December 28, 2014

Top 7 Best Movies of 2014 (with 3 Honorable Mentions)

As with any top 10 worst list, there's always a top 10 best list alongside it, though this year's list is going to be kinda different for a few reasons. First, I didn't see nearly as many movies as I saw last year and of those movies that I did see, I really only could think of about six or so that really stood out to me. Also, this list will feature three "honorable mentions", because I did happen to see films this year that weren't from this year that I had not seen before. So those will be included here because they are awesome (though mostly they're here to get this list up to ten slots). Anyway, without further ado, let's get to it!

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

I was going to do a Mini-View of this after I saw it, but... well, I forgot; and come on, I was leaving for college in a few days' time and I saw Lucy afterwards too, so cut me some slack- my mind was damaged! This movie took me by surprise completely, as it did many people. Just going from the trailers, this looked to be Marvel's biggest mistake yet, and that includes Iron Man 2. But they really pulled the rug out from under me and gave us a fantastic space epic/comedy film that really worked. I loved that it didn't take itself too seriously; the lighthearted tone worked wonders with this film because unlike The Avengers or even Iron Man 3 to an extent, this movie recognizes the rather absurd nature of these 70s and 80s comic book artifacts and characters brought to the big screen in the 2010s. The humor worked most of the time and I had just a blast watching these characters interact. Beautiful backgrounds, too; whoever worked on that, I salute you!

6. Edge of Tomorrow

This is how you make a summer blockbuster interesting! I went into this expecting a fun action movie; what I got instead was not just a fun action movie, but one with more heart and spunk than something like this should really have... like in a great way. What I really loved about this is that this didn't need to be a strong piece of science fiction; this could have just gotten away with being a mindless action shoot-em-up movie and I would have been totally down with that, because it was released in summer and that's generally what you get during that time. But this went the extra mile and gave us a compelling time-travel story with a character- and philosophical-core, and that was just so awesome to me. Now, it's not great by any means; this is obviously not going to be the next Terminator 2. But it really plays with one's expectations and really made me think about the choices these people were making in the movie, and for that, this one receives a high recommendation.

5. Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson films are something of a mixed bag for me. I generally don't like his stuff because, frankly, he's just way too out there for me. I love Moonrise Kingdom; I did not get The Royal Tenenbaums, and I was kind of indifferent to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. So it came as a great surprise to me when this movie was over and I actually found myself to have really loved it. I think what really helps is that this is one of Anderson's more straightforward films, so he's not really going all over the place. Oh, you still have the weirdest scenarios possible coming out of the sheer ridiculousness of whatever is happening in the plot at a certain time, but the structure and the story and the characters were all very graspable to me; I didn't feel like it was random for the sake of being random. Obviously, like all Wes Anderson movies, this one looks amazing; the visuals in Anderson's movies are something that I cannot deny are breathtaking, and this one is no exception. The hotel has a great regality to it and the color highlights that. All the performances in this are awesome and the comedy works and makes sense to me most of the time. Again, this one surprised me and has stuck with me ever since I saw it! Check this one out; I'm not a Wes Anderson fan and I loved it, so I can't imagine what actual fans of his work would think of this.

4. The Lego Movie

I saw a lot of stuff that really took me by surprise this year. I put off seeing The Lego Movie for about as long as my cousin put off seeing Frozen for the first time; this movie came out in like February and I didn't see it until October! I was so skeptical of this. Just from the trailers, this looked to be nothing more than something along the lines of Ice Age, where there's a lot of laughs but very little substance or anything worth investing time in for the adult crowd. I was completely wrong on that front because good lord, this movie is absolutely awesome. It's not just the fact that the humor is some of the best I've seen in a while coming from an animated picture- though that is the case- a lot of what makes this movie work is how everything is just so damn innovative! The animation is fascinating to watch; the characters are surprisingly three-dimensional (especially for something coming out of a studio other than the big three animation studios), and the messages that this film hits you with take you back to the days of Toy Story! Chris Pratt delivers a great voice performance for the lead character, and the plot and pace are excellently balanced. Super entertaining, this one! See it, especially if you're on the fence about it; it's well worth your time.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I covered a lot of what I had to say about this movie in my Mini-View of it, so you should really read that if you want a more in-depth look at what I think about this excellent, plot-driven, amazing, character-examining, masterfully executed piece of Marvel goodness! This one is one of the best Marvel movies that they've put out in recent years, and I absolutely love it! While Iron Man 3 was the best Iron Man movie (in my opinion), this one just feels like the MCU at its finest as a whole. Everything here hinges on the fact that the people writing this chose to actually write within a genre of film instead of just churning out another superhero movie- not that there's anything wrong with that approach in my book either, but it was getting a little old. But Winter Soldier delivers a surprisingly thick plot and really makes you think about trust, power, and the consequences of trying to uphold the greater good. Being this thought-provoking and just all-around fun, Winter Soldier delivers on everything I felt the first Captain America film did not; those two movies are very different obviously, I'm just saying that, in terms of the same character's movies, this one is the obvious winner. While Guardians gave me a surprisingly good time, this one gave me a substantive, immersive, and wholly enjoyable movie experience. I love going into Marvel movies now because like, they even have a specific smell to them- I just- yeah!

