Top 14 Films of 2014


Honorable Mentions

Guardians of the Galaxy


The film with the best chance of breaking into the top fourteen, as it had the best blend of action, science fiction, humor and heart. Chris Pratt is leading man material, and Zoe Saldana still gets me going. Unfortunately it had another Marvel, “attain super powerful trinket” plot, accompanied with another cardboard cut out villain, keeping it away from eating with the big dogs.

Blue Ruin

Still from Blue Ruin

A revenge thriller that looks like a Terrence Mallick flick. Macon Blair is a budding star, sure to be in a big budget film within the next two years. Many film snobs will look at me in disgust for not putting it higher, but one too many slow parts, a lackluster ending, and overall lack of staying power doomed it. Let’s be honest, when Buzz from Home Alone is the best part of your film, you deserve this spot. This coming from a hue Home Alone fan.



If there weren’t so many great science fiction films this year Snowpiercer would have made the list. Original, bleak, possibly realistic, this was the surprise of 2014. I had no idea where the ending would lead to and it didn’t disappoint. The film surprisingly isn’t all that re-watchable, though. I saw it once and was satisfied.

The Lego Movie


Surprised I didn’t put an animated film into the Top 14? Yeah, me too. If I’m being honest, this film probably should be there. The animation was fantastic, the cast shines from parts big to small, and it may be the best comedy of the year, albeit in a weak year for comedy. I will say this. I’ve re-watched this movie a bunch of times and liked it less with each viewing. I don’t know what that means, but maybe it’s something and maybe it isn’t.


The Theory of Everything


Honestly, this film has bounced all around my list. From my top ten, to top three, to honorable mention, back to top ten, finally finding a spot on the fence. Two things stick out. Eddie Redmayne’s performance cannot be ignored. Simply enough, he brought Stephen Hawking to the screen. He brought Lou Garret Disease to the screen. Most likely to win an Oscar, and while I may have preferred Gyllenhaal, I certainly can’t argue against him. Second, I applaud the film for not shying away from the struggles of Stephen and Jane’s relationship. There’s no bad guy in the situation. Sometimes the tragedies of life are too much for “love” to withstand. Yeah, ‘Til death do we part’ sounds great when you’re in your twenties and completely healthy. But what happens when you need to change the shit from your husbands diapers. I was worried the film would focus too much on the Hawking’s relationship, while not giving enough time to other life details. And you know what? It was all about the two of them and it was amazing. Feel good story without the cheese, something that’s not easy to pull off.


The Skeleton Twins


Any film dealing with depression deserves attention, especially ones done so well. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig will be most likely ignored come awards season, but I’m not going to short change them here. Together they carry this bleak “comedy”, bringing to life the mundane life most of us live. Held back by a disappointingly cliche’ ending, otherwise the film would have cracked my top ten. Not to be overlooked, it also includes the best lip sync in film history.




Every Christopher Nolan film is more picked apart and criticized than both Obama terms. It’s getting to a comical breaking point. Do I think Interstellar is perfect? Absolutely not. Matt Damon’s fight scene was laughable, Nolan still can’t write realistic dialog, and I’m still wondering how Wes Bentley was unable to get on the ship before getting tidal waved. Those three things withstanding, Nolan put together a cinematic experience. I still have nightmares from that wormhole scene. This was the best use of time distillation I’ve seen in a film, ever. And McConaughey, while not at his best, still made me tear up with his acting super powers. You know it was getting stuffy they showed his close up cry. Interstellar has it’s fault, no doubt, but I’ll be damned if there are fourteen better films from 2014. And don’t you DARE say Gravity was better or I’ll have no choice but to fight you.




Films based on true stories always seem to draw me to the theater. Foxcatcher happens to be especially dark, telling the tragic story of the Schultz brothers teaming with multimillionaire John du Pont. It’s sports related, yet anything but a sports movie. It’s how the strong prey on the weak, personal greed, jealousy, brotherly bonds, and gives a firsthand look into the mind of a “crazy” person. Admittedly it gets slow at points. Once you’re three quarters of the way through you just want to see the end, especially if you know the true story. At the end of the film I couldn’t help but walk out of the theater like a zombie. Amazing work all around by Steve Carell and Channing Tatum. Never thought I’d hear myself say that. Personally I thought Rufallo was the stand out but he seems to be overshadowed by the two leads. If you love films based on true stories, this is the one to see this year.


