I confess, I did a slight cheat for this list. I caught two movies over Friday and Saturday from 2014 that I am going to let slip in. Otherwise these are 2014 movies that I saw in the 2014 year.
10. Tusk // Kevin Smith
Tusk is an odd animal. Not quite straight comedy horror, but full of absurdities. It is a full on body horror story. And yet, it has a strangely absurd premise that challenges the ability to buy it as a horror film. Justin Long plays a rather snide podcaster who travels around finding stuff on the internet to mock. He goes to Canada to meet with a kid who found internet fame via humiliation (think Star Wars kid with a worse outcome in the video). He gets derailed by a lure of grand stories by a strange recluse Howard Howe (Played by Michael Parks). Howe regales Long’s Wallace with fantastic tales, coming to a story of how he was saved by a walrus. And that is where the film takes a dark turn. Howe is a Annie Wilkes style psycho. He is determined to regain his lost friend, the Walrus Mr. Tusk. And he plans to convert Long into a Walrus. The film is just bizarre, but I thought the performances were compelling.
9.the Babadook // Jennifer Kent
Exploring themes of loss and the struggles of parenting, Kent gives us a real visual feast. Amelia has tried to raise her son, but is overwhelmed with grief over the death of her husband several years prior. Her son is obsessed with fighting monsters, and gets in trouble in school. One day, they receive a book titled the Babadook. It is the creepiest pop up book you will ever see. From there on, their lives seem to fall apart as they are terrorized by the Babadook. There have been claims that this was the scariest movie of the year. I am not sure it really lives up to this, but it most certainly has the best creepy visuals. It is a well made and well crafted story.
8. The Sacrament // Ti West
Ti West does good slow burn horror, as witnessed with the Innkeepers and House of the Devil. The Sacrament tells of a couple journalists given access to a cult community in South America. Everything appears “normal” until the journalists are passed a note asking for help. And then it all hits the fan. It is the ultimate “episode of Vice goes wrong” story.
7.Captain America: The Winter Soldier // Anthony and Joe Russo
This was a solid sequel, the addition of Anthony Mackie as the Falcon kept things from dragging. He was not a side kick, but rather a partner and teammate. It was a good story, and interesting to see how they approached their source material, such as the re-emergence of Hydra. And again, Evans makes a great Cap.
6.Godzilla // Gareth Edwards
Edwards drew a lot of praise for his film Monsters, which I found had solid moments but did not work fully for me. Godzilla is a stronger effort, though the lack of truly compelling characters outside of Cranston hurts the film as does the rather dull monsters Godzilla fights. Overall, I enjoyed this big monster-fest.
5.Grand Budapest Hotel // Wes Anderson
Predictably odd and at times slow, Wes Anderson charms me once again. I found the characters delightful in a quirky way and the murder mystery surrounding the tale-all leading to the simple explanation of “how did the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel become the owner?
4.Big Hero 6 // Don Hall & Chris Williams
This was a fun movie filled with likable characters. It is a superhero film for kids and adults alike, coming close to the Incredibles. Just see it.
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes // Matt Reeves
Who are the real animals could be the basic ongoing theme here. Picking up ten years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes we find Ape Society is thriving, while humanity (largely wiped out due to the “Simian Virus”) is struggling. In fact, at the start, Caesar and Maurice even question if there are any humans left. Caesar tries to lead the apes in the ways of peace, but when humans re-enter the picture, peace becomes slippery. Both man and ape are mistrustful. While Caesar and some humans try working together, there are those that see the destruction of man or ape as the only good outcome. This is a really well done film, one that proves how good genre films can be. (and yes, Babadook is an anagram of Bad Book)
2.The Guardians of the Galaxy // James Gunn
Best. Marvel. Movie. Period. Good luck, Avengers: Age of Ultron.
1.Chef // Jon Favreau
I genuinely love this movie. It starts out feeling kind of aimless, but about 30 minutes in, it finds it’s footing and charms the viewer all the way to the end. I suspect the somewhat “lost” feeling in those early 30 minutes is intentional, showing us Chef Karl’s own conflicts. He wants to be passionate about his work, yet is in a job where he is simply going with the waves. When it all falls apart, he finds a new center for his life, bringing him closer to his friends and family.
Deliver Us From Evil // Scott Derrickson
While I really liked Sinister more, Deliver Us from Evil was an oddball blend of gritty cop thriller and possession movie. Not the first time Derrickson has done this (The Exorcism of Emily Rose was a blend of court room drama and exorcism flick). It had interesting characters (and a serious Joel McHale of Community and E’s the Soup) and a fairly compelling story line. Like the Conjuring, the claims of “being inspired by actual events” feels kind of like a stretch…but it is a decent genre mash-up.