Tag Archives: best movies of 2014

The 10 Best Movies of 2014

At last, my 10 best movies of 2014. Some controversial choices in here, and as usual, it’s probably not what my list would be like today, though I’ve stuck with the ratings I gave at the time of initial review (which can be accessed by clicking on the film title).

10. X-Men: Days of Future Past

The iconic Quicksilver scene
The iconic Quicksilver scene

With several movies on the same rating, I had to make a decision as to which film I wanted to squeeze into the 10th spot. After some self-deliberations, I decided I had to put a comic book adaptation in there. X-Men: Days of Future Past was my second-most anticipated film of the year and it lived up to expectations by effortlessly fusing the older and younger X-Men franchises through a complex but well-told time-travel concept that also cleverly inserted some historical events into the narrative. Terrific cast, superb special effects and a whole lot of action-packed fun, it paves the way perfectly for next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.

9. Wild

WILD - 2014 FILM STILL - Reese Witherspoon as "Cheryl Strayed" - Photo Credit: Anne Marie/Fox    © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox
Reese Witherspoon sure looks terrible without makeup

On its face, this is basically a female version of Into the Wild, one my all-time faves, though there are enough differences across the board — whether it’s characters, plot or themes — for Wild to be a wildly satisfying emotional journey. It’s a great film for people who are past the innocence of their youth and are struggling to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Powered by fantastic performances from Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, this is a special experience I found both moving and uplifting.

8. Gone Girl

GONE1
Ben Affleck was perfect as the douchey husband

I didn’t expect Gone Girl to be so high on the list, only because I had already read the book when I saw it and many of the surprises had already been spoiled. But it’s hard to deny that David Fincher did a masterful job in adapting a difficult, multi-layered book with complex and difficult characters who are hard to root for. He captured the dark tones of the book superbly and had me on the edge of my seat even when I knew what was going to happen. Rosamund Pike was wonderful and Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris both surprised in how well they played their respective parts. A very impressive, unsettling experience.

7. Stretch

Stretch is one wild ride
Stretch is one wild ride

Probably the biggest surprise on this list. Not for me though. Stretch was hands down the funniest movie of the year. With Patrick Wilson at his all-time best, rampaging through the streets of Hollywood as a limo driver to the rich and famous, Stretch was weird, wacky and all over the place, but it was also a laugh a minute and so frenetic in pace that I was glad to have gone on this fantastic ride. I’m still shocked that the film has barely registered a blip on the radar of most audiences, but its 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes feels like vindication in my books.

6. Whiplash

Tense
Tense

I went into Whiplash with my expectations raised already, and it still impressed the hell out of me. Never did I think a movie about drumming could be so intense, and yet it turned out to be arguably most suspenseful film of the year thanks to the brilliant writing and direction from Damien Chazelle and the performances of JK Simmons and Miles Teller. Energetic, powerful and pumping with adrenaline, Whiplash is a unique instant classic that deserves all the superlatives.

5. The Babadook

Terrifying
Terrifying

It’s not often that a horror film makes the list, let alone an Australian horror film. The Babadook, however, is a legitimate masterpiece that also happens to be the scariest movie of the year. It’s the anti-modern-horror flick in the sense that the characters are well developed, it’s creepy and atmospheric, genuinely tense, and the scares are not merely cheap tactics. You could tell it was going to be different from the very first scene. Rather than make you jump, The Bababook makes you squirm and quiver because the terror penetrates beyond just the surface and seeps all the way to your core. People with children will get an additional layer from the experience.

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Nothing beats talking horseriding apes
Nothing beats talking horse-riding apes

I doubt this movie is on anyone else’s top 10 list of 2014, but if you know me or have been following this blog, you’ll know that I have a certain bias towards movies with talking apes. And talking apes who ride horses and shoot guns? Forget about it. I know Dawn of the Planet of the Apes probably isn’t, objectively speaking, one of the best films of the year, but it’s easily one of mine. Granted, Dawn is not as jaw-droppingly awesome as its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It makes up for that, however, with more apes, more ape character development and more large-scale ape action. Losing James Franco also helped. Dawn is the only movie I watched twice at the cinema in 2014, and it was just as spectacular and powerful the second time around. I can’t wait for War of the Planet of the Apes in 2017.

3. The Imitation Game

I think I just invented Playstation!
I think I just invented Playstation!

Every year there seems to be a highly regarded movie that I love even more than everyone else (that is, apart from the one that has talking apes), and this year that film is The Imitation Game, the tragic “true story” of British code-breaker Alan Turing. I just found the film to be a captivating experience. It’s a multi-layered drama-thriller filled with intriguing characters, educational and exciting plot developments and moving moments. With the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch steering the film, it turned out far more interesting and compelling than a code-breaking story should have been. I was engrossed from start to finish. It’s probably one of the few films I saw last year where I can’t really nitpick about anything.