2. Whiplash

Oh my god! What a rush! This thing-- okay, let me break this down for you, because this one was absolutely brilliant. I really want to put this movie and the next one as both number one and have like a tied thing, but being that I've got three other movies to do after these two that didn't even come out this year, I guess I should maintain some semblance of structure. Anyway HOLY GOD THIS MOVIE WAS INTENSE AS SHIT!!! JK Simmons delivers possibly his best performance of his career with this thing, and I've never had my heart racing so much in a non-action movie before now! The suspense, the drama, the acting (holy hell, the acting was just immaculate), and most especially the points that this movie was trying to make, just leave you breathless and in shock by this movie's end. This hits on an issue that I think needs to be talked about more in schools in general: the idea of pushing a student to be their best by unwittingly (or knowingly) bullying them, by putting them down so much that they'll have no choice but to rise up and be a better person. And that's only one side of the argument, and this movie illustrates that by saying is that really a good thing? Do we really have to break people in order to make them better, or can we improve on what we're given from the outset? Do teachers always have the students' bets interest at heart and are they pushing the student for the student's own benefit or just because the teacher wants a reputation? And while some of these answers may come across as an obvious yes or no, the film itself doesn't really give a black-and-white answer, and that's so great to me, because this issue is one to be discussed. I think this film does a great job of bringing to light an issue often eschewed by the general public (certainly by public education) and even besides that manages to tell a riveting story of endurance and hardship! Just spectacular!

1. Birdman

I almost want to put this one behind Whiplash after the write-up I just gave of that movie, but this one stuck with me for three reasons: first, you cannot fault the cinematography in this thing! If you're into like cinematography or photography or directing, if you get that high when watching a one-take go on for a good five minutes, then you'll be tripping after you watch this movie which is shot to be one entire take throughout with no cuts! There are places where it could potentially cut, but everything moves and blends together so smoothly that you hardly if ever notice it! Secondly, the acting in this really just blows the roof off of the theater! Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and all the rest give just brilliant performances and really make you feel like you're really watching the behind-the-scenes stuff rather than a real film-- in like a good way. Keaton especially just makes this movie's pulse really substantive and fast-paced despite how little action there is in it. This is an art film through and through, and it makes the absolute most it can with that genre; it doesn't waste anything. Finally, the ideas that this movie tackles are ones that I myself have thought about for some time. Ever since the MCU (and really even before that; I'd say starting with Batman Begins), there's been such an influx of superhero/action movies that the movie industry just seems so overstuffed with them. And this film touches on that in a great way! I love the speech that Keaton gives to the critic in the bar; it's everything I've wanted to say to critics who think they're better than everyone else because they don't like something general audiences love or whatever. Fantastic film! Check it out, because as the number one film of the year for me, I obviously recommend this one highly!

Honorable Mentions
Alright, now come the honorable mentions stuff, and let me just say as I did in the beginning I hadn't seen these movies until this year, so all of this is fresh off the top of my head (relatively speaking, of course). These films would have made my Top 10 lists of whichever year they came out had I seen them that year, so let's get started with everyone's favorite!

Yeah, I know, people love to hate to love to hate to love this movie, but come on! I've seen this three times and each time I will say it does get weaker, but it's not nearly as bad as the naysayers say it is. On the flip side of that, I do think that this film is overrated, but I do still absolutely love it. This is Disney at its prime, and I think that with this and Tangled, Disney has a great shot at reinvigorating themselves with life. I think the best thing that proves this movie's worth is that it came out a year after Pixar's Brave, and between the two, this one just flat out wins. Ever since Pixar's launch with Toy Story, Disney's fallen kind of by the wayside. But with Frozen, they managed to make a better movie than Pixar. That has never happened before, and I can't wait to see what Disney has in store, especially after the success of Big Hero 6, which I haven't seen, but if it's anything like this one, then yeah, count me in!

The Cabin in the Woods
I hate horror movies. So I'm really glad that this wasn't one of those! What we have here is Joss Whedon as I think he should be. He's created something relatively small, something relatively tame with Cabin in the Woods, yet he also puts his touch on this one probably more so than in any of his other works since Firefly. As a comedy, this wins, but as a deconstruction and satire of the horror genre and how damn stupid it is most of the time, this hits it out of the park for me. I loved the big white board with all the monsters on it! I almost wish we'd gotten to see some of those things terrorize the people in the cabin rather than the zombies, but it doesn't really matter because the ending for this was completely insane! The two surviving people go down into the Initiative-like facility and the whole operation just goes to shit and it's great! The acting is spot on given how most everyone in here is a Whedon regular, and of course the direction, the writing, and the messages and themes are excellent. If you're averse to watching horror movies, hey, I don't blame you; I am too. But trust me when I say this isn't a horror movie. It's a comedy with horror elements to it. There were only two jump scares that I jumped at, and even then they weren't that bad. Awesome movie! Do more stuff like this, Whedon! You're so great at it!

Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino movies are kind of like Wes Anderson movies in a way, though obviously for completely different reasons. I was kinda meh to the Kill Bill franchise; Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece (except for that one bit); and I haven't seen any other movies by him... so yeah, I'm kinda flying blind here. But I loved this movie! This is definitely a Tarantino movie in that it's bloody, I mean for fuck's sake dude, this thing has like about as much blood in it as Age of Extinction had explosions... this movie's amazing, though, so it's okay. What really made me love this movie was the performances! Jamie Foxx becomes such a chilling badass by the end, it really makes you uneasy! And Leonardo DiCaprio- oh my god! Most chilling, nail-biting, moment in this was when DiCaprio's character is hosting dinner and then finds out what's going on and just that whole middle act was amazing! This one will keep you up at night, especially if you're averse to the N-word being spoken out loud or if you're not comfortable with gallons of blood spilling everywhere. But this goes deeper than Tarantino's other works do for the most part, and coupled with that awesome Tarantino dialogue and out-of-the-park performances, this movie is one to watch! Just be prepared for some shivers at the end!

So that's it! That's a longer post than I thought it was going to be, but there it is. What were your top ten movies of the year? Did you actually reach ten, or did you need to fill in the blanks with some other movies you saw that weren't from this year? Do you just hate movies in general? Whatever your thoughts, leave a comment if you like! Here's to a great year of movies and high hopes for next year's run (please let Age of Ultron be good!)

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