Movies of 2014 (update 12/10)

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Movies released in 2014. Months released are according to Wikipedia. I may have seen the movies after their initial release dates due to limited releases or waiting to watch at home. TBD scores mean that I am 100% planning to watch the movie but just haven’t had a chance to yet.

Month

Movie Name (Director) [my score out of ten]

 

January

Yves Saint Laurent (Jalil Lespert) [6/10] – The acting was decent, but plot was not compelling at all. A talented and successful person continues to be talented and successful for a long time without many speed bumps along the way.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Kenneth Branagh) [3/10] – I can’t believe the guy who directed Hamlet (1996) made this movie. It’s horrible. Every decision made by every character is incomprehensible.

February

The Lego Movie (Phil Lord, Chris Miller) [8/10] – I went into this movie the first time thinking it was going to be a good time-waster. Instead, it was a very clever movie that insulted the idea of  corporate-backed silly pop culture while also being corporate-backed silly pop culture.

The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki) [8/10] – Unfortunately, I saw the strange English dubbed version in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt voices the main character, a Japanese airplane designer. It was still a visually stunning movie and made me care for a character whose primary job was building machines used to bomb people during WWII, which is not at all how I expected to respond when I first heard about the film.

March

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) [9/10] – This is definitely the funniest movie of the year. I admit I’m a bit biased towards Anderson movies, but I think anyone would find the humor in this one. There’s also a really cool framing technique used both in the narrative and with the cinematography that I personally enjoyed as a fan of frame stories.

Captain America: Winter Soldier (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo) [9/10] – Winter Soldier is a much better spy movie than the Jack Ryan film and a better superhero movie than The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It works on all levels and managed to both broaden and ground the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the same time.

The Snow White Murder Case (Yoshihiro Nakamura) [9/10] – This is a wonderfully crafted murder mystery movie that ignores detectives and instead focuses on the media, both social and traditional, as they manipulate the public’s view of a suspect. In a lot of ways, this movie is like Gone Girl (which I saw before this even though it came out earlier). Both films have unique ways of handling a typical mystery (missing wife or grizzly murder) and keep you guessing the entire time.

Divergent (Neil Burger) [4/10] – It’s not The Hunger Games.

Neighbors (Nicholas Stoller) [6/10] – It’s one of those Seth Rogen trying to toe the line between adulthood and adolescence movies. Great for a few laughs, but I am writing this in December, several months after seeing the movie, because it was so forgettable. The only reason I even remembered that I saw it is because I was looking at a list of the movies released in 2014 to see if there were any I still wanted to watch but didn’t have a chance to yet.

April

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Marc Webb) [7/10] – Personally, I found the sound editing of this movie to be the most interesting element. The dubstep-inspired fight scenes with Electro were especially exciting. The rest of the movie was pretty fun, too, but it just doesn’t hit the sweet spot that the first two Tobey McGuire films did for me.

Case Closed / Detective Conan: Dimensional Sniper (Kobun Shizuno) [7/10] – Detective Conan is the Japanese equivalent of Scooby Doo. There are a million episodes of the show, and a thousand movies based on it. This most recent one was fairly interesting because all of the suspects were military snipers, which made for some intense scenes in which people were shooting at each other from huge distances. Too bad Conan is somehow a better shot than with a soccer ball than some of these trained snipers are with scoped rifles.

May

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer) [10/10] – The X-Men movie series is probably my second favorite long-running series after Harry Potter. They both utilize the best actors possible for their roles to tell fantastical stories that have real meaning behind them. Days of Future Past takes one of the best stories from the X-Men comics and does it justice even though a large number of details were changed. It also effectively works without any confusion to the audience despite time travel and a gigantic ensemble cast.

The Normal Heart (Ryan Murphy) [8/10] – I watched this on a whim thinking it would be similar to last year’s Dallas Buyer’s Club. I was right. There’s not too much that would make me recommend it over DBC, but it’s worth watching in its own right.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois) [8/10] – The first movie in this series did not impress me, but everything about the second film kept me smiling the whole way through. It’s my pick as of now for the best animated movie of the year with fantastic visuals and action as well as a compelling story and likable characters.

Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman) [7/10] – Tom Cruise has been an A-list action movie star for more than 20 years for a reason. This sci-fi action take on Groundhog’s Day does everything just about right but doesn’t really stand out aside from its interesting premise.

The Double (Richard Ayoade) [10/10] – Ayoade’s take on Dostoyevsky was a complete surprise to me, since I know him primarily as that goofy guy from The IT Crowd. The visual style of the movie combined with Jesse Eisenberg’s brilliant acting as Simon Jame and James Simon worked together to form a confusing but brilliant film. It’s definitely in my top 5 of the year.

