With all the discussion surrounding The Interview (myself included) it’s easy to forget there was more than just killing North Koreans with bad haircuts. It was actually a pretty interesting, if uneventful, year in movies. Horror was fairly lackluster at in theaters (although not in terms of money making) science fiction had a resurgence not only critically but also at the box office with five sci-fi flicks being in the top 10 highest grossing films of the year. While the awards seasons fodder was your typical mix of true stories and crime dramas the breakout film of the year was Birdman which not only revitalized Michael Keaton’s career but has a total of 7 Golden Globe nominations and seems a lock for Oscar nominations. With that all out of the way these are my Top 6 Movies of 2014. As always I haven’t seen everything (Foxcatcher comes to mind) and this is just my own opinion. Lets be real though do you really need someone else telling you how you just HAVE to see Gone Girl for the 30th time?
6- Edge of Tomorrow
What’s that? You didn’t see Edge of Tomorrow? A mix of sci-fi, action and dark comedy Edge of Tomorrow it was one of the most unique movies of the year. Particularly interesting was the casting of Tom Cruise in the lead. Sure he’s an obvious go-to guy but having him as an out of his element, non-threatening lead was actually kind of cool. He played less the smiling/old man action star and more of a likable idiot and was pretty great at it. Sure he became the typical action demigod he’s done the past few years but the lead up was a lot more interesting here. In a summer full of event films and at least one instance of SUP3R 3DgY turtles this Tom Cruise led sci-fi movie went in and out of theaters fairly quickly. A shame because it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in theaters all year.
5- The Sacrament
While horror has been a bit of a bust this year what was good was really good. From sequels like PA: The Marked Ones to horror comedy like Dead Snow 2 there have been some highlights in horror. Of them all I find myself going back to The Sacrament over and over again. Directed by Ti West (House of the Devil) The Sacrament is a recreation of the final days of the Jonestown cult. While fictionalized I find the portrayal of this cult leader very fascinating. With good performances and some nail biting tension this is one cult you should join.
4- The Raid 2
As far as I am concerned The Raid is a perfect action movie. From the action scenes to direction to soundtrack it is everything you could want. Three years later director Gareth Evans returned with The Raid 2. Taking place right after the first movie Evans exposes us to the Indonesian criminal underworld and opens up a whole city’s worth of battles. With bigger fights, bigger stunts and a bigger story this definitely lived up to expectations and then some. While it may have lost on points in my Winter Soldier vs Raid 2 article it was definitely the best pure action movie of the year.
3- Top Five
I have already talked a lot about how much I dug this movie. Like a modern day Hollywood Shuffle the movie covers things like fame and race in a humorous way without becoming preachy or overbearing. What I really didn’t touch on was my appreciation for how they talked about hip hop. While never a major part of the story it is treated as a legitimate genre as opposed to the button of the joke. We never got the easy white guy who says yo and tries to act street. When someone tries, as seen in the trailer, it is immediately shut down. Heck we get Jerry Seinfeld giving his Top Five and besides the obvious joke answer it’s a solid list. The obvious love for hip hop and respect for the culture certainly endeared the movie to me.
So I was talking to a friend who came down for the holidays and he apparently I told him Michael Keaton was dead. I assume I was just messing with him but apparently he believed it until he appeared on 30 Rock. Thank god I was wrong because he’s the main reason Birdman is such a great movie. Aside from the meta-context of casting the former Batman he’s just a great actor. His performance as the former Birdman Riggan Thomsan is the perfect mix of tragedy and black comedy. He’s helped by antagonist Mike Shiner portrayed by Edward Norton. A popular Broadway actor he pulls of the pretentious actor gimmick perfectly. That isn’t to say we should overlook director Alejandro González Iñárritu though. Utilizing the one long tracking shot method it helped create an engrossing and surreal experience making one of the best films of the year.
1- Guardians of the Galaxy
Really what else could it be? Comic book movie? Check. Top notch action? Check. The best Star Wars movie (which this basically was) since Empire? Triple check. What is there to say at this point? Marvel somehow worked their magic and made an obscure comic book team the second highest grossing film of the year. Heck they made a plant voiced by Vin Diesel one of the most lovable characters of the year. Exciting, funny, oozing charm the movie not only holds up over time but was somehow even more amusing the second time around for me.
The Guest- This was so close to making my Top 6. Heck I started writing an entry before I saw Birdman which nudged it out. Regardless this throwback to older action thrillers is one of the best of the year and well worth seeing. Just consider it the unofficial #7.
Nas: Time Is Illmatic- How do you make a documentary about hip hop? Examining the best album ever is a good start. While nothing new comes out of this the story behind Nas and his first record is just as engrossing as the album itself.
The Lego Movie- Of all the movies this year this is probably the year’s biggest surprise. When first announced I was with everyone in thinking it was the corporate whoring was at the point of being offensive. Some how, some way the team behind the Jump Street reboot made a fun, hilarious and even insightful movie.
22 Jump Street- Those end credits. I hope to live in a world where 37 Jump Street: Scuba Class is a real film.
John Wick/The Equalizer- Essentially the same movie I’m pretty sure Old Man Action peaked as a genre with these movies.