For me the most disappointing big budget movie of that year was Interstellar. With Christopher (and Jonathan) Nolan at the helm it seemed like a sure thing, but it went on far too long, and they couldn't quite tie all the plot threads together into a satisfying conclusion. I loved the bits set on other worlds, but on the whole I'd have to say this movie was a failure.
Of the award winners that year I'd have to pick The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash. Michael Keaton was great in Birdman, but the movie as a whole was overrated. Ditto for Boyhood and The Theory of Everything.
My favorite movie of 2014? I think it's a tie between a lesser known movie called Predestination and the more familiar Foxcatcher. Predestination is a science fiction film starring Ethan Hawke, and Foxcatcher features Steve Carell as a really, really creepy rich guy with dreams of becoming a wrestling coach.
Some Good Ones
A woman goes in search of herself along the Pacific Coast Trail. Is this Reese Witherspoon's best movie? I think so. It's is also one of director Jean-Marc Vallee's best films, sitting right up there with Dallas Buyer's Club and the more recent Demolition.
John Favreau stars as a chef at a transitional point in his career. It's a very heartfelt movie. After directing the first two Iron Man films and the less well received Cowboys and Aliens, Chef was Favreau's attempt to go "back to basics." In this respect it was an admirable success.
3. Welcome to Me
What a weird and excellent movie. Kristen Wiig stars as a mentally disturbed woman who uses lottery winnings to fund her own talk show. Wiig put her heart and soul into this film in the same way that Adam Sandler put his heart and soul into Punch Drunk Love. A great dramatic turn from someone you'd expect to be funny.
4. This is Where I Leave You
Jason Bateman leads an ensemble cast in this movie about a family taking part in a Jewish funeral rite. The performances are good, and it's definitely watchable, but the script is a mess and certain plot developments feel very forced.
Russia. Is it all the government corruption, or all the damn vodka they drink? Whichever it is, Leviathan is a weighty film about two men embroiled in a property dispute. It's not popcorn fare, but if you're looking for a movie to think over this one's for you.
6. Love and Mercy
A movie about Brian Wilson? Starring Paul Dano? How did I not know about this? I guess it just slipped by me. These things happen...
It's a good (not great) movie about one of the best songwriters ever. Its main flaw, in my opinion, is the fact that Paul Dano (young Brian Wilson) and John Cusack (old Brian Wilson) look absolutely nothing alike. Aside from this the supporting cast is great - especially Paul Giamatti - and the director makes some interesting stylistic choices.
Fun Fact: This movie has a history stretching all the way back to 1988, when William Hurt and Richard Dreyfuss were set to star.
7. The Raid 2
An Indonesian cop goes undercover to bring down a notorious gangster. The fight scenes are awesome, but between those fight scenes is a whole lot of talking. A half hour could have easily been edited out of this movie and it would have been WAY better.
Fun Fact #1: Iko Uwais, the star of this movie, appeared briefly in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Fun Fact #2: The martial arts style featured in this film is silat. There are hundreds of different styles, spread between the Indonesian and Malaysian archipelagos.
8. The Good Lie
Excellent movie about Sudanese refugees trying to make new lives in America. It's the kind of movie xenophobic Trump supporters should be forced to watch. Does the U.S. have enough room for these kinds of people? Can we feed them? Can we support them? Can they contribute to our society? I think the the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes, and making room for them doesn't just enrich their lives, but our own as well.
9. Ride Along
Laurence Fishburne and John Leguizamo were wasted on this comedy version of Training Day, but Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are funny together. Not hysterically funny, mind you, but funny in the way that all decent comedies are funny.
10. The Drop
Tom Hardy puts it on a slow boil in this story of small-time criminals. There's a scene in which Noomi Rapace's accent slips a bit, but other than this small glitch the movie's excellent.
Martin Luther King Jr. leads the crusade for black voting rights in the South. There are moments in it that are so perfectly timed, and the performances are as convincing as they come. If DuVernay ever actually does direct that New Gods film for the DCEU, I'm sure it will be impressive.
I only wish more of the descendants of those who marched on Birmingham would get out and VOTE more often. By doing so we'd be taking the first step on that long, difficult road to taking our country back. Sorry to get all political, but there it is.
12. Still Alice
A woman discovers she has Early-Onset Alzheimer's. It's very moving, and I'm sure it's one of Julianne Moore's best performances, but JESUS CHRIST it's depressing. My grandfather went out with Alzheimer's, and this movie brought back some painful memories.
One Which Isn't Very Good, But Which You'll Probably Watch Anyway Because the Concept's Somewhat Novel
Several high school students get cyberbullied from beyond the grave. The entire movie's set on someone's laptop, with the various screens flitting between Skype, YouTube, Google, and Facebook. I admire it from a planning/programming standpoint, but it's still fairly tedious and never manages to build up any real tension.
Some Bad Ones
1. A Most Violent Year
One of the most bafflingly titled movies ever. This movie has only the barest hint of violence, and seems to take place over the course of a single New York winter. In tone it reminded me of The French Connection, yet where The French Connection dealt with drug smuggling this one deals with... the heating oil industry. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain give it their all, but this movie's still boring.
Jessabelle?!? Don't I mean Annabelle? No, but Annabelle did come out the same year.
In Jessabelle a young woman goes to live with her crazy f%$k of a dad after a car accident. It gets weirder from there. The first half is decent, but it gets pretty silly toward the end.
3. Mary Kom
Priyanka Chopra stars as a female boxer. As beautiful as she is, this isn't another Bollywood romance and Chopra is a very unconvincing boxer. The director really should have watched a few Hollywood boxing films before filming started. Not just movies like Rocky, but also lesser known films like Girlfight or even The Fighter. The ending comes closer to the ideal represented by those (much better) movies, but the first 1 and 1/2 hours of this 2 hour movie are really dull.
Critics in India heavily praised it, yet praise from other sources is few and far between. I think this is due to the patriotic nature of the film, and the fact that it was heavily promoted in other countries. Members of the Indian media are often quite sensitive about how their country is portrayed outside of India, and the glowing reviews were probably more wishful thinking than a reflection of this movie's overall quality.
4. The Pyramid
Sigh. Found footage thing in which several stupid people get stuck in a pyramid with a monster. The dialogue is bad, and the acting is even worse. Had they cut a half hour off this thing it would have qualified for "so bad it's good" status, but they spend way too much time walking/running around the inside of the pyramid.
Gladiator meets disaster movie. It's a shame because the ash-covered remains of the victims is such a stirring image. Unfortunately everything leading up to that is completely derivative nonsense.
Fun Fact: Director Paul W.S. Anderson has directed better movies. Event Horizon, Soldier, and Pandorum are all listed in his filmography. He's married to his Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich, with whom he has two children.
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