OK - so everyone does these kind of lists at the end of the year, and I am no different. My selections here are pretty wide ranging - from small indies all the way to massive blockbusters. They aren't necessarily the most critically acclaimed films, but my choices represent the best cross section of films that 2014 had to offer. In other words, go watch them because they're all really good. Hit the jump for my Top 10 Must See Movies Of 2014...
10. John Wick
Helmed by stunt man turned director, Chad Stahelski, John Wick stars Keanu Reeves at his best. Reeves doesn't need to be funny, caring, smart, or witty. He just needed to kick ass, and my god does he kick some major ass in this movie. It might actually be one of the most violent films I've ever watched. But Reeves succeeds because he is character that can't stand who he is, but also can't help who he is. His desire for revenge in this movie is crazy, but understandable. But aside from all that - the film is beautiful. It's cinematography is top notch, the choreography is stellar, and it just looks freakin' cool. Move over Neo - John Wick has come to town.
9. The LEGO Movie
Oh, The LEGO Movie, I wanted to hate it so bad. But, it's literally impossible. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of 21 + 22 Jump Street fame) have wholeheartedly proven to me that everything is indeed awesome. The casting of Chris Pratt as Emmett was perfect, but Will Arnett as Batman stole the show. See this movie for Batman alone. It could have been nothing more than a marketing ploy and a heaping pile of crap, but, honestly, it was an actual story that had something to say. I laughed heartily during it, but I also thought about it when I left. Many summer tentpole movies don't accomplish this. Touche, sirs. I will watch your careers with great interest.
There are a lot of good things in this world - close to the top of the list is crazy-as-hell Jake Gyllenhaal. Directed by Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler really surprised me. I expected the Gyllenhaal of Prisoners, but what I got was a mix between Gyllenhaal of Donnie Darko and DeNiro in Taxi Driver. Gyllenhaal's Lou Bloom is really not a good guy, but I was fascinated by him. Every time he spoke, I couldn't believe what I heard. He was insane. But he had his principals and he did what it took to get the story he needed. I had to admire that.
7. Bad Words
Director and star Jason Bateman has created a genuinely funny, grotesque, vulgar, and near perfect comedy in Bad Words. Bateman has made a living out of playing the goofy, aloof, and fun nice guy. (See: Arrested Development, Identity Theft, Horrible Bosses etc.) But, in this movie, he's an asshole. He's an asshole to women, dudes, kids, school, the system. He's an asshole to everybody because he just wants to win a spelling bee for 8th graders. And, by god is it glorious. If you're a Bateman fan (and who isn't really?) do yourself a favor and watch this film.
6. Edge Of Tommorrow (LIVE, DIE, REPEAT)
Even though I still don't know what to call this movie (it came out in theaters as Edge Of Tomorrow, but it's being marketed as LIVE, DIE, REPEAT) I absolutely love it. Directed by the man who gave you The Bourne Identity, Doug Liman, Edge of Tommorrow is a well written, humorous at times, well paced, original story that could have devolved into a confusing, repetitive mess. Tom Cruise plays a soldier who lives a battle, dies in it, and repeats it every single day. But, the roles are reversed, Emily Blunt plays the badass, Tom Cruise plays a real coward and any time you think you know what's going to happen - I promise you - you're wrong. The battles are shot well, the dialogue is sharp but relatable, and the story can carry any filmgoer along as long as they pay even a *little* attention. The best part is that Tom Cruise doesn't go all Tom Cruise-y. And I know that you know what I mean. Instead, he owned the role and went with it.
5. The Imitation Game
OK, I admit that I am a Cumberbitch. I really am. You could literally have Benedict Cumberbatch sit on a toilet in front of camera and I would think it's Oscar worthy. That aside, this is a genuinely thrilling, emotional, horrifying, and eye widening experience of a film. Directed by Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game tells the true tragic story of Alan Turning, and his efforts to break the German "Enigma" code in WWII. But the trick here, is that Turning is a homosexual, and there's a whole subtext of issues that go along with it. I was reminded of Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in BBC's Sherlock often. But, this seemed to have more depth and reality. If you like Sherlock, you're going to love this movie.
