For the past two years, I’ve been ranking every film I see- just the new releases, from January 1st to December 31st. The rankings are subjective, based entirely on how much I enjoyed and/or connected with or appreciated the film rather than on some sort of objective artistic criteria. Basically, this is a list of 110 films released in 2014 ranked according to how much I liked them.
Read the Full 2014 List HERE.
71. Life of Crime
This not-quite-drama-but-not-really-a-comedy-either about John Hawkes and some cohorts kidnapping Jennifer Aniston to get a million dollars ransom out of Tim Robbins takes an interesting turn when Robbins’ affair with a surprisingly interesting person played by the totally underrated Isla Fisher makes him not all that interested in saving his trophy wife. It takes a less interesting but somewhat likeable turn when it goes all stockholmy and Hawkes’ heart of gold starts to strain believability. Oh, and there’s a crazy neo-Nazi character who has the potential to be bone-chilling but is too goofy to be much more than irritating. And Will Forte plays a character who has no real purpose at all.
72. A Most Wanted Man
This perfectly fine John le Carré adaptation deserves a higher spot on this list, especially considering it is the final full performance we’ll ever see from the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman (the final Hunger Games half movies surely don’t count). It’s moody, it’s thoughtful, it’s suspenseful and co-stars Daniel Brühl (as more things should) but John le Carré just doesn’t do it for me. I wish I didn’t get so bored and so lost, but I do. So #72 it is, unfortunately.
73. Muppets Most Wanted
What I liked about this Muppets movie is that it’s a classic Muppets caper with a real plot and no “we’re rebooting this thing” naval gazing. I also liked Tina Fey as the prison guard and a mostly unseen Josh Groban (any Josh Groban works for me) and I like when Ricky Gervais plays supervillains (remember that perfect episode of Alias when he played a bombmaker? That remains one of my favourite episodes of anything ever). But the movie Muppets weren’t a big part of my childhood like they were for so many people (the ones who reside on Sesame Street, however, they’re my peeps). Only Muppet Treasure Island ever really captured my imagination with the full childlike wonder effect. This one was cute, but not much more than that if you don’t have nostalgia on your side.
74. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
I’m currently working on a theory that the more punctuation involved in a film’s title, the worse it is. The Hunger Games was a great movie- a smart, sophisticated adaptation that introduced Suzanne Collins’ literary world to its new medium without losing any of its spirit (I would actually argue that the first Hunger Games film is an improvement on the book). The Hunger Games: Catching Fire I liked a lot less (too much sci-fi, not enough quiet terror, a complete mishandling of my favourite character Finnick). The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 I didn’t like much at all (see? Direct correlation to the amount of punctuation). Admittedly, I loved the first book, enjoyed the second and found the third boring and aggravating, so that likely has something to do with my reaction to the movies, but from the plot changes (it’s Plutarch’s idea to send Katniss to District 12?) to the pacing (must we spend so long on the water-soaked race to find Buttercup?) to the overblown score, this thing just didn’t do it for me. I’m also totally over Lawrence at this point, which doesn’t help. Effie continues to be amazing and Natalie Dormer is a fantastic Cressida, but Cressida really shouldn’t be the highlight of Mockingjay. Also, this plot-light finale has no business being two movies; I feel so manipulated by the money-grab forcing me to pay twice to see the end.
75. Let’s Be Cops
I love me some Nick Miller. And I love me some Damon Wayans Jr. (I differentiate because while Jake Johnson I love for that one particular character, Damon Wayans Jr. is pretty much always the greatest). But Let’s Be Cops, boy, what a stupid movie. Crazy stupid. Outrageously stupid. Unbelievably stupid. Keep in mind while I say this that I’m someone who genuinely loves the Jump Street franchise; this is not a matter of not enjoying a good bromantic action comedy. I love a good bromantic action comedy. Emphasis on the Good. This… not so good. On the bright side, there was Keegan-Michael Key. You can be the worst movie of the year but, if you have Keegan-Michael Key, you’ll actually only be the 75th worst movie of the year- a bump of 35 spots, that’s the Power of the Key (which already sounds like a better movie than Let’s Be Cops).
76. Life After Beth
This Aubrey Plaza-starring zombie indie leaves a lot of potential on the table and, beyond Plaza, features no particularly strong performances. A cute twist on the genre but this movie needed to come out before Warm Bodies to really have the impact it could have had. Keep in mind, zombies are just not my bag.
77. Veronica Mars
Hold on, don’t yell at me. I know, I know, you were all very excited to see Veronica and the gang again, but this movie did nothing to improve the series’ legacy (and I’m still not sure how I feel about its impact on Kickstarter and its limits). It was predictable, simplistic and just not as clever or fun as the show was in its heyday (and by that I mean just season one and parts of two; let’s all stop pretending VM was a perfect show the whole time). The cast is crazy adorable (anything with Chris Lowell works for me) but Play it Again, Dick was by far the better avenue for their reunion.