The Signal


The pool of quality independent films this year was eye opening. Even more ridiculous is how little The Signal looks and feels like an independent film. The special effects seemed a higher quality than most of the Marvel films that came out in the past three years. Another original science fiction film, The Signal scared the living shit out of me. It’s an “escape from a medical prison” type of film that leaves you shaking from the action and clutching your pillow to withstand the bleakness. When the film ended it just killed me. A sense of hopelessness overcame me. I certainly don’t enjoy feeling that way, but when a film can do it that powerfully I take notice. Strong acting, Lawrence Fishburne didn’t suck ass for once, and the most promising director since Duncan Jones.


Gone Girl


As a book reader, I was thrilled when it was announced Gone Girl would be made into a film. And I heard Fincher would be at the helm? Oh, baby. My expectations were sky high from the get go. David Fincher and crew nailed it. Rosamund Pike scared the living shit out of me. I knew how crazy her character was from the book, but seeing it sometimes can take it to another level. Just look at her scene with NPH. Yeah, you know what scene I’m talking about. Ben Affleck was actually well cast. Certainly a role in his ball park, as he’s a man who has taken some criticism from the media throughout his life. Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris didn’t ruin the film. As a whole it’s an amazing trip into relationships and marriage. Exaggerated, sure, but the message stays true. How well can you know someone? Especially scary when that someone is the person you choose to spend the rest of your life with. I also have to acknowledge the greatness of Trent Reznor. I’d be okay with him only doing movie scores.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


If this film doesn’t win major awards for its special effects then I’m not sure I can take award season seriously anymore. Andy Serkis continues to show his worth. He’s been involved in so many successful franchises, I’m excited to see him make the Star Wars universe better. The first Apes film to have something to say since possibly the original. And anytime you subtract James Franco from a drama there’s a good chance your movie is better for it. Sometimes I wonder if I enjoyed it so much because my expectations were so very low. Still, other than Edge of Tomorrow, I’d rank this as the best blockbuster film of the year. Who would have seen that coming?


Edge of Tomorrow


Speak of the devil. The best Science Fiction film of 2014, even more impressive when the year was full of so much quality in the genre. Naturally people ignored it because there’s an (in my opinion) unwarranted hatred for Tom Cruise, for starters. The man can act. He might be crazy religious, but so is Matthew McConaughey, and it’s a double standard to call Cruise out but not the other. And honestly, you hear McConaughey talk about his religion much more than Cruise —every awards speech is praising god— yet he continues to get the free pass. All that said, still love the McConaughssaince. Another hurdle was the awful marketing. That whole department should be fired. The film would have been better off using the name from its original source, “All You Need is Kill”. And lastly, we are to blame, for not supporting original science fiction (or any genre’s) ideas. Instead we flock to tired remakes and twenty year old sequels. I’ll stick with seeing Cruise, Emily Blunt at her hotness peak, and an epic video game-esque plot any day.


Begin Again

Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo in "Begin Again"

It was incredibly difficult not to put this at number one. That’s how much I enjoy this film. Not on the level of his 2006 hit, “Once”, John Carney delivers another smash hit in the genre. He’s made my two favorite musical films of all time. The cast has been upgraded a bit from his first hit, Keira Knightley and Mark Rufallo leading. Knightley is striking throughout the film, while being a surprisingly talented singer. Break ups can be life shattering. We all know that. But contrary to thousands of romantic comedies, the answer isn’t always rebounding with a Mr./Mrs. Right. Why not get lost in a career or a passion? Life is about relationships, but not romantic or family. As someone who has met random people and cherished those encounters more than family and past lovers, this film spoke to me. Songs showcasing changes in character dynamics, turning the cliche’ on its head, and arguably the most original music in film this year. It’s feel good stuff, no doubt, but I haven’t re-watched a film more than Begin Again. That has to count for something, if not everything.


The Babadook


Transcendent is probably too often used to describe films, but The Babadook deserves the title. Horror is at its best when it’s grounded in reality, something The Babadook does masterfully. I’m still questioning whether there was a paranormal monster, or if life can truly bring us down to the darkest of places. The actors playing the mother and son were outstanding. Compliments to the director because it must not have been easy filming some of those scenes with the young boy, despite him knowing it’s all make believe. Unsettling, thought provoking, one of the handful MUST SEE films of 2014. Ba-ba-ba Dook-dook-dooooook.




