Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top Films of 2014- Jonesy's Picks

These top films lists really are arbitrary. You read these and either agree with some and yell at your computer screen with the addition or omission of this film or that film. Also, why didn't the author see this amazing film before compiling their list?! What blasphemy! 

But the great thing about the internet is the opinions that get said and the discussions that follow. Yes, it's an arbitrary list of what I think were the best movies I saw in 2014. I didn't see everything, and there were films I wish I had seen before making this list. But that's neither here nor there. 

So to the best of my movie-going ability, here are my favorites from this past year.


With this phase two of the Marvel world, we're starting to get darker films. Now that the Avengers have all been established, the filmmakers can take bigger chances with deeper themes and story lines, which makes the film that much more entertaining. The first Captain America film has been one of the pinnacle films in the Marvel Universe. And that's a lot of pressure for directors Anthony and Joe Russo. Thankfully, they made an even better film, which sets up many plot points for the future of the Marvel world.

Unfortunately for this film, the Tom Cruise stigma was attached, so people were not as excited to see this action sic-fi film. They missed out. I initially was in that group of people, but thanks to word of mouth, I saw the film, and it completely blew me away. Tom Cruise is very good at playing the action hero dude, and if you can let go of his weird personal beliefs, he's a great actor in that niche. Emily Blunt proved herself an even more versatile actor as she took on the female action lead.  This film was a welcome breath of fresh air in the science fiction genre.

The boys went to college! In my first Phil Lord and Chris Miller love fest, they did it again with this sequel. It's easy to make a hilarious comedy. Well, they make it look easy, but having a comedy sequel live up and possibly surpass the first is next to impossible. Though 22 didn't surpass original, it definitely almost matched the charm and hilarity. And what made this film work was the meta jokes and winks to the audience. Lord and Miller knew the challenge they undertook, and what better way than to play along and make meta jokes about sequels in the sequel they created. Genius.  

With so many Marvel films that seem to saturate the industry every year, I was weary of them introducing a brand new property to the movie world. However, director James Gunn brought a more lightheartedness that the Avengers films were starting to lose as they go deeper into their story. What worked so well with GUARDIANS was the camaraderie between the characters. We didn't need an individual movie about each character to understand their motivations and personalities. Yes, those individual films help with background that was glossed over a bit, but Gunn did a magnificent job establishing these characters and giving them weight, including everyone's favorite one-liner tree.

I knew directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were great at making fun films based on properties that shouldn't be made into movies (21 JUMP STREET and CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS), but I didn't think they would be able to do it a third time with THE LEGO MOVIE. But they proved everyone wrong, which seems to be a theme this year. This is the most rewatchable movie on my list, and it's nearly perfect (the last 15 minutes I can take or leave on any given day). Every time I watch this film, I find some other hidden gem that I never noticed before, usually because I was too busy laughing. The film is fun, smart, and made me want to buy Lego sets and play like a kid. 

I'm not normally one to put horror movies on my list because I find a lot of the mainstream horror films that are released to be cliche and predictable. Wow, that made me sound like an elitist. But it's true! Jump scares don't make a good horror film. THE BABADOOK is not your conventional horror film. It doesn't rely on a big reveal or gory effects to make the film. The atmosphere created by director Jennifer Kent (this is also her first film, which is unbelievable) is one that I've never experienced before in a horror movie. It's tense, eerie, and I had no idea where the plot was going. This is a must for someone looking for a more unconventional horror movie.

Of course my list couldn't be complete without a couple of documentaries. This first one follows the case against Proposition 8 in California. Two gay couples become the face of the movement to get prop 8 overturned. The film follows the ins and outs of the trial and appeals which lead all the way up to the Supreme Court. Even though it's basically a court documentary, the bureaucracy never bogs down the film, and it ends up being a very informative and interesting look at how much it takes to win a case.  

I have a soft spot for these films. I find the first film one of the best animated films of the past few years, which made me very nervous about the sequel. But director Dean DeBlois's scope for this world has been planned out for three films, so the sequel didn't feel forced or unnecessary. In fact, it's very dark and brave for a kid's film. DeBlois rightly assumes that the fans of the original have grown up like Hiccup and explored some darker themes which not many directors would have the guts to do. It's not as fantastical as the first film, but the evolution of this world and the characters makes me excited for the final chapter. 

The death of Roger Ebert a few years ago hit the movie world hard. Almost everyone I know who reads about films read Ebert on a daily/weekly basis and/or he was the door into the world of movie criticism. This documentary follows his life as a critic including his show with the late Gene Siskel, which was the reason I started to love film criticism when I was younger. It's a film that must be seen by anyone who was influenced by Ebert, but in the end, it's a poignant documentary about one of the most influential writers of our time. 

I have loved this film ever since I saw it at Fantastic Fest 2013. It's a quite revenge thriller where the main character is the most realistic character I've seen in a genre film like this. He's on a quest to make the killer of his parents pay, but he's no where near the Liam Neeson level he needs to be at. The performance by Macon Blair is one of the best of the year. Not many can be as understated as he was. This film is streaming on Netflix now. I highly suggest you check this out.

Other awesome movies you should seek out: THE GUEST, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, COHERENCE, NEIGHBORS, THE RAID 2


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