2. Interstellar

So pretty
Alright…

When I first saw Interstellar I thought everyone would love it as much as I did, but as I realised later on, a lot of people hated it for various reasons. Too long, too slow, too corny, too little logic, too little real science, too “out there”  — all of these criticisms could be considered valid, though for me the biggest challenge was always getting past the fact that I’d have to stare at the smug face of Matthew “Alright Alright Alright” McConaughey for nearly 3 hours on an IMAX screen. In all seriousness, I think Interstellar is perhaps one of the most epic and beautiful sci-fi films ever made. From the scale to the ideas to the risks that Christopher Nolan was willing to take with the plot and the characters, it’s everything that I want from an epic cinematic experience. Sure, it got a bit melodramatic at times, though I think it’s a film needs melodrama more than it doesn’t need it, especially given Nolan’s past catalogue of films. I enjoyed the visual spectacle, I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed the sci-fi concepts and ideas. In terms of pure entertainment and visual splendor, Interstellar sits atop all other films of 2014.

1. Boyhood

Ethan Hawke is the only person who doesn't age in the film
Ethan Hawke is the only person who doesn’t age in the film

It’s a shame 5 stars is the most I can award to a film because there are rare occasions when I feel it’s just not enough. Boyhood is one such film. As remarkable as the fact that it was shot over 12 years with the same actors, what is even more impressive about Boyhood is director Richard Linklater’s ability to mould all that footage into a deeply human, poignant and emotional movie that’s as close to depicting real life on film as a fictional motion picture can be. It’s a film like no other, one that truly has to be experienced personally to appreciate what the fuss is all about. It’s now in my pantheon of favourite movies of all-time.

Honourable mentions: A Most Violent Year, The Lego Movie, Horns, The Good Lie

So there you have it, my best and worst of 2014. Some surprises, some controversy, for sure, but a list I’m very happy with when it’s all said and done.

2014 Movie Review Round-up confirms I like movies

Movie Posters 2014

Maybe the rumors that I’m too kind to most movies are true.

It usually takes me a while to complete my best and worst of lists for movies for the year because I like to get through as many as I can — and all the ones I want to see — before setting the lists in stone. As I rank films based on the year they are officially released as opposed to when I see them, it typically takes me months after the end of each year to get through all the movies of that particular year.

I didn’t do too bad this year. It’s only August 2015 and I’m finally ready to cast my votes for the best and worst films of 2014. There are still a few films outstanding that I might eventually get to, but my guess is that they won’t make it on either list. For example, I’m about three-quarters through the Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts film, When We’re Young, and my attempt to watch the acclaimed Mr Turner failed miserably (I just found it so boring and the dialogue audibly incomprehensible).

Before I get to the lists, here are some fun facts I discovered why tabulating the results.

– I watched a total of 155 movies with an official release date of 2014

– The first 2014 film I watched was the Robocop remake (which I sadly didn’t even watch until February due to childcare commitments), and the last was Son of a Gun, the Aussie flick starring Ewan McGregor (watched late last month)

– I managed to see everything on my list of 15 most anticipated movies of 2014.

– With a ratings system of 0 to 5 stars and 0.25 star increments, I ended up using every possible rating except 0.25, 0.75, 1.25 and 4.75. Zero stars count theoretically, but it’s a rating I don’t give out — no matter how badly I want to — as I acknowledge that at least some effort has been put into making every movie ever made.

Distribution of Ratings 1

– In 2014, I gave four movies a maximum of 5 stars and one film a low of 0.5 stars. My most common rating was 3.5 stars, which means “very good” and was dished out to 23 movies. This was followed by 4 stars, meaning “excellent”,  tied with 2 stars, meaning “bad”, with each receiving 20 ratings. The median score, 2.5 stars, meaning “barely passable”, received 14 ratings, while my real baseline for a “decent” movie, 3 stars, had 17 ratings.

– My average rating for the 155 movies was 3.077 stars, which according to my rating system would mean that the average film of 2014 is a shade over “decent.” On the other hand, my median rating was slightly higher at 3.25, which means “pretty good”. I think that reflects my overall sentiments well. A lot of mediocre stuff, some horrible crap, and a few memorable standouts.

– There is a vague bell curve to the distribution, though the chart does appear skewed to the higher scores. Couple with the average and median scores, I suppose that confirms I tend to be more lenient than most when it comes to judging the quality of a film. I can’t help it. I like movies.

– Ratings are handed out at time of review and never amended, meaning I sometimes shock myself when looking back at the scores I gave to some movies. Some feel too high, some too low.

– In hindsight, movies that feel like they probably should have received a slightly higher rating include: Gone Girl (4.25), Guardians of the Galaxy (3.75), Edge of Tomorrow (3.75), John Wick (3.5), The Rover (3). Movies that feel like they probably deserved slightly less include: The Good Lie (4.25), Horns (4.25), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (4), The Maze Runner (4), Big Eyes (3.75).

Up next, my worst 10 films of 2014. Stay tuned.