Thursday, January 1, 2015

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2014!

Happy 2015!  As I’ve tried to do every year since 2000ish, I reflect back on the movies that I went out to see in the theatre this year.  This year was a light year for me with only 16 total movies being seen (makes picking a Top 10 easier) and only a total of 22 visits to the movies (because I watched a few films more than once…or 5 times for one entry).

All of my Top 10 choices are worth watching.  I’ll keep my summary to a tight one sentence with a fast point or two for each movie and why they made the cut this year.

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2015!

A ragtag group of cosmic misfits bands together to battle the forces of evil – in space!  I loved this movie, the music, and how it made me feel.  Guardians came out at a tough point for me personally this year and going to see this movie (five times) took me back to a simpler time where movies could simply be fun bubble gum entertainment.  The fact that Marvel broke away from their superhero movie blueprint and took a risk on something different, and it paid off so well, awesome for Marvel Studios!  Keep them coming as I’m geeked for this July’s Ant-Man and May’s Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Captain America is working for S.H.I.E.L.D. against the sinister forces of HYDRA.  I love this movie!  Depending on the day it may even switch places with the #1 movie.  However, the deciding factor was that Guardians brought me back five times to see it do to the overall level of fun.  CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is a great movie but it is also very much a drama.  Much like Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT, this is the sort of superhero movie that transcends the drama and even people who do not enjoy superhero movies will find themselves being swept up in the sheet excitement of what is on display in this movie.  I loved CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, and I feel it’s underappreciated.  Thankfully audiences and fans embraced this movie because for a superhero movie this is one of the greatest ever made.

S.W.A.T. officer Rama survived the first movie but now has to go undercover for years in both a prison and then as a mob enforcer.  Any movie that has two villains named BASEBALL BAT MAN and HAMMER GIRL is going to be awesome!  That is a rule.  Now, the original RAID: REDEMPTION caught me off guard with its assault of pure martial arts mayhem.  I thought that there would be no possible way to recreate that adrenaline rush.  WRONG!  WRONG!  The RAID 2 delivers massive martial arts battles along with one of the best car chase-battle sequences I have ever seen and all of this encircles a solid mafia movie as well.  But then when Rama does get to the final battle and we find out there’s going to be more than one marquee fight…wow!  Action lovers are required to see this movie!  It’s a credit to my #1 and #2 movies on this list that they were able to surpass this movie because RAID 2 is a movie I love!

A giant prehistoric monster rises from the ocean...but is he friend of foe?  I love this movie for several reasons.  First, because it helps wipe away the horrific memories of the 1998 Tri-Star movie.  Second, this is the first movie in my life that I was able to watch in private with my wife at an actual movie theatre (as I was allowed to take notes for my upcoming book THERE GOES TOKYO 2: KAIJU BOOGALOO).  Finally, this movie’s hype swept me up and got me to see a movie on opening night at the IMAX, something I avoid – crowds, and it was a rewarding experience.  I know there are critics and haters of this movie, and you’re allowed your opinions.  I loved this film.

Bilbo Baggins helps his dwarf buddies deal with a massive dragon and then an even larger army of orcs all hell bent on swiping a mountain's worth of treasure.  This is a testament to the talent of Peter Jackson.  I was a huge fan of THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.  However, I did not particularly enjoy the first two Hobbit movies.  I felt they were needlessly long, overly impressed with their own visual effects, and lacking in any form of interesting characters beyond Bilbo and Gandalf.  Begrudgingly I went to the movies to see the finale to the Hobbit series.  I am glad I did.  This was a rewarding movie that had a great pace and some wonderful action sequences and finally some strong characterization.

#6 – BIG HERO 6

A lonely boy genius loses a brother but gains a robotic friend who helps him become a superhero.  It’s rare for a cartoony movie to win me over.  I was a huge fan of THE INCREDIBLES and the TOY STORY movies but the rest I watch more to appease my wife than because I’m excited to watch them.  Here’s the rare example of a “kid’s movie” that had a strong plot and good characters and took me on a journey that I knew nothing about.  Bay-Max was a likeable hero and the villain and third act battle genuinely deliver some surprises that I was not prepared for.  There’s an emotional heft to this movie that is also rewarding.  Plus, any movie with Stan Lee and a stinger-scene immediately qualifies as one of the best films of the year.


