that?
49 This is Where I Leave You
The book was okay. With Tina Fey and Jason Bateman, the cast elevated the source material from book characters that weren’t as interesting as the author intended. Rose Byrne is also one of my favorite people, so that always helps a little. Still, the life lessons the movie thinks it might have aren’t very mind-blowing.
48 Our RoboCop Remake
Like Empire Uncut, this is a series of fan-made short movies stitched together to make a completed re-made RoboCop movie. Some was amazingly gross, but most kept the lid on being over the top. The subtlest references to the original film were the best parts.
47 RoboCop (2014)
I commend the RoboCop reboot for going in a completely different direction than the original movie. Of course it’s hard to make a memorable movie reboot when the original is so damn memorable itself, what with the pitch black humor and everything. I did enjoy this new one’s new directions in body horror, though.
For a big giant monster movie, this one’s quieter than one would think. Larger too. Lots of smoke. Spoiler alert sort of, but thank goodness they skipped the “Godzilla is bad!” movie and went right to the “Godzilla will save us all!” movie.
45 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Kind of like A Most Wanted Man, this spy movie was surprisingly low-key with not so many ‘splosions. It dipped into a few tried and true tropes to at least make it a bit more exciting though. Most of the movie seemed to be a single, very tense, dinner. I really liked the drawn-outness of that scene.
44 Happy Christmas
I really really liked Joe Swanberg’s movie from last year called Drinking Buddies. This one was okay, but it’s premise wasn’t automatically as full as direction as that last one I saw. Anna Kendrick always gets adorable points and Lena Dunham was far less annoying than usual, so it makes for a non-torturous, steady watch.
43 Meet the Mormons
The kickboxer Mormon was my favorite. What was yours? Pretty fun and enthused characters, but they made me feel guilty for being such a boring Mormon. It’d be nice if my people were more represented: balding Mormons with a steady stream of anxiety who believe in all that weird stuff, but still get annoyed with fulfilling callings. I heard this might be shown in the Joseph Smith building at Temple Square, which I think is the right direction for the LDS Church to go instead of showing those atrocious fictionalized epics.
42 Get on Up
You can’t go wrong with making a biopic of the godfather of soul. The guy playing James Brown probably could have eased off of the raspy voice just a bit (even if it was authentic) because it tended to be pretty distracting. The movie also eschewed a linear story structure in favor of focusing on several different events completely out of order (as if James Brown were remembering different events toward the end of his life). Still, more performance footage would have been very very welcome because even James Brown interpretations get me pretty pumped.
41 The Fault In Our Stars
I can think of few things as fun as kids with cancer. I called the ending.
40 Big Hero 6
Sorta felt that there should be a bit less talking and a bit more fun. San Fransokyo itself was a nice touch that wasn’t necessary, but the unnecessary nice touches are what make things great. Maybe a few more touches like that would have made a better picture.
I originally had an unflattering listing for this one, but I switched it to its current spot because I feel like I spent half the year defending this movie’s existence. Once we realize that they took the well-known, yet diminutively-documented story of Noah and the Ark and used it as a basis for telling a separate deep story of loss and sacrifice, I think that’s a step to actually enjoying the movie. Just because a few liberties were taken, it doesn’t take anything away from the source material. This movie is its own thing. Also, Noah's strobey story of the creation should be the new temple video. Not everything that was added worked though. The antagonist felt crammed in and I don’t feel was needed since the most interesting conflict was between the boat people. Also, the bad guys could spend months building weapons, but they don’t think of building a rowboat or something themselves? I mean they seemed to have plenty of advance notice.
Jean-Luc Besson through and through. A silly concept with very dubious science, that’s simply super fun to watch. Only 10% of a brain was used to make this one, but in a lot of ways it was the right 10%.
37 Guardians of the Galaxy
I feel like I was a bit cooler on this than most other people. This may seem like a crazy opinion, but I think the movie would have been a lot funnier if there weren’t so many jokes crammed into it. At least the really good ones would have landed a lot better since they’d be unexpected. I also would have really preferred the characters themselves (including a few of the villains) to take their universe and the movie more seriously. Also, Starlord’s fantastic soundtrack only had one good song (“Cherry Bomb”). Hey, besides all that, I’m no stranger to the fun here. There was quite a bit.