Jake Gyllenhaal is sensationally creepy in this film. You should hate him, but there’s just something likable about the guy. It makes me feel dirty for enjoying his character so much. A nice satire about the local news. It seems all we see on TV is blood, car crashes, murders, all the good stuff. Nightcrawler is the story of someone who understands how success works, and much like life, it’s not always pretty. Lou Bloom is the Travis Bickle of my generation.




“Not my tempo.” Unquestionably the 2014 film that had you at the edge of your seat for the majority of the viewing. Miles Teller and, oh my god, J.K. Simmons are unstoppable in this film. Simmons has to be a lock for Best Supporting Actor. If you’ve ever had a mentor, father figure, someone you looked up to —in any field of life— you’ll have nightmares from his performance. Teller, an aspiring drummer, attends the best music school in New York. Aspiration to be great demands perfection, and you can’t get there on your own. Simmons understands this, leading to verbal and physical abuse of his students. I’m not sure what is more disturbing, the mental and physical toll he puts on his students, or the fact that at the end of the film, I’m on his side.




Aging is something I’m always cognizant of, for better or worse. It’s fascinating, exciting, and at certain times, woefully depressing. Yes, the film is about a child’s “boyhood”. And Ellar Coltrane is as impressive a young actor that I’ve ever seen. But I was drawn to the parents. Patricia Arquette deserves an award for this film, for the last scene she’s in. It’s heartbreaking, and scary to think all of us will have the revelation in our lives. If we’re lucky, that is. Richard Linklater has successfully dropped you into a stranger’s life, allowing you to bear witness to what many of us lived, and will live. There’s nostalgia induced, but I’ll argue that a good thing. This was a film, a social experiment, a home video, and most impressively, a time machine.


The Raid 2


No movie, ever, has given me an adrenaline rush like The Raid. That is of course, until I watched the sequel released this year. At one hundred and fifty minutes, The Raid: Berandal is simply not long enough. I want five straight hours of Rama kicking ass. Would I survive? Doubtful. This is the only film from this year that I HAD to watch immediately after the first viewing. The fight scenes are unparalleled in film today. Gareth Evans, along with the actors, created some of the most memorable villains of all time. A hammer will never look the same.

* Inherent Vice for some reason still hasn’t been released for me. That probably would have made my list, but, alas.

The Walking Dead Mid-season Report


The Walking Dead has made noticeable strides towards becoming a competent television drama. Carol has been turned into one of the shows most beloved characters, behind only Daryl and Rick (and arguably Glenn). It learned how to end conflicts fairly quickly. The group’s Terminus situation was wrapped up in three or four episodes. We also haven’t apparently seen the end of Morgan! Let’s hope he sticks around for a while.

Unfortunately, the finale took a minor step backwards. Instead of letting the story dictate what happens, the show runners decided to end the mid season finale with a bang. Literally, and figuratively. There was no reason Beth should have been killed in that situation. The deal was done. She was home free, mere minutes away from seeing her only living family member. Instead she decided to make an attempt on her “mentor”’s life. Dumb, dumb, so dumb. If I have anything positive to say about the scene, it’s how well acted it was by Rick and Daryl. That moment swiftly came to an end when you see Maggie start wildly screaming.

Lauren Cohan, while immensely attractive, is not a great actress. On top of that, I have no attachment towards her character. She didn’t bring up Beth once this whole season (or much of last season if I recall). Who really tunes in for the Glenn/Maggie relationship? Maybe it’s more authentic in the comics, but the show hasn’t done well by them. Whenever either of them are in danger I end up hoping for one, if not both, of their demises. Beth and Daryl had more chemistry towards the end, which is why Daryl’s reaction stung.

I’m sure most people are fine with the group going from spot to spot, foe to foe. But eventually you need to map out an end game. There has to be some background as to what the virus is. Otherwise why keep watching? To see what underdeveloped minor, POSSIBLY major, character will die during the season. The arc with D.C. was a good start, even if it Eugene’s confession came as a shock to no one.

The Walking Dead is a fine show. I respect the viewership numbers it brings in. I’m for any show that will gravitate the medium away from cop procedurals. Every Sunday I’ll watch, just don’t ask me to care.

