18 January 2015
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.
Let’s start with the worst (so that we may quickly move on to more pleasant things). Rankings #91-110, the 20 movies I hated the most in 2014. Some hurt my heart, others just let me down, some were simply bad. Feel free to argue; I know you’ll want to:
91. Think Like a Man Too
This overly silly sequel to a fairly good 2012 rom-com divides the power of its excellent returning ensemble by splitting the group up along gender lines for respective bachelor and bachelorette parties (which doesn’t work because the friendship chemistries aren’t nearly as strong as the romantic ones). The self-help book premise having been exhausted in the first movie, the writers turned to a Hangover ripoff for a second plot. The characters are still charming- and anything is always improved by the addition of Wendi McLendon-Covey, Adam Brody or David Walton- but they just don’t have much to do in this second instalment.
92. The Trip to Italy
I was quite excited to see The Trip to Italy, having fallen hard for its predecessor The Trip back in 2011. But I’m not sure there has ever been a film that needed a sequel less than The Trip, a low-key, low-fi, painfully honest, hilariously fresh duet about ambition, jealousy and friendship. In attempting to recapture that magic, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan repeat similar comic antics on a restaurant tour of Italy (naturally losing all spontaneity along the way) and quickly find that none of the fascinating dramatic layers that made up the heart of their original adventure are there anymore (they’re replaced by trivial romantic quandaries and a weak parenting subplot). The Trip was a character piece that happened to show off the duo’s improv and impression skills while including some serious food porn. The Trip to Italy is essentially just a travel brochure with some funny impressions.
This cheesy, melodramatic redemption tale about a wildly unlikeable woman embarking completely irresponsibly on a three month solo trek she’s massively unprepared for is redeemed ever so slightly by the incandescent Laura Dern as Reese Witherspoon’s unlikely mother and that emotive genius Thomas Sadoski (my beloved Don) as her wonderful ex-husband. The rest of the men are interesting too, how they fulfill and, more commonly, assuage the fears they inspire in our terrible protagonist by virtue of being male. If only Cheryl Strayed were less foolish (don’t dump the rest of your water supply over your head; obviously you can’t count on the upcoming drum to be full!) and more worth following down her treacherous path. Skip this awards bait dud and see the far more beautiful, far more complicated Tracks instead.
94. If I Stay
This completely ridiculous teenage melodrama is melodramatic and completely ridiculous. The parents (Mireille Enos & Joshua Leonard) are cool, though too much effort is made to make them overwhelmingly so. The love interest (Jamie Blackley) who takes the most centre of centre stages is also fairly dreamy, but I really could have done without all their “I love you so much it’s tearing me in two” nonsense, not to mention the atrocious “we’re playing music together” cello-themed teenage sex scene.
Tammy is annoying mostly because it should have been good. A seriously A-list cast in general lead by the indomitable charm of Melissa McCarthy with a love interest assist from the great and adorable Mark Duplass- a stronger story and better production standards could have made this a pretty good movie. But the first act is senseless and silly, playing too much on McCarthy’s film career identity as crass and rough (as opposed to her sweet and optimistic TV career identity). The odd couple dynamic between Tammy and her dramatically underage Grandma (Susan Sarandon) is charming but the love story progresses out of nowhere to reach an inevitable but unearned conclusion. A lot of smart people appear to have taken the easiest road here when a little more effort could have taken them somewhere great.
96. They Came Together
I hate dismissive. I hate condescending. I really really hate glib. I try not to be these things even when writing short reviews of really really stupid movies (you’re at the bottom of this list, you’re going to see some dismissiveness, some condescension, and I will occasionally be glib where I feel it can’t be avoided). But the concept of writing, shooting, editing and distributing a film with those three words as its defining adjectives- that’s just crazy, right? And especially when it stars Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, aka two people known for their big-hearted humour and general affability. What did romantic comedies ever do to deserve this kind of unfunny, resentful mockery? I’m not the biggest fan of satire in the first place (the less reactionary your work, the more I respect it and I think there’s a certain honesty to earnestness) but if your satire is funny, have at it. I think Scary Movie is funny (well, some of them). I think Not Another Teen Movie is really funny (for its time), I think SNL and Key & Peele and Portlandia regularly satirize both the deserving and the innocent with so much insight that it’s not even necessary that they’re funny, but they’re fantastically funny. They Came Together isn’t funny. It’s just glib.
This thematically muddled and messy techno-thriller has Paul Bettany, which is always good. It also aims high, which I like. But it misses, and that I like less. The plot holes abound and the emotional stakes are through the floor. If anyone can tell me why I was supposed to want to save Johnny Depp’s life I will give them twenty bucks.
98. Monuments Men
This movie is like Ocean’s Eleven if that amazing film hadn’t been made by chameleonic genius Steven Soderbergh but instead by a lazy propaganda office who has run out of good patriotic manipulation ideas. Clooney is at his best when commanding a not-so-rag-tag group of his friends but his dashing uniform here has nothing on Daniel Ocean’s suits and there’s a distinct lack of Brad Pitt at his Pittiest. I do always like seeing that Damon kid though.