36 Dumb and Dumber To
Obviously a disappointment from the original, but I was pleasantly surprised and laughed a bit. Much of the strange quick and dumb humor is still here and delivered properly (“age is nothing but a letter, man”). I also laughed pretty hard when one of them referred to the Asian-looking guy in the hockey jersey with a heavy northern accent saying “hoser” all the time as a “Mexican.” The film has a huge uphill battle though. The dumbness just better with non-old people. If you want to trip yourself out, watch a few episodes of The Newsroom before you watch Jeff Daniels in this.
This was life-changing! Well, it was for the main character in the movie anyway. I think the movie may have been more effective if I went in pretty cold. The previews give away Witherspoon’s backstory (which I actually should know in detail since I was supposed to have read the book), and the movie is supposed to make tiny revelations about her while she’s hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The result feels like an enduring, but very safe linear story of one person reaching her goal in the same way the PCT itself is linear.
Hoping for funnier, but what's new in any comedy? Comedies have become my new horror movies. Just like getting scared, it’s getting more difficult for me to laugh. As mentioned earlier, I am a tremendous Rose Byrne fan and she was the excellentest part of this movie. I heard she wasn’t a part of the original story, which is a shame and ultimately quite fortuitous.
Documentary on Edward Snowden. Very interesting and unstructured. And scary. Lots of the action just takes place in a single hotel room, but the conversation makes us re-evaluate our safety and existence. This one’s a feel-good one.
32 Dear White People
I’m sure I would have enjoyed it much more if the theater weren’t filled with white people laughing just a little too hard at the mildly amusing racial humor.
31 Veronica Mars
The movie feels like it was composed of about three new episodes of the TV show. Would have appreciated it if they took more chances to make the movie a bit different, instead of 90 minutes of going “hey, there’s that guy from the show too!” Fortunately it’s a pretty awesome TV show.
30 Tim's Vermeer
Documentary of the guy who built what he thinks is the equivalent of an 18th century machine to perfectly re-create a Vermeer painting. More voices would have been nice, but two of the voices were Penn and (kind of) Teller. Also more of a tragedy that Vermeer didn't have the painting talent we thought. The true art was the invention. Intriguing look at how much the creation of the art itself contributes to the art’s definition.
29 Blue Ruin
This one is good, but hard to describe. It’s a revenge thriller that begins with the revenge and then deals with the consequences. This is what I knew going in, so I was surprised at how conventional it turned out to be. I blame the media. I mean, people talk about it as a “revenge story gone wrong,” but how many revenge stories go right? It was a very gripping and good kind of conventional at least. Kind of Coen brothers-y. Eve Plumb is in it. EVE PLUMB!
The only science I had a huge problem with is how their little hovercraft spaceship was able to break the gravity of the mega-gravity planet. The movie was pretty long, but I think that kind of worked in its own unique way. After a long length of time passes within the movie, suddenly the next few decades are dependent on split second decision. Suddenly the weight of those seconds is felt all the more. Still, the mind-bending mysteriousness is not as fulfilling as previous Nolan attempts. I don’t hate Hathaway. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
27 Obvious Child
Jenny Slate has a voice perfect for comedy and extreme sadness. Tricky subject dealing with abortion, but a no-apologies approach was actually pretty refreshing.
26 Under the Skin
Apparently, this Johanssen-as-alien-hunting-men-for-their-skin genre of movie was half-improvised. The thing didn’t look or feel improvised, but possibly would have been more effective at a quicker pace. I respected this a lot more than I enjoyed it. It’s quite entrancing for the first while, but gets grating after 45 minutes. Plays a lot with gender roles and attraction and power and is sexyscary if such a word is allowed to exist. The soundtrack is pretty phenomenal. It sounds like vintage sci-fi theremin.
25 The Babadook
Mission accomplished. This horror piece drew me in enough to respect the scares. Like great horror classics, it left the audience with the pleasure to plug in meaning for the monstrosity. This case is the horror of not being up to the challenge of parenting. Also, give that kid an Oscar. Whoever they got to play the weird, frightening, vulnerable, sweet, annoying, yelly kid totally deserves it.