4. X-Men: Days Of Future Past
I'm also obsessed with Michael Fassbender. He, too, is just gold on film. But I admire this film for all that it is and all that it tried to do. Brian Singer came back to direct the franchise he helped start (and is the quintessential "Godfather" to this "Comic Book" movie craze) and he made a nearly impossible situation work flawlessly. Uniting the two casts of the original X-men and the new X-men must have been a logistical nightmare. But in doing so, Singer gave us a film that is suspenseful, entertaining, and serves as the single greatest admission of a giant, "oops, we f*cked up in the previous X-men films, so we're going to fix it all with this one." Wolverine must travel back in time to prevent the apocalyptic future in which our favorite mutants find themselves. I applaud Singer and Fox (the company who owns X-men) for admitting their faults. But if there is only one reason why I could choose to put this film on this list, it's the scene with Quicksilver. I've never seen anything like it, and it was heavenly.
You heard it here first - this is the movie where Miles Teller put the world on notice. He's always played the kind of goofy and oddball/innocent friend of the main character. But, he sets the world ablaze in Whiplash. Brought to life by the young and upcoming director, Damien Chazelle, ( A PROVIDENCE, RI NATIVE - WHAT, WHAT!?!?!) Whiplash asks you how far would you go to facilitate your god given ability. Do you want to be good, or do you want to be the fucking best there ever was? Worst yet, how many people do you have to hurt on the way? This is the question Teller faces when he decides to take his innate drumming skills to the next level. JK Simmons (Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man, and that guy in the Farmer's Insurance commercials) pushes Teller to lengths that are just....incredible. The yelling. The profanity. The sacrifice. The blood. It was all brilliant. And, oh boy, that ending...
2. Gone Girl
I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about David Fincher's latest project. Would I believe Ben Affleck? Would Gillian Flynn's writing style translate well to film? Would the twist (OMG THAT TWIST) live up to the hype and my expectations? Let me tell you - all these questions were answered with a definite affirmative. It's a thrill ride of, I daresay, The Usual Suspects style. In fact, you could almost make the case that this movie is a bait and switch of epic proportions. But, it's a switch (OMG THAT TWIST) that not only you didn't know you want, but you'll be thankful you got it once you see it. Gone Girl is a biting satire on marriage, love, and how messed up people can really become without them even knowing it. But as much as I think Affleck nails the performance, it's Rosamund Pike's Amazing Amy that catapults this movie into the stratosphere. See it. Yesterday.
Take Matthew McConaughey's renaissance, add Christopher Nolan's directing, and throw in a dash of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and you get Interstellar. Is the movie perfect? Nope. There's a couple of script issues, and some scientific anomalies that need better explanation, but this movie is bigger than that. It's the most daring original story movie (and asks a lot from it's viewer) that has been developed since The Matrix. What happens when humans can't live on Earth anymore? Nolan tries to find an answer. From being filmed in IMAX 70mm format (the way every movie should be presented), the sweeping visuals, to the effects, to that dizzying score from Hans Zimmer, to even the Yankees playing baseball in a nice touch of detail, this movie demanded your attention. My elbows were made raw from holding on to my arm chair with a a vigorous tension, but my heartstrings were also ripped back and forth by the simple desperation of the people involved. (That giant wave scene is the perfect example of every element coming together at once.) Everything about this movie (and, yes, in Nolan fashion - even that ending) was elegant. But as much as this movie is about relativity, gravity, time, space travel, it actually finds it's comfort zone in what it means to be human, and how far people will go for love. It's rather uncharacteristic of Christopher Nolan to base his film in this kind of setting - as he is largely criticized for making cool and unfeeling films - but that's why he is the best in the business to date. It's a little high minded science fiction and it could turn a lot of casual moviegoers away (not to mention the 3 hour run time), but the emotional pay off and the sheer awe of how small humanity/ earth really is, is worth it. Find a way to see this film, carve out the three hours, and let it wash over you, and then think about it. Interstellar begs you to think about it because that's what it deserves. Do this, and I promise, you won't be disappointed.
Well that's it guys! Did I miss anything!? Did you hate my suggestions or did you love them?
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