78. The November Man
More female roles than you’d expect from your average action thriller (woot!) but the plot and alliances here are hard to follow and the whole thing felt a lot like a Goldeneye sequel that picks up sometime after Brosnan and a redheaded Russian named Natalia run off into the sunset. Luckily I really like Goldeneye.
79. Draft Day
I love sports movies. I’ve missed sports movies. They don’t make enough sports movies these days. This one about a football GM making big moves on the biggest day of the year could have been cooler than it is (the cheesy father stuff, the Jennifer Garner romantic subplot, these are things that should just not be in this film) but the tight timeline and ace supporting turn from the great Chadwick Boseman had me hooked.
80. Single Moms Club
This Tyler Perry dramedy is very ordinary and completely silly. It states its purpose constantly and Perry knows way less about girl talk than anyone writing a movie about female friendship should (the sexual innuendo is out of control!). His ideas on romance are also a little backwards, Terry Crews finally winning his conquest over by getting really aggressive and William Levy declaring “I love your hair, I love your face, I love everything about you” as the ultimate expression of love (um, can we rearrange the priorities there please?). But the cast is thoroughly charming and that really elevates the whole film. The beautiful Nia Long and her classic leading lady vibe belong in way more rom-coms (and movies in general) while the brilliant Wendi McLendon-Covey is one of my favourite performers in Hollywood right now (Hi, Beverly Goldberg!) and Cocoa Brown steals almost all of her scenes as tough-as-nails Lytia. I should also mention that Perry himself is a far more tolerable actor than writer-director (as long as he stays out of drag). He’s great in Gone Girl and his TK might be the most charming of the many charming love interests in this film.
81. Magic in the Moonlight
So we’re all agreed that, at this point, Woody Allen is just making Hollywood (and devoted movie-goers) fund his vacations, right? This South of France-set piece of fluff that pretends to be about cynicism and faith is trivial, forced and weak on actual storytelling. The only character at all developed is the standard Allen stand-in, here played by Colin Firth with decent thought and likeability because the Allen role is always best when played by an actor who has little in common with Allen (see also Owen Wilson). My beloved Hamish Linklater is wildly underused, of course, and relentlessly modern everygirl Emma Stone is miscast as a phony mystic who is supposed to be more entrancing than relatable and also believably exist in the 1920s (where Emma Stone absolutely does not fit). Also, Firth and Stone, possibly the weirdest onscreen romantic pairing since Josh Duhamel and Sarah Jessica Parker in New Years Eve (see also Katherine Heigl & Jon Bon Jovi also in New Years Eve; that movie had some crazy casting).
82. White Bird in a Blizzard
The fact that this film adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel about the disappearance of a beautiful, restless wife under seriously suspicious circumstances is a part of the same cinematic season as Gone Girl is probably the most interesting thing about it. That and the surprising amount of nudity from 22-year-old Shailene Woodley, the low-key Hollywood it-girl who foils Jennifer Lawrence’s sheen with gloriously mature woodsy authenticity. Woodley is famed for naturalistic, honest performances and she delivers yet another one here. The trouble is that she appears to be in an entirely different movie than White Bird’s other key player- Eva Green as her troubled mother. Green rarely plays humans- or at least humans in a realistic world- and the reason why is obvious as she struts about the screen, completely unrelatable, a larger-than-life diva in a film too small and simple for her performance, like Bette Davis lost at Sundance. The act-three twist is Gone Girl’s opposite in every way- predictable, conventional, satisfying, sensical- and only Woodley’s self-deceptive struggle to accept her mother’s disappearance and leave it at that is a particularly fresh and engaging arc. The film gets points for casting the adorable likes of Mark Indelicato and Gabourey Sidibe but loses points for failing the get a good performance from either of them.
83. Dirty Singles
This Toronto-set ensemble relationship drama flounders on account of there just not being enough characters you really want to root for. It’s nice to see Super Fun Night’s Lauren Ash given the film’s most complex role and theatre regular Matthew Edison is actually better on camera than on the stage but likeable characters like conflicted good guy Jim (Edison) and Melissa Hood as the sharply fabulous Caprice take a backseat to the loathable Jack (Paul Campbell) and his flimsy, uninteresting wife (Alex Paxton-Beesley). Samantha Espie is given one short scene about being the overlooked one who was the catalyst for the entire group’s existence that suggests that her character Shelley might have been a very interesting, understated protagonist in a very different version of this movie.
84. Sex Tape
This stupid, machine-made sex-com stars the least believable couple of the year in the form of Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz. Some slack is picked up, however, by the delightful Ellie Kemper and Rob Corddry as their sidekick couple. This was also the film that made “that’s why I’m fucking you in the first place” into a surprisingly sweet declaration, so there’s that.
