Mike’s Top Fifteen Films of 2014

My Top Fifteen Films of 2014

Boyhood

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

1). “Boyhood” (2014)

My film of the year and the one that changed my view on conventional filmmaking. Fifteen minutes into this movie I knew I was seeing something unique and special. Richard Linklater shot this film over a twelve-year period, with the principal actors aging naturally during the length of the film. It’s a simple story of a family dealing with the separation of the husband (Ethan Hawke) and wife (Patricia Arquette), seen mostly through the eyes of their two children (Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater). It’s an amazing film that was so effortless and enjoyable to watch that it doesn’t seem it’s almost three-hour length. Mike’s “Boyhood” Review

Whiplash

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

2). “Whiplash” (2014)

A drama that is part horror film is the best way to describe this movie about a young drummer (Miles Teller) who joins a top-flight band of a music conservatory. His world is turned upside down by the leader of the band, played by J.K. Simmons. Both leads give amazing, unbelievable performances that are both gut wrenching and sometimes terrifying. Mike’s “Whiplash” Review

Locke

Photo courtesy of A24

3). “ Locke” (2014)

This was my favorite film of the year, mostly because it took me by surprise. I saw this film at the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival and enjoyed it so much that I had to see it again when it came out in the theaters. Tom Hardy gives a performance of a lifetime. The whole film is Hardy driving in his car. It sounds boring, but it’s one of the most compelling and moving performances of the year with plenty of suspense. Credit Hardy and writer / director Steven Knight into creating a truly memorable cinema experience. Mike’s “Locke” Review

Blue Ruin

Photo courtesy of Radius-TWC

4). “Blue Ruin” (2014)

Macon Blair was magnificent in the role of a homeless man who goes back home to get revenge for the killing of his parents. The film, written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, takes an unconventional hero and puts him into a situation that looks un-winnable. It’s a remarkable performance by Blair, who is on screen for almost the whole film. Mike’s “Blue Ruin” Review

Ida

Photo courtesy of Music Box Films

5). “Ida” (2014)

This Polish film is on the short list for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film and in my eyes, is the front-runner to win it. Set in 1960’s communist Poland, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young novitiate nun, happily preparing to take her vows. She discovers that her past isn’t what she thought it was and goes on a trip to discover why that is so. Shot in black and white, this mesmerizing film does a masterful job of portraying what it was like to live in the starkness of Communism. Trzebuchowska is an actress who continually draws your eye to her. As Anna struggles to learn the truth about her past, she begins to understand that it’s a world that holds onto its secrets with a firm grip. Mike’s “Ida” Review

The Lego Movie

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

6). ”The Lego Movie” (2014)

This is the film that I enjoyed the most in 2014 and surprisingly, had one of the best scripts of the year. From the very start, this film just puts a smile on your face. I especially enjoyed Chris Pratt as the “every man” Emmett, who learns that he might be the key to saving the world. However, it was Will Arnett who steals the show as the voice of the slightly ego-maniacal Batman. This film proves Hollywood can make an animated film that both parents and kids will enjoy…that everything can be awesome! Mike’s “The Lego Movie” Review

Foxcatcher

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

7). “Foxcatcher” (2014)

In a film filled with great performances, it was Channing Tatum, as the dumb, younger wrestler, who on his own makes one bad choice after another. Steve Carell gives it his all as the creepy wealthy DuPont heir who takes Tatum’s character under his care. Not to be outdone, Mark Ruffalo is equally compelling as the older and wiser of the two wrestling brothers. It’s a fascinating movie that slowly builds its tension to the final tragic outcome. Mike’s “Foxcatcher” Review

Nightcrawler

Photo courtesy of Open Road Films

8). “Nightcrawler” (2014)

Jake Gyllenhaal gives an outstanding performance as one of the most despicable characters on screen this year. He plays a young man who stumbles upon the rough and tumble world of free-lance news reporting, following the police around to crime scenes and wrecks, where the bloodier the scene the better. He screws over anyone he can to get the shot that will pay the big bucks. Rene Russo lights up the screen as a desperate news producer who is willing to do almost anything for ratings. Mike’s “Nightcrawler” Review

Keep On Keepin' On

Photo courtesy of Radius-TWC

9). “Keep On Keepin’ On” (2014)

This incredibly moving documentary is about the friendship of two musicians; a promising young blind jazz pianist named Justin Kauflin and jazz legend Clark Terry. Both men are going through some of their toughest times and their friendship, cemented of the love of jazz, gives each man strength to “Keep On Keepin’ On.” Mike’s “Keep On Keepin’ On” Review

Gone Girl

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

10). “Gone Girl” (2014)

This is a film that is filled with people you won’t really like and takes so many twists and turns you almost feel like you need a scoreboard to keep up. This is a film that is funny and yet in many parts is dark and depressing. It’s a tale that about how fast the media can turn a hero into a villain and how quickly we make judgments about people. Mike’s “Gone Girl” Review

Top Five

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

11). “Top Five” (2014)

Chris Rock wrote and directed this funny, at times raunchy film that is smart and full of heart. Rock plays a comedian who is getting ready to marry a reality star and is having his film (a drama) released on the same weekend. Rosario Dawson plays a reporter who shadows him for the day. They have great chemistry together, and that makes this film a delight to watch. Mike’s “Top Five” Review

Life Itself

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

12). “Life Itself” (2014)

Incredibly moving documentary about the inspiring life of film critic Roger Ebert. The film covers his life warts and all, as you see his highs (winning the Pulitzer Prize) and the sorrow of watching Roger slowly give up the fight with his many ailments. It’s a film that will stay with you for a long time. Mike’s “Life Itself” Review

Birdman

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

13). “Birdman” (2014)

This fascinating film is part comedy, part satire. Michael Keaton plays an actor whose better days are behind him. He is attempting to mount a comeback on Broadway but may lose his mind in the process. While I enjoyed Keaton in the title role, I thought Emma Stone, playing his troubled daughter and Edward Norton, playing a Hollywood star to into method acting were the highlights of the film. My only objection to the film was that I did not like the ending to the film. Mike’s “Birdman” Review

Guardians of the Galaxy

Photo courtesy of Marvel

14). “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)

Chris Pratt is so much fun in this film as Peter Quill, a thief who prefers the name Star Lord. Quill gets way in over his head attempting to steal an orb that apparently everyone in the galaxy wants. The film is just a blast to watch and keeps moving right from the start. It’s hard to understand that everyone in the world would fall in love with a tree-like creature named Groot. Mike’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

15). “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)

An absolute joyride of a film that takes this Wes Anderson film and combines it with a Marx Brothers film. Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave H, one of the best concierges in the world who gets involved in a very complex world of intrigue and espionage. There were times that I thought I was watching one of the old Roadrunner cartoons when the action scenes unfold. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is Anderson at his best and is one of the most enjoyable films of the year. Mike’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Review

Honorable mention:  “Dear White People”, “The Way He Looks”, ”Kill the Messenger”, “Begin Again”, “Obvious Child”, “The Lunchbox”,   “We Are the Best”, “The Past”, “Force Majeure”, “Snowpiercer”, “Love is Strange”, “Finding Vivian Maier”, “The Babadook”, “Chef”, “Frozen”. “Selma”

Check out Mike’s Bottom Ten Films of 2014

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