99. X-Men: Days of Future Past
This is a movie about how the X-Men movies don’t matter. In contrast to Marvel’s tightly cohesive (if tonally diverse) Avengers universe, the X-Men one has very little internal logic and has now been completely undermined by the events of one big wannabe tentpole. The cast is filled with big stars (Jackman, Lawrence, Berry, Page) and great actors (McKellen, Stewart, McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult)- yes there’s a difference- but the story is pretty much the same as every other X-Men movie (they hate us because we’re different; there are two ways to deal with that, Magneto chooses the wrong one) and filled with more CGI and 3D nonsense but less emotional consequence than the predecessors (namely that great game-changing trilogy). Dinklage is awesome (love seeing him in a role with no reference to his size), the cameos at the end made me smile, and that Quicksilver freeze sequence was one of the best things on film this year (so clever, so sly, so visually fantastic) but this was a giant waste of not only time and money but over a decade of superhero film history.
100. 4 Minute Mile
This is just a movie about a kid who can run fast. His big brother’s into some bad stuff in that pretty-boy-actor-proving-himself kind of way (in this case, Cam Gigandet) and his mentor is curmudgeonly and tortured in that prestigious-old-actor kind of way (in this case, Richard Jenkins) and his love interest is cute and boring in that girl-in-a-movie-like-this kind of way (in this case, Analeigh Tipton who seems perpetually poised to be the next big thing but never seems to really become it). The main boy is cute and there’s a decent training montage or two, and a good pool-based romance scene that was out of place but pleasant, but mostly this is predictable and dumb.
101. The Giver
It took way too long for this film to get made (although, really, the story is one best told in written form). Because it took too long to get made, all the YA dystopias that The Giver inspired beat it to the big screen, making their own source material look derivative (how is the sorting ceremony thing all that different from the one in Divergent? What, other than age, separates Meryl from Kate Winslet?). The producers, for some reason, decided that the best way to deal with said unfortunate timing was to make The Giver bigger, turning a nuanced, philosophical (and short!) book into a bloated film complete with evil Asher (well, sort of evil), an expanded romantic and rebel role for Fiona (who almost gets executed!) and so many more hovercraft/drones/fancy speed bikes than any movie ever needs. Gabe is super cute, at least, but the best thing about this movie is the sappy “earth as it once was” memory montages, because I’m a sucker for montages. Also, Taylor Swift.
102. The Rover
Robert Pattinson’s post-Twilight career is wildly weird, mostly likely because he’s trying so hard to pull his legacy back to at least somewhat reflect his own taste and perspective (a long way from vampireville). The Rover is a strong step in that direction for him- a performance so vanity-free and unpolished that he stole the thing right out from under an unsuspecting and totally vanilla Guy Pearce. The colour and sound editing here are great but the story just doesn’t measure up. It’s sort of like Dude Where’s My Car done in the style of Breaking Bad, which is as annoying as it sounds.
103. Listen Up Philip
This movie is (I think?) a satire of the destructively self-obsessed New York novelist persona. The trouble with that is the resulting complete lack of sympathy for the protagonist. Narrated ultra-omnisciently by Eric Bogosian, Listen Up Philip is populated by infuriating men (including my beloved Jonathan Pryce as a horror show of an isolated famous author) and a few far-more-tolerable women (the best of them is Elisabeth Moss as the unfortunate girlfriend of Jason Schwartzman’s destructive Philip). I appreciate flawed protagonists but Philip never once gave me a reason to invest in his story, thus making Listen Up Philip a stylized slog masquerading as an intellectual assessment rather than the emotional exploration I was (and am always) looking for.
Ooh boy, couple things to note here. First of all, Logan Lerman is amazing and comes decently close to saving this film and absolutely should be a massive star. Second, I really am dedicated to seeing the greatness in Emma Watson, she’s a cool chick, but I just don’t see it (yet?). Ditto Aronofsky who has made one movie I adored (The Wrestler) but also one of my least favourite films of all time (Black Swan) and now this overblown nonsense that very easily could have been directed by a brainless blockbuster man. And then… Russell Crowe (and Jennifer Connelly, though she’s a fairly passive passenger on this train of disappointment). The other day, I stumbled upon Gladiator on TV. I only watched a few minutes but it was more than enough to remind me of something I’ve managed forget- I used to love Russell Crowe. In the back-to-back years of Gladiator then A Beautiful Mind, he delivered some of the most indelible, committed and moving performances I’ve ever seen in movies that remain some of my favourites (conversely, I’ve never forgotten for a minute how brilliant Joaquin Phoenix is). It’s when I remember Gladiator that I hate Noah most. What happened to that guy I loved? Where did he go and why does he refuse to even attempt to show back up?