The planet Earth is a barren frozen wasteland, and the sole survivors of mankind live a class system onboard a gigantic train that never stops moving.  Is it as good as all the summer time Internet hype?  Nope.  Is it a good science fiction movie with an original premise and a nice social commentary/satire.  Absolutely.  I love when movies take me on a journey where I have no clue of the destination or the reveals along the way.  Snowpiercer succeeded on every level.

Wolverine must travel from a dystopian future back into the past to correct an ill advised assassination on a world leader, good time ensue.  I am not much of a Brian Singer fan.  I think he’s overrated and don’t think he has much of an eye for how to deliver a solid action sequence.  None of his earlier X-Men movies really hit me in the right manner.  Then, when Matthew Vaughn took over the franchise with X-MEN: FIRST CLASS I was fully onboard and loving every aspect from the casting of characters to the action (yes action!).  Then Singer came back.  Ug!  But, surprise, I did enjoy this movie…just not as much as First Class.  It’s a solid time travel movie with original ideas and makes great use of the talented cast.  The action though is a bit flat and thus shows that Singer needs to hand over action filming to a back-up director because it is clearly not his strong point.

A former astronaut learns of a NASA plan to search for habitable life in another galaxy and decides the fate of humankind is worth more than spending time with his daughter.  Christopher Nolan wanted to make his version of 2001 and he did manage to make a thought provoking and visually entertaining movie.  I’m not sure if it will have the shelf life of Kubrick’s masterpiece, but much like my #7 movie this movie was over and days later I was still reflecting on it and it is a movie that definitely needs a repeat viewing.
I’m still not certain if I understand the final third of this movie, but it’s kept me thinking.

#10 – TUSK

A funny podcaster goes looking for a goofy story and meets a not-so-goofy man who is looking to turn a human into a walrus, hilarity does not ensue.  Good for you Kevin Smith.  I’m a fan, but a critical one, and you’ve made mistakes along the way but this movie is not one of them.  The goal was to make a 1970s-era horror movie and TUSK is 100% that.  The movie has a small audience appeal but it’s a great horror movie and one that wisely avoids the happy ending (as the best offerings of the 70s always did).  #WALRUSYES   #WALRUSFOREVER

Who didn’t make the Top 10 cut…?

THE LEGO MOVIE – Overall not my type of movie.  My life loved it, and it was enjoyable, especially since they incorporated a nice father-son bonding plotline.

MALEFICENT – I’m not an Angelina Jolie fan but the movie was decent and she delivered a good performance.  I like the twist ending as well.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – I’m not the hugest Planet of the Apes fan but I’ve seen all the movies.  This one was good, not great, and it didn’t stay with me, or surprise me, to the level that RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES did.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR – This movie was released ten years too late.  It was good and Eva Green as the femme fatale is dynamite.  Still, very awkward for me to be sitting in a movie theatre all alone on opening day.  If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one and I am a fan of a sequel that feels like a perfect follow-up to the original.

BIRDMAN – A good movie with some neat editing and camera work, but frankly I’m amazed this has gotten all the critical acclaim that this movie has earned.  I must have missed something because I did not feel it was as genre-bending as most people rave.

ROBOCOP – The original Robocop movie is one of my all time favorite movies.  This one had no chance from the PG-13 rating to the wasted screen time of Samuel Jackson, to the muted action and storyline.  It was better than it had any right to be, but Hollywood needs to focus on making original ideas and not remaking films that got things perfect on their first outing.  Honestly, this is the closest movie in 2014 that I did not like, but that’s probably too harsh.  This movie was just dull and generic.

Hopefully 2016 as some solid offerings that draw me back to the movies more.  I’m also looking to continue finding retro showings which are always my favorites and sadly I missed the chance to see any of these in 2015.

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