June

22 Jump Street (Phil Lord, Chris Miller) [7/10] – It’s like 21 Jump Street but newer. That exact joke is made in the movie. It’s fun; it’s funny; the actors are hilarious. But, it’s exactly what you expect, and the directors knew it. It may have the best epilogue/credits scenes of all time, though.

Earth to Echo (Dave Green) [8/10] – I did not expect to like this movie, but it is basically the ET of the Youtube generation, and I use “Youtube” specifically because the entire movie is shot as if it’s a Vlog by a pre-teen Youtuber. The movie has heart; the young actors are convincing; the not-quite-found-footage camerawork is great. My twelve-year-old brother who loves to spend his free time watching Youtube (in other words, the exact target demographic) said it was the best movie he has ever seen.

July

Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn) [9/10] – Marvel movies seem to be on a roll this year, whether it’s Marvel Studios, Sony, or Fox in charge. Gunn takes a less-than-popular comic series and turns it into a major blockbuster movie using a great lead actor and a very sharp script, just like Marvel Studios did previously with Captain America and Iron Man. I’m interested to see how the plot of this movie is going to fit in with the rest of the MCU.

Boyhood (Richard Linklater) [10/10] – This ambitious project made over the course of 11 years could have been a gimmicky mess. Instead, it is a movie about exactly what it claims to be about – boyhood. The movie documents the life of a fictional boy named Mason from the time he’s about 8 years old and in elementary school until he’s 18 and in college. The movie had to be made over an 11 year period because Mason was played by one actor, Ellar Coltrane, and they had to wait for him to grow through his boyhood years to shoot the scenes set during those specific periods.

August

Birdman (Alejandro Inarrito) [8/10] – Technically this movie came out in August, but I didn’t see it until late October. It was very hyped up by the people on various movie-based discussion forums I frequent as one of the greatest movies ever made. I found it to be technically impressive and very well-acted, but the plot meanders. I think this movie is aimed at people who appreciate film making and metacinema, which I do, but it probably doesn’t do much for anyone else.

September

The Maze Runner (Wes Ball) [6/10] – Another decent adaptation of a decent young adult novel makes its way onto the screen. I like the premise of this movie, and I found the book to be a bit better than some of the other popular series at the moment. However, the shortcuts taken in the adaptation make for a movie that probably doesn’t make much sense to non-readers. Some characters were strangely overlooked despite being important in the rest of the book series, and one incredibly important plot point is completely disregarded, which makes me wonder how they plan to proceed with the inevitable sequels.

October

Gone Girl (David Fincher) [10/10] – This is a perfect example of why I love movies. It has everything I want from a tense psychological thriller. The motivations of each of the characters are fresh and interesting. The development of the plot through the eyes of the two main characters running parallel to each other create a bunch of great moments of dramatic irony. The multiple twists and turns the story makes are all well-crafted. At the time of this writing (11/18), Gone Girl is my favorite movie of the year.

Dear White People (Justin Simien) [9/10] – I love movies about school life, school politics, students, and teachers. Dear White People is about a few different people at an Ivy League school that don’t really fit in – whether for their skin color, sexual orientation, place of origin, or parental heritage. The complex interrelationships of these characters with the underlying racial tensions clashing with traditional Ivy League values is handled with a deft hand by Simien. Unfortunately, many people are going to be turned off by the title, but I encourage anyone of any skin color to watch the movie.

November

Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) [9/10] – This is another stunning, epic film from Nolan. As a fan of some of his work but not all of it, I was surprised by one thing above all: Christopher Nolan can actually direct something with some feeling and emotion in it. I never thought I would care about a sarcastic robot that looks like a Kit-Kat bar, but I did. The movie is not perfect, and I understand why some people may not like it or may want to not like it because it’s hip to hate what’s popular, but I will probably watch this movie at least a couple more times. I recommend for the full experience to see it at a real Imax theater such as the one at Navy Pier in Chicago.

Big Hero 6 (Don Hall) [7/10] – What would you get if you crossed The Incredibles with anime? The answer is Big Hero 6, a story about a super genius 14-year old who has his ludicrously advanced technology stolen from him, so he uses more ludicrous technology to make his group of college aged friends as well as a medical robot into superheroes to find the guy who stole it and take it back but absolutely unbelievably does not give himself any special abilities beyond slightly magnetic pads to hold on tight to the robot. I like the movie. It’s fun and has a great visual style, but I wouldn’t choose it over How to Train Your Dragon 2 as my pick for action-packed movie for kids.

December

Movies I haven’t yet had a chance to see

Foxcatcher

Nightcrawler

Boxtrolls

The Imitation Game

Rosewater

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

The Gambler

Top Five

Under the Skin

Goodbye to Language

Winter Sleep

 

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