The Flash 3-5


The Flash has, quickly, become one of my favorite shows on television. Grant Gustin has blown me away as Barry Allen. I’m not saying he’s the next Daniel Day Lewis, but he is a perfect fit for the character. As opposed to say, Stephen Amell, who doesn’t really encapture the Oliver Queen from the comics. I love Arrow, but if I don’t see at least a goatee before season five, I’ll commit seppuku.

The episode with Felicity was perfect. We meet Captain Cold, one of my favorite DC villains, played by an actor from a show that I enjoyed reasonably well. The episode before had the guy who could turn into gas and kill people. It was relatively entertaining but had one of the weaker post credit Dr. Wells scenes. “Plastique” featured General Elling played by the great Clancy Brown. Hopefully he has a nice arc, his back and forth between Dr. Wells was a thing of beauty. They have great chemistry, and honestly, Dr. Wells can do no wrong at this point. Tom Cavanagh does such a great job with this role. The way he balances the mentor and creepy secret antagonist is a thing of beauty.

My heart stopped during the latest post credit scene. Obviously Dr. Wells was involved. But we also had our first glimpse of the one and only Grodd, albeit before he became intellectually a genius. I’m incredibly excited to see how they handle that character. No need to rush him, and the special effects have been out of this world so far. I have all the faith in the world of the show runners, they’ve certainly earned my trust.

I look forward to this show more and more every week. Hence why two weeks ago I threw my first temper tantrum in fifteen years when they dropped the bomb that there would be no new episode. That was a bigger disaster than the particle accelerator’s explosion.

Arrow 3-5


A Thea focused episode, revenge for Sara in the next, and a special origin story for our favorite hacker. That right there is a triple threat. A triple threat focused on some hot babes. It’s a shame that as good as this show is, I’ve sunk to a new low in focusing on the women. What can I say, I’m a single guy in his mid twenties.

Malcolm and Thea have bonded quick during their training filled vacation. Is anyone else curious as to why Malcolm would leave that place? He has a daughter, blah blah blah. It’s 2014. They can Skype if need be. He had a mansion on Corto Maltese for crying out loud. The man had paradise and threw it in our faces.

Laurel is inching closer and closer to becoming the new Canary. Taking boxing lessons, getting tough with her coworkers, taking a punch from a street thug. I feel like Dewey Cox’s father, but the wrong kid died. We should have Sara in our lives right now, not this wanna-be.

It seems like Ollie has been pushed to the background so far this season. Thea is becoming a bad ass, the League of Assassins (and Ras) are becoming more prominent, Diggle is a new father, Felicity is hanging out with ex-Superman, while at the same time being his worst employee, and Roy is about to get a seemingly important arc. Yet Ollie is there as he’s always been. Brooding, serious, still the Wild Bill Hickok of archery.

While I think The Flash has been the stronger show thus far, Arrow is still one of the best dramas currently on TV.

The Walking Dead 2-4


It’s been three episodes since I’ve last talked about the show. In that time Terminus became terminated, my favorite character, Bob, lost his life (after losing his leg), and Beth has taken up a career in the nursing industry.

I’m not nearly as invested in this show compared to the rest of the world. The fan base is massive, as evidence from its NFL Sunday Night Football beating numbers. But at this point I’m watching due to lack of content.  I’m only watching a handful of television dramas right now.

  • The Walking Dead
  • Arrow
  • The Flash

That’s it right there. Breaking Bad ended a while ago. Boardwalk Empire much more recently. The Netflix originals have already been devoured. Justified, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men don’t return until 2015. Sons of Anarchy hasn’t been watchable since Season 3. FX decided to axe The Bridge. And there are a bunch of shows I’ve yet to start (Hannibal, Masters of Sex, The Americans, etc.).

A few years ago, The Walking Dead may have been on sixth or seventh on my “TV Priority List”. Right now it’s probably third behind the CW’s superhero dramas. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the show, I totally do. It’s dessert for me. Not essential, don’t have to watch every Sunday. Boardwalk Empire on the other hand, had to be watched immediately. I don’t want people telling me how Chalky died. I need to experience that in the moment. But if someone lets slip that Daryl had a bite taken out of his neck? No worries. Unlike him, I’ll live.

Beth’s episode captured what the show can be. I’m always for the episodes centered around a specific character. The Governor’s weren’t entirely all that special, but it was better than any treatment he received the year prior. It also helps that I find Beth incredibly attractive. Hands off, Daryl!