105. Young Ones
Nicholas Hoult’s eyes are the only clear blue thing in this dust-covered post-apocalyptic tale of desperation and corruption. In his continuing quest to make us forget about About a Boy and realize he grew up into a handsome, potentially mainstream leading man, Hoult is the most intriguing figure here. Unfortunately, his character’s downward moral spiral feels too sinister, like we’re not watching it happen so much as slowly recognizing that it never needed to happen- he was never to be trusted. His onscreen romance with Elle Fanning contains little heat and even less connection, perhaps a byproduct of their fairly creepy 8-year age difference (quite the jump when the younger is only 16). Writer/director Jake Paltrow’s take on the sci-fi Western is striving to attract the sort of film nerd who might fall for his cheesy direction and Giles Nuttgens’ dated, showy cinematography because they subconsciously are reminded of Tatooine. An excellently animated scary machine thing is the only decent non-Hoult thing in the film.
106. Winter’s Tale
There are smart and cultured people in this world who call Winter’s Tale their favourite book of all time. I’ve never read it but I’ll have to take their word for it since this film is so atrocious I can only assume it’s also an atrocious adaptation. Silly, meandering, full of false relationships and phoned-in performances, it just left me wondering- we killed Lady Sybil for this?!
107. You Are Here
This self-indulgent, meandering, derivative rom-com benefits from an excellent collection of stars, chief among them Amy Poehler playing against type as the contemptibly manipulative sister to Zach Galifianakis’ loveable (if stereotypical) dreamer. Owen Wilson charmingly battles the immense hate-ability of his role as the partially supportive, mostly selfish, totally vapid weather man who sets himself up well upon hearing the news that his childhood best friend (Galifianakis) is inheriting 2.5 million from his estranged father’s estate. The worst thing about this ridiculous movie is that it seems to believe it’s not a rom-com. It variously pretends to be a coming of age story (we’re all unhappy and immature until we’re not anymore!), a tale about friendship (Wilson has one line that hints at a decent movie about friendship, though this isn’t it), a family dramedy (the funniest thing in the movie is Poehler’s obsession with hating her perfectly lovely stepmother) and even, for a few strange but fascinating moments, a black comedy about mental illness (the best line comes from an Amish kid seeing a psychiatrist because he talks to God: “God wants you to take your meds”). But You Are Here is none of those things; it’s just a really terrible, predictable, pedantic rom-com about two idiots who have to grow up (and fight over a girl, I guess) in order to each get their kissing-in-the-rain moment (for Galifianakis this is figurative; Wilson actually kisses in the rain, unfortunately). It’s lucky the wonderfully grounded and utterly winning Laura Ramsey is there to anchor all the romantic nonsense (especially considering Poehler could be cut from the movie entirely and it would barely affect the A plot). Other than the fact that it was written and directed by the supposed patron saint of basic cable (Matthew Weiner), the most interesting thing about this movie is the baffling scene in the first act when Galifianakis and Wilson smoke pot then pass the night in fast-forward to the tune of “The Sun Whose Rays” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado (What?!?!?! Why???????) .
This rom-com-dram stars a well-intentioned (and occasionally touching) Evan Rachel Wood as a mental patient on the run with Ben from Felicity. The film adheres so intensely to the passé Manic Pixie Dream Girl conventions that one could almost mistake it for parody, just without the laughs or self-awareness. Wood’s character is so wide-eyed and virginal (in every possible sense of the word) that her budding romance with Scott Speedman is actually somewhat irksome. This film points to some fairly upsetting trends in male fantasy; it’s also just a really badly plotted movie. #TeamNoel
I completely absolutely didn’t understand a word of this movie. That’s a problem for me. Basic coherence is very near to the top of my list of must-haves in any storytelling art form, right under characters I can care about and/or root for and/or am fascinated by. You’ve likely figured out by now that Enemy didn’t do that other thing either. Luckily, we’ll always have Nightcrawler.
110. Gone Girl
Please do not mistake the dead last placement of Gone Girl on this list as any sort of reflection of its quality as a piece of filmmaking. Gone Girl is an incredibly well executed film, there’s simply no denying that. Every actor does a great job, from Affleck (his unique familiarity brings an interesting quality to Nick, making me want to trust and protect him) to the amazing Rosamund Pike (so glad Hollywood is finally noticing her) and Carrie Coon as the film’s only particularly relatable character Margo, to the most strangely cast comedy actors in supporting roles (the impeccably tailored NPH as an obsessive man you instinctively can’t trust; Casey Wilson as a dim busybody; Tyler Perry as a cutthroat defence attorney) and David Fincher brings his tonal A-game (and ace composing team Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross). But I hated this movie more than I’ve hated any piece of artistic output in a really long time. *incoming spoilers* Not only is it disturbing and infuriating and unpleasant but its valuable themes of the damning media and power of perception are very easily overshadowed by its societally dangerous story about a vengeful, sociopathic woman crying wolf to destroy the lives of innocent men. This film (and the wildly popular book that came before it) plays directly into the dangerous trope of the “crazy bitch” (possibly the craziest and bitchiest of all time) and presents the sort of horrific alternate narrative that makes true victims of physical, mental and sexual abuse far too easy to disregard, mistrust or blame. This was not a story that needed to be told (it’s not entertaining, moving or even all that intellectually stimulating) and its telling can do nothing but amplify an already raging problem in the male reaction to, perception of and treatment of women. Yes, it’s technically excellent, but it made me nothing but angry.