2014 was a strange but exciting year for movies, in my opinion. This is the first year in recent memory where I enjoyed several summer blockbusters just as much as a lot of the culty low-budget kickstarter and VOD releases (that were outstanding as well). As always, this list represents the small fraction of films I actually saw this year, so I'm sure there are many flicks that came out this year that I haven't caught yet that would wind up on this list if I were to go back and reevaluate it in a few months. Nevertheless, it was a great year at the movies, so without further adieu, here are the 10 I enjoyed the most this past year:
10. Nurse 3D (d: Douglas Aarniokoski)
9. The Grand Budapest Hotel (d: Wes Anderson)
I'm sorry, I like Wes Anderson films. You know what, fuck it, I'm not sorry. The Grand Budapest Hotel to be charming and a lot of fun to watch.
Wes Anderson makes beautifully shot, well-written movies with terrific ensemble casts that are touching and exciting. I get that some people find his whimsical style a bit over-the-top and precious but at least he has a distinct style all his own and I found
8. Whiplash (d: Damien Chazelle)
7. Cheap Thrills (d: E.L. Katz)
Cheap Thrills is a cool movie. The story of a down-on-his-luck schlub (Pat Healy) who finds himself on an increasingly intense night out with an old friend (Ethan Embry) and a kooky wealthy couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) who continuously pit Healy and Embry against each other in a series of bizarre dares for cash is endlessly entertaining until the bitter end. Plus as stated on the show, the use of Agent Orange's classic punk anthem "Blood Stains" over the end credits is the perfect punctuation mark on this insane ride.
6. Cold in July (d: Jim Mickle)
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (d: Matt Reeves)
As a huge fan of the original Planet of the Apes series of films I have been very skeptical of this new
batch of Apes flicks. Considering most remakes and reboots basically suck and they already tried to reboot the series with Tim Burton to lackluster results, I had my reservations about this new series. I enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes alright, but I was quite pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the follow up Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. When the film first started I was immediately nervous by the presence of an all-CGI cast of apes that we were expected to connect with. "How are they going to make this work?" I thought. Well, to my surprise, not only did it work but the amount of emotion and personality conveyed through these cartoon monkeys was frankly outstanding. Plus, you've got apes on horseback firing machine guns, for Christ's sake. How much more can you ask for?
4. Blue Ruin (d: Jeremy Saulnier)
3. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (d: Alejandro González Iñárritu)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I went and saw Birdman this year. I had seen some of Alejandro González Iñárritu's previous films such as Amores Perros and Babel and was intrigued to see how he would tackle a spoof on comic-book action stars. So, while this movie was less of a spoof on comic characters and more an artsy look at a man (Michael Keaton in his best role in years) struggling to remain relevant , it still managed to be one of the best written and best shot movies of the year by far. In addition to Keaton absolutely killing it, we get tremendous performances by Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts as well as a great soundtrack of jazz drumming (much like Whiplash) and some of the most creative camera work of 2014.
2. The Raid 2 (d: Gareth Evans)
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (d: James Gunn)