Keep on doing your thing Dub Dee. Head shot zombies, let Rick growl, and keep trying to make me care about Glen and Maggie (do people really?). I’ll take it all in with genuine enjoyment, along with a good supply of eye rolls.

Critters – “The Ballad of Billy Zane”


 There were a few things I went into this movie unaware of. One, that it would genuinely scare me. Two, the possibility of gaining a new workout song for the rare gym trip. And best of all, I had no idea Critters would treat me to prime, 80’s Billy Zane. Say one thing about this movie, say it has Billy Zane sporting the “wrap your sweatshirt around the waist” look.

If you want to know my feelings on horror films be sure to read the first few paragraphs from my The Sacrament review (not so subtle plug!). Casper is my favorite “horror” film of all time. I’ve sent the people at TBS letters advocating Casper should be played twenty four hours straight on Halloween. One day, perhaps.

So the idea of tiny furry aliens invading a quiet farm town seemed harmless, and it probably is to anyone over the age of six, but I had to turn the light on half way through the movie. The “crites” steal a spaceship, forcing what I can only describe as a half human/half Jabba the Hutt creature, to hire bounty hunters. These two were the real deal. They had bodacious space guns, the ability to transform into a rock star, and would kill in my weekly bowling league.

As I understand it, this movie was a response to the popularity of Gremlins. The latter is definitely a better movie, but Critters I found to be much creepier. Just looking at the theatrical poster gives me the willies. The crites are balls of fur with a smile full of razors. It’s what I imagine the design would be if they were to ever make a Cheshire Cat horror flick. They attack like the spiders in Arachnophobia. Seemingly shot out of cannons, these little guys can end your existence in the blink of an eye. Zane took a flesh eating Furby to the stomach! It’s horrifying. At least Gremlins had the decency to give us Gizmo. There was a good mix of both comic relief and cuteness relief.

The acting was surprisingly good for what the movie was. When I watch actors in scary films all I’m really looking for is if they look frightened. That’s it. Especially with all the CGI we use today I understand it might be difficult to get worked up over a green screen. Just put in the effort. Don’t pull a Tara Reid like in Sharknado 2: The Second One. I mean come on Tara, it’s a sharknado for goodness sake.

You could do worse when staying in on a Saturday night. This coming fall I suggest giving Critters a try. You’ll scream, you’ll sigh. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (E.T. fans will). The plot moves fast. They know we want the fur and they give them to us quick. Okay, not really. But the twenty minutes it takes for them arrive goes fast. There’s that 80’s vibe that stays with every movie from the decade. It’s like driving down to the shore, smelling that sea salt air. Not only is the ending satisfying, but it sets up for a sequel. Oh, just one sequel you ask? One sequel may be enough for that hack movie Gremlins. Critters consists of three sequels, four movies in all. Double its supposed better half! That counts for something, right?

Arrow – “Sara”


The majority of this episode was spent searching for Sara’s killer. With some help from Diggle and Felicity, the gang narrows it down to Simon Lacroix, or more commonly known as, Komodo. One of the more bad ass comic villains, my expectations for the episode sharply rose.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much time allotted to the archer. Disappointing, but ultimately we’ll be seeing more of him in the future. He happened to not be responsible for Sara’s death, leading to a dead end for Ollie. It felt like this whole episode was a platform for the actors to show off their acting abilities. In my opinion, that didn’t turn out to be a good thing. I didn’t buy how upset Felicity was. She knew Sara for what, half a season? Diggles is my main man, but aside from dropping that, “Don’t die down here” line to Oliver, his acting can be hard to watch. Stephen Amell has come a long way from the first season, there’s no denying that. But it’s not like we’re watching the next Brando out there.

Poor acting rant aside, this episode had a fantastic ending. We had our first glance at Thea, who is training in some awesome house with Malcolm Merlyn. She now has Arya Stark hair, which to me raises her hotness to a level I didn’t think possible. It’ll definitely make the loss of Sara easier.

The flashbacks again left me wary. I’m not sure what the point was of Tommy showing up. There are over twenty episodes in a season, filler episodes are going to happen. It is a testament to how good the show is when a filler episode consists of an awesome “Catch and Shoot” arrow move by Ollie. Regardless, I am excited for the Thea centric episode next week.