24 Magic in the Moonlight
Woody Allen makes a really good film about every six or seven years. Unfortunately, he makes a new one every year no matter what. This one is likely to be one of the forgotten ones and definitely wasn’t received too well in my circles. I liked it more than most, though. I always give Woody a pretty big pass every year, but I rather latched on to the idea that no matter how religious or scientific or logical or whatever you are, you just gotta believe there’s magic in the universe. Love itself proves that. Perhaps the message is difficult to take coming from a guy like Woody Allen.
23 The Skeleton Twins
The movie has lots of flaws and would be considered another fairly forgettable independent movie, but the fact that Wiig and Hader kind of knocked it out of the park with their performances raised it up several notches. I especially liked Hader’s performance. Got to meet him at the screening and told him how much I really appreciated his Vincent Price specials on SNL. He told me it was Lorne’s idea for Vincent Price to play the straight man in those sketches. That was a totally true story.
22 Gone Girl
I hate being the guy who’s like “the book is so much better,” especially since I barely read. I’ll say it in this case, though, because the book’s structure of going back and forth between narrators is not something that can really be accomplished in the movie. The movie was a bit heavier on the beginning part rather than the end part as well. I also would have liked Affleck to be portrayed a little more guilty to fully equalize the conflict. I hate myself for saying all that because I’ve always maintained that movies and books shouldn’t be compared next to each other, but judged as themselves. That said, I sort of loved Gone Girl for one 10-second shot that’s brilliantly vintage Fincher full of perfect motion, clean discomfort and sleek blood. The horror Doogie shot will haunt my dreams forever.
21 They Came Together
Plenty funny. This Paul Rudd and Amy Pohler movie takes the piss out of rom-coms in legitimately funny ways and not just cheap shots. It’s feels a bit like a Zucker-type movie like Airplane! The full force of romantic comedy cliches at this flicks disposal is insane. As far as dumber-yet-brillianter aspects go, the badly-staged basketball scene was one of the highlights of the year.
20 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Lots of Shakespeare. Lots of ape drama. Fascinating good and evil on both sides. That shot of the ape taking down the tank while the camera is attached to the turret and spinning around? Remember that? Yeah, that was so awesome. I’m still not converted, but the CGI in these new Planet of the Apes movies is as close to believable as it gets right now.
Stupid sexy Fassbender. This movie proves that I’ll like the guy even when he’s covered in a papier mache mask the entire movie. This one reminded me a bit of a lighter version of Amadeus by tackling the same aspect of having the desire to create the art without the obvious talent of the true genius. Where does that genius come from? Do you need to be a weirdo to create something special or are those eccentricities a disservice?
18 22 Jump Street
This franchise is nearly full-scale unapologetic parody by now, but that leads to a sequel I laughed harder at than the original. And I loved the original.
17 Empire Uncut
I’ll always include a favorable ranking for any movie I’m in. This is that one where they stitched together a bunch of fan-made 15-second scenes to re-create The Empire Strikes Back. We submitted a few scenes and they’re all in there. My stuff’s great, but check out the rest. There’s some sweet gender bending (one bearded guy insists on playing Princess Leia a few times and he NAILS IT) as well as some amazing bizarre animation.
16 Edge of Tomorrow
More obviously like Groundhog Day than I imagined. Fun and hilarious. Not boring. You get to watch Tom Cruise die like 50 times. It’s pretty much like Super Meatboy (Super Meatboy is a great video game that I play and it’s kept track of how many times I’ve died (over 8,000)).
15 Into the Woods
Kind of felt disjointed with the harsh edits, but I really do enjoy this musical. The two kids they got were pure highlights. I especially like the Sondheim lyrics. So much of the story is about doubt and hesitancy and surprisingly adult themes coupled with the wonder of adolescence.
14 The One I Love
A wonderful relationship movie. I don’t want to call it a science fiction movie since that seems to turn lots of people off instantly. Instead, consider it a movie where the characters literally are able to converse with versions of themselves to solve their relationship problems. It’s a good premise to ask some thoughtful questions on what is wanted and what is given in any relationship. Elizabeth Moss is in it. YOU LIKE ELIZABETH MOSS!
13 The Trip to Italy
Let two chatty and competitive friends go on a road trip together. Turn the camera on. Release it as a movie. laugh yourself silly. That’s The Trip to Italy. AGAIN. These Trip movies are really awesome about being very superficially about nothing at all, but really getting to the heart of other things by the end. Again, we get the competitiveness along with slight sadness and the perils of struggling with manhood and infidelity.