I really really really wanted to like this movie. Rose Byrne is at her best in comedies, I really enjoy Seth Rogen a lot of the time and I’m super into Efron lately (that kid has completely underrated comedic chops). I totally approved of the decision to make this film about a guy and his wife rather than a guy and his buddies (Rogen is growing up, people) and the main characters share their first names with me and my best friend (which never happens because he doesn’t have a super common male name and there are surprisingly few post-Kapowski Kellys in pop culture). But I didn’t think many of the jokes were all that funny and I thought they took most of them too far in an attempt to make up for the fact that they weren’t all that funny. There were three great things about this movie, but only three: 1) Zac Efron gets the only real emotional arc; 2) That scene where they compare Batman impressions and you really get the size of the generational divide; 3) Dave Franco (I don’t know why but I’m constantly amused by Dave Franco).
A fairly stupid but moderately charming rom-com that benefits from some cute kid casting, a charming teenage Cinderella subplot, and the fact that frequent collaborators Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore appear to really get a kick out of each other. The script needs some sprucing up (in the “needs to be entirely re-written” sense) but the movie’s cute and not as stupid as it could have been. What more could you really ask of Blended?
87. Men, Women & Children
I usually really like Jason Reitman films, which is why I was skeptical when I heard that this one was pretty bad. But it was, indeed, pretty bad. It’s definitely about the negative influence of technology (specifically the internet) on our lives but it’s also definitely about the terrifying consequences of over-patroling said influence and also definitely about the state of teenagers today and how impossibly screwed up they are. This last bit has references to the internet- how porn rushes and potentially destroys healthy sexual maturity, how online communities can be toxic- but is mostly just about peer pressure and how kids are evil and apparently young people are incapable of using their brains. Really, the decision making skills of everyone in this movie (parents included) are so bad that I spent the whole time wanting to yell at the screen. From the pathetic girls so desperate to fit in that they starve themselves, throw themselves at clear scumbags, tolerate all manners of abuse, and spread sexual rumours about not only others but themselves, to Judy Greer who sells sexually explicit photos of her daughter to strangers, to Adam Sandler who hires a wildly overpriced prostitute while his much-more-sensible wife (Rosemarie DeWitt, all hail) uses the internet for a hookup (related note: I really could have gone my whole life without ever hearing Adam Sandler say the word “pussy”, alas) to, the very worst of all, Jennifer Garner’s haunt-your-dreams crazy mother who stalks her daughter’s electronic activity to the point of printing out her IMs, tracking her phone, wiping her entire desktop and (the real kicker) brutally dumping a boy over text on her daughter’s behalf (and I mean brutally). The boy in question? Ansel Elgort, the one really good kid in the whole movie (though Garner’s daughter is decent too) with a brain and a backbone and a real sense of perspective. Of course, that’s a brain and a backbone and a real sense of perspective compared to everyone else in this truly dystopian portrait of a life I’ve certainly never witnessed.
88. John Wick
This well-reviewed action flick is visually beautiful and sounds great. The colour treatment, the sound mixing, the cinematography, the lighting- all fantastic. Keanu Reeves is a super slick action star and the supporting cast is full of awesome TV actors (Theon Greyjoy! Tyra Collette! Don Keefer! Phillip Broyles! Al Swearengen!). But you can’t give Keanu Reeves actual lines, it breaks his magic, and there is no real story or character development in this film at all. It also really bothered me that people kept calling him “Jonathan” when his name is “John” (not “Jon”), those are different names. It’s a smash-and-grab job that looks pretty but ultimately is just about the soothing power of puppies.
The one thing I will say in the favour of this overblown space odyssey is that it, shockingly, actually has enough story to fill its bloated running time. Now, that story doesn’t make any sense while also being somehow incredibly formulaic, but it is big. It’s a pretty enough film but the dialogue is atrocious and most of the acting isn’t much better (Chastain’s first video message is the one real highpoint performance-wise). Most offensive of all is the fact that Dr. Anne Hathaway (the sole female presence for most of the film) seems to only be there to spout a cheesy, lazy, horrifically written speech about the mysterious power of love. No, Anne Hathaway, you are a scientist, love is not the answer, science is the answer.
90. Moms’ Night Out
This derivative “night from hell” laugher benefits from the extreme likeability of central parents Sarah Drew and Sean Astin and two scene-stealing cameos from comedian Anjelah Johnson as a snooty restaurant hostess and her husband rapper Manwell Reyes as a loopy tattoo parlor worker, both of which raise the comedic game of Moms’ Night Out exponentially. There’s a strong religious streak here, which is something of a rarity for a mainstream comedy film, but mostly what I found notable about this one is how old it made me feel. Since when are Rudy and Hannah Rogers old enough to play a couple with three kids?!