January 4, 2015

2014: Back Ten of the Top Ten Movies (Numbers 20-11)

Welcome to the back 10 of the top 10, also known as numbers 20-11 of the best movies I saw theatrically in 2014. No, I did not see everything, so this is no definitive list, it is merely the best movies I happened to see. Yes, I do see a lot of movies, but not all of them, so please do not take this as the best of the best, it is merely the best of what I saw and maybe you will like them to. Just remember, I have weird tastes, asn so should you. Like what you like, just know why you do. Now, read on!

*Note: The order is just how they lie right now, in reality it could change over time or at a moment's notice. All is relative and some of these movies do not exactly match up with the others.

20. Oculus. This movie really split the horror community. I have seen folks on both ends of the spectrum. I really liked it. I felt it was a different take on the possession style of horror. It is open to multiple interpretations and seems to welcome the idea. It is a movie that keeps you a little off balance, unsure of what is coming next. It is a movie that deals with perception, memory, relationships, reality, illusion, and how these things interact with each other. It treats them in a way that at no point is there a reliable narrator. No matter how convincing things can be, there is a possibility that it is not actual reality. It is rather entertaining to watch as our characters try to navigate the dangerous waters around the mirror, how they must often fight their instincts, and no matter how many safeguards are in place, there is room for things to go tragically wrong.

19. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I have to say that the movie was a lot of fun. It has a nice mix of poignant moments, highlighted by the pairing of the squeaky clean good guy Cap with the flawed Black Widow. I liked the revelation of the conspiracy, highlighted by ties to the first film. I liked Cap learning to navigate the new world and his sadness for the years he missed and the people he lost. I liked the Winter Soldier and his ties to Cap's past, plus how imposing he comes across as. This really is a good film, surprisingly so as Cap has never been a favorite of mine. I look forward to the next one!

18. X-Men: Days of Future Past. This brings the past, the present, and the future crashing together in one glorious excursion. The movie does a great job of juggling all of the moving parts to keep the pace moving forward and not leaving anything behind. And while that is all well and good, what makes the movie work as well as it does are the characters. It is the actors ability to imbue their parts with a genuine humanity with real reasons to care is what really holds your attention. Action for the sake of action can be fun, but it does not necessarily make something worthwhile. Add an emotional element and then you have the making of something special.

17. The Boxtrolls. There really is a lot going on in this movie that will work for both kids and adults. Beyond the messages, the characters are interesting, the Boxtrolls are pretty interesting, and I just love the animation. I am also appreciative of an animated family movie that is not afraid to be a little more serious, a little darker, and just dare to be different. The bottom line is that this is a wonderful movie. It does not quite linger in the same way that Coraline and ParaNorman do, but that is a small thing. There is some great design work, the animation is great, and I love the existential bit on existence by Snatcher's henchmen during the credits, it plays off nicely from their asides throughout the film. Basically, go and see this.

16. Godzilla. This is a big and massive film that works on most levels. It is exciting, atmospheric, and delivers what I hoped it would. The centerpiece of the movie is Godzilla and he does not disappoint, from his new design (which captures the classic look with a new twist), to his atomic breath, to his wrestling-like attacks, he does not disappoint. When he first is revealed by a camera panning up from feet to his head, you could not wipe the smile from my face. When we finally see him in action, it is a thing of beauty. Everything we did not get from the prior Hollywood attempt, we get here. The human characters may be a bit lacking, but taken as a whole, it had me hooked from the opening moments.

15. How to Train Your Dragon 2. This  is an utterly delightful movie. The characters are well defined and are the driving force of the movie. The heart it possesses is wonderful, it grasps and never lets go, and what is great is that while it is an animated movie with a family target, that does not mean it is going to pander. We learned that in the first movie when Hiccup lost his leg. We are taught that lesson again in this movie in one of its most poignant moments. On top of that, the animation is gorgeous, the action set pieces are stunning to look at.

14. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This sequel is all we could have hoped for and more. It is intelligent, uncompromising, action packed, and very entertaining. If you asked me a few years ago of something like this would work, I am not sure I would say it could. I am glad to have been proven wrong. Director Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield) and writers Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Mark Bomback have crafted a movie that believably builds this new world, delivering characters that are interesting, involving, and morally complex. This is not a black and white world.

13. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. This is hard boiled noir, where the term is taken literally, all of the elements that make up the noir are tossed into a pot and boiled, hard. What remains is the bare essence, the raw look, the grizzled characters, the tough guy dialogue, violence, and a general nastiness. It comes together in a way that draws me in and holds my attention. These are tough, hardened characters going about tough work. Extreme visual style for the boiled look, definite blast.

12. Calvary. This  is a rather fascinating movie that plays counter to a lot of what is in cinemas at the moments. This is a movie not about explosions, chases, superheroes, or anything like that. This is an examination of character, a character surrounded by an ever closing noose, a study in encroaching, inescapable darkness, it is about a character struggling with what he knows, the inevitability of it, the fear, the anxiety, the crushing humanity of it. Calvary is sharp tongued, insightful, and fascinating look at a man of faith struggling to deal with his lot in life. It can be seen as a journey through the five stages of grief, shown through his interactions with members of the flock. It can also be seen as a version of the stations, of the cross, following Father Lavelle to his crucifixion on Calvary. This is most likely as faith plays a big part in the film, with the idea that faith can be driven by a fear of death. We watch as he deals, or fails to deal, with certain things before resigning himself to a fate where he is to die for the sins committed by others, something of a penance by proxy. Powerful filmmaking.

11. Guardians of the Galaxy. What can be said about this movie that hasn't already been said? The movie is an absolute blast from start to finish and one of the few times of pure cinematic entertainment. It is a comic book movie, but it is not a superhero movie. Sure, there are connections, but it is still its own thing, bringing in elements of the space opera, comic book by way of Star Wars. Filled with humor, interesting characters, big action, great music. There is no way you can't like this. Well, maybe you can, then I don't want to be in your world. You may not like it like I like it, but you have to like it. Right?

That rounds out the back ten, any ideas what might appear in the top ten?

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