12 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Never read the books up to this point, but where I’ve heard things go downhill at this point, I’m actually pretty intrigued -- especially now that we’re away from the games themselves. Cool idea to have Katniss in the hands of the good guys, to only have her image and character manipulated in much the same way as when she was being exploited before. That Zero Dark Thirty-like scene near the end made me gasp a bit.
11 X-Men: Days of Future Past
Stupid sexy Fassbender. AGAIN. Is that why the good guys keep trusting Magneto? Every single X-Men movie it’s like “We have no choice, we need to trust Magneto… WHOOOOPS!” Still, I would love it if Magneto turns every single time. It always works. The “future” sequences (really the present -- the movie flipped the comic’s present-future timeline to the movie’s past-present timeline) didn’t work for me as much as I wanted (slightly cheesy), but it helped that everyone died. We all know the Quicksilver scene was great, but the end sequence was actually quite tense. The 70s sheen is amazing. Please let me know if you’d like to borrow the original “Days of Future Past” comics from the 80s. I have PDF versions of them. It’s only two issues.
10 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Pretty groovy 70s conspiracy thriller that has its own feel beyond the other Marvel movies (and especially different than the first Captain America one). Dare I say this is the best Marvel sequel that’s been released? Maybe that’s not such an incredible claim. Also, how cool is it to be a superhero with a team of three hot chicks along with two cool talkin' black brothers getting your back?
9 The LEGO Movie
I wrote down that maybe there was too much real-life stuff, but that extra daring on top of the sheer pleasure of this world is exactly why this movie will actually rise in esteem beyond the hype of everybody going crazy for it. LEGO is a perfect way to address the structured versus the creative types. If you remember correctly, each LEGO set included one set of instructions to build what was on the box. Traditionally, you get a LEGO set, build what’s on the box and THEN build whatever else. I remember some of my friends used to follow the instructions and then stop there. Obviously this would annoy me as someone who wanted to build lots of different things. Perhaps because I’m sloppy and not structured. The two philosophies are really explored in the movie and go beyond just the ritual of toy playing. It’s also a great excuse to have another Batman and Star Wars movie rolled into one (also a Unikitty movie).
It’s not necessarily about the lowlifes in broadcast journalism. Jake Gyllenhaall’s character could infiltrate any industry with Machiavellian venom and still so many people would respect it. Hopefully everyone who sees this takes it as a cautionary tale.
7 The Raid 2
The best movie ever made where everyone is constantly kicking each other. I think that may have been my exact review for the first The Raid. Actually this one is a bit longer than the first and surprisingly has a fairly elaborate undercover police story. In a way, this took away from the pleasure of the simple action story of the first one, but it cements Gareth Evans as a fantastic action director. One of these days he’s gonna make a film in English and you will be stupid not to see it because it will be the best movie ever made in English where everyone is constantly kicking each other.
When I first saw this, I scratched my head and didn’t know what to think, but this sucker’s resonated with me over time better than just about any other movie this year. It’s a crazy allegory with a society trapped on a train stuck going the same direction. The caboosers want to rebel and take the engine. In order to do that they need to go through every car and every car is so different they’re each like a surreal short film all their own. I love how they just ran with this bizarre concept all the way.
5 Life Itself
One of three movies I saw twice in the theater. I can safely say I’m a pretty big fan of Roger Ebert. Even if you don’t agree with his opinions, his reviews tend to be great reads because he personalizes them with his own opinion, not what he thinks your opinion would be (like so many critics tend to do). You watch a documentary about Roger Ebert and what gets beamed back to you is a powerful love of movies and their power.
Yep. Saw this one twice as well. Strange format, this. The movie starts with a priest threatened with murder and then switches to the same priest struggling to help those in town who resent him. The dialogue is slightly un-earthy and almost play-like (as in it feels like discussions more from a play than a movie, somehow), but they’re quite pleasurable, especially from the quirky cast. It does not hurt that the action takes place in a gorgeous Irish town. Makes me want to become Catholic so that I can banter with a Brendon Gleeson-like priest.
Speaking of plays, I haven’t seen anything like Birdman in my life. The story is about a semi-washed up Hollywood actor attempting to make a new legitimate name for himself on Broadway. The main gimmick is that the whole movie seems to take one long, continuous shot, even though the actual story of the movie takes place over a couple of weeks. I think this bugged a lot of people because the passage of time would seem to negate any need for a continuous shot, but the gimmick totally worked for me. It gave the impression of pressure, like the Michael Keaton character didn’t have time or room to breathe. It also provided the movie with a fluid non-stop motion that’s captured in a live play. The performances, impeccable camera work and percussiony soundtrack are pleasurable bonuses.
Another gimmick. I hesitate to call the central gimmick of Boyhood a gimmick though. I think a gimmick seems like something a moviemaker may cram in to his or her already existing idea when it may not be needed. The discipline to film over the course of 12 years is beyond gimmick. It’s a movie. Linklater took an interesting approach by really holding back on what’s shown. Most of the individual scenes are highly unremarkable (and strangely far more remarkable in the first half than the second half). I think he figured that by stringing together seemingly ordinary scenes the whole would become more than the sum. The restraint really works to produce the memory of a life growing up with unremarkable moments that are even more remarkable and regarded as they’re looked back upon. Over the past few years I’ve thought it a shame that kids today don’t have the same identity with the decade they grew up in as much as someone who grew up in the 80s or 90s. Watching Boyhood, though, made me realize that the 00s decade actually has an identity that can be picked up on through the eyes of youth. The legitimate culture I saw from year to year was palpable and couldn’t be manufactured in the same way as a normal movie. Boyhood is like half-documentary that takes real queues from the culture of the time to paint what I feel is a lot of truth.
Alternate title: Blood, Sweat and Tears on the Zildjians. Kind of weird that this is number 1, but it belongs there. Maybe not for everybody, but this is the one that’s gone through my mind most. This is the other movie I saw twice in the theater too. The first time I was into it and the music and the drive this kid had. After already seeing it once, the second viewing was closer to watching a horror movie because I was already aware of the terror the J.K. Simmons character had in him. If I saw J.K. Simmons in real life, I’d be very afraid to make eye contact. Certainly he’s winning best actor. Right? RIGHT?! How much is perfection worth? When I see the pain that comes from molding an incredible performer I wonder if I should ever enjoy anything again if so much literal blood is involved in accomplishing such awesome work. Speaking of time, “NOT MY TEMPO!”
There it is. That’s the big list. The following is some additional information from my movie spreadsheet that I’ll just paste along.
Top 58 older movies I saw for the first time this last year (the order may not be completely precise, but number one is the one at the bottom).
The Eighth Day
The Wild Bunch
Meet the Deedles
Eagle vs. Shark
The Master of Disguise
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Dead
Mean Girls 2
Beginning of the End
The Phantom Planet
I Accuse My Parents
Night of the Blood Beast
Shadow of the Vampire
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Kingdom of Shadows
A Life Less Ordinary
How to Marry a Millionaire
Tol' able David
Robot and Frank
K-19: The Widowmaker
For a Good Time Call
Upside Down: The Creation Records Story
The Little Mermaid (1975)
Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
The Loved Ones
Lawrence of Arabia
Starter for 10
Das Boot (Director's Cut)
Night of the Hunter
The Mosquito Coast
Beware of Mr. Baker
The Act of Killing
The Fisher King
The 32 movies I re-watched from worst to best. These are all pretty good. I tend to not re-watch movies I don’t like.
The Jewel of the Nile
Young Sherlock Holmes
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Master Pancake Edition)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Over the Top
Indie Game: The Movie
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Robin Hood (1973)
In the Loop
The Big Lebowski
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Dark Crystal
From Dusk Till Dawn
Never Let Me Go
The Fifth Element
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Lost Boys
Some Kind of Wonderful
A few interesting (to me) stats.
Number of movies watched at the cinema (including Sundance screenings and Organ Loft): 82
Most popular theater: Broadway (22 screenings)
Sundance screenings: 7
Streamed on Netflix: 73
Streamed from some other service: 4
Movies watched at the 24-hour movie marathon: 14
Non-24HMM movies watched on DVD or Blu-ray: 13
Watched on DVR: 1
Watched on live television: 1
Watched with someone else: 49
Watched alone: 139 (yeah, depressing I know, but Netflix and Moviepass aren’t necessarily social helpers)
1921 movies: 1