Mike Lee’s Top 15 Films Of 2014
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Now that 2014 is over, we are left with deciding which movies were the best of the year. Contrary to to what the box office says, 2014 was a pretty amazing year in film. But as I look back at the 100 or so films that I have seen in the past year, the following 15 films are the ones that I have seen repeatedly, could not stop talking about, or have had the biggest impact one me. Of course this is a subjective list, as there are plenty of other films that I have and have not seen that are or could be better, but honestly, these 15 left the biggest impact on me. I’ll also throw in a couple of honorable mentions. Hit the jump to check it out.

Honorable Mentions

Here are my two honorable mentions of 2014:

Begin Again
Blu-ray | DVD

A cheery film that went somewhat unnoticed in a rather quiet summer, John Carney’s musical comedy of a down-on-his-luck music producer (Mark Ruffalo) finding his inspiration again through a struggling but very talented musician (Keira Knightley) isn’t exactly like his directorial debut — the 2007 Once — but the Begin Again‘s sentiment and chemistry between the two leads made for a very entertaining watch nonetheless.

The Raid 2
Blu-ray | DVD

A much larger look at the world of crime in Indonesia than the one we saw in a single solitary building. The Raid 2 has some of the greatest action sequences seen in the past few years. But the length of the film, plus pushing the characters in all sorts of directions somewhat hurt its entertainment value.

15 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Blu-ray | DVD

As far as comic book films go, Captain America: The Winter Soldier redefined the genre not only with the political thriller twist, but also building a story to a much larger and climatic chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the film does tease its connections to its TV counterparts and sequels, they aren’t as in your face or obvious as with other films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

14- Foxcatcher
Blu-ray | DVD

Incredibly well-acted, Foxcatcher is more about the performances than it is a story about the late John Du Pont (Steve Carell) and David Shultz (Mark Ruffalo). It also shows just how versatile Channing Tatum is as an actor. While the three give fantastic performances, it is grim from beginning to end, and I was left feeling that there was a whole lot more to tell than what was shown in the film.

13 – Interstellar

As far as visuals go, you can give all the awards to Hoyte van Hoytema for his work on Interstellar. Building these breathtakingly, awe-inspiring landscapes from planets lightyears away was really something that could only be seen on the big screen, and pairing that with Hans Zimmer’s music sans the Inception‘s BRAWWM was great. But even with the glaring plotholes and sound issues, not to mention the boring idea that “love transcends time, space, and gravity,” Christopher Nolan’s latest film tops my favorites of the year.

12 – Nightcrawler
Blu-ray | DVD

Nightcrawler looks at how the public eats up the modern visual journalism mantra “if it bleeds, it leads.” Jake Gyllenhaal‘s performance as Lou Bloom is relentlessly eerie as he will do anything to get the story. Watching his transformation from an inspired nightcrawler amateur to full-blown monster in Dan Gilory‘s crime-thriller/satirical neo-noir is captivating in its own creepy way.

11 – Inherent Vice
Blu-ray | DVD

P.T. Anderson lightens up a bit in his latest directorial effort, which is an adaptation of the novel of the same name. But Inherent Vice does fall a bit short of the great titles he has released before. Scattershot at times, the terrific performances and respect to the source material make this a worthwhile film to watch.

10 – The Lego Movie
Blu-ray | DVD

Phil Lord and Chris Miller are truly a master of their craft, turning a seemingly bad idea into an original, hilarious, and successful franchise. The Lego Movie has strikingly beautiful animation, and is the kind of movie that both kids and adults can enjoy for various reasons. Touting a very hilarious voice cast, the jokes hit at a mile-a-minute, and the colorful worlds we see only add to the nostalgia factor.

9 – Big Hero 6
Blu-ray | DVD

Disney’s first animation adaptation of a Marvel property found that perfect balance between Disney magic and Marvel comic book action. Baymax’s endearing heart and hilarious naivety only made Big Hero 6 so much more enjoyable to watch. But it was the decision to address some of darker themes – like death and the loss of a loved one – straight on instead of glossing over them that should be commended. Plus, the animation looked spectacular and the action sequences were fun, not to mention there was plenty of humor to go around. And let’s not forget the hilarious Baymax fist bump.

8 – Edge Of Tomorrow
Blu-ray | DVD

One of the most underrated films of the summer would have to go to Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise‘s film was the kind of popcorn blockbuster that deserved more attention than it got. Doug Liman‘s latest effort was much more than putting a sci-fi action twist on Groundhog Day; it was also funny, sharp, and very entertaining. Not to mention the film gave us more reason to believe that Emily Blunt would be perfect for the role of Ms. Marvel.

7 – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Blu-ray | DVD

Wes Anderson delivers another whimsical and original film complete with one-of-a-kind characters and eye-catching set pieces with The Grand Budapest Hotel. While these set pieces may be a bit ostentatious, there is no denying that they are just as imaginative as Anderson’s storytelling, and one can only hope that a hotel like the title one still exists. Always unconventional, but never short on fun, Anderson’s latest offering is the kind of out of the box and original comedy adventure that needs to be seen.

6 – Gone Girl
Blu-ray | DVD

This sharp crime thriller by David Fincher is much more than that. It is a commentary on the modern ideas of marriage as well as mass media itself. Yet Fincher’s film has dark and grisly humor, making Gone Girl the funniest film on his resume. Ben Affleck gives another stellar performance, but it is Rosamund Pike who steals the movie with her performance as the cold and calculated Amy Dunne. Gone Girl is truly a testament of what happens when a director, a great script, and two leads come together for a perfect adaption.

5 – Birdman
Instant Video

One of this year’s most ambitious films is Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s multi-meta-layered dark comedy Birdman. Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki‘s use of one-shot takes, and weaving them together to make it looks as though the comedy was filmed in a one long take was absolutely stunning if not ingenious. Ironically Michael Keaton plays an actor – famous for playing a franchise superhero – looking to rebuild his name, after keeping a low-profile, with a stageplay. While Birdman is fantastic to look at, it is also a commentary on celebrity, the public’s obsession with celebrities, film franchises, and entertainment criticism – it being film, TV, stageplay, etc.

4 – Selma

Most biopics fail because they are unfocused and they lose sight on the importance of the subject. But for Ava DuVernay‘s Selma, we see a very concise and powerful film that does more then reminds us of the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, it reminds us that the past is never too far behind us and that the movement is still relevant to this very day. David Oyelowo may not look like the part, but his gripping performance as Dr. King demands your attention, and is one of the most inspired performances of the year.

3 – Snowpiercer
Blu-ray | DVD

There is a subtle brilliance in the simple premise in Bong Joon-ho‘s Snowpiercer. Set in an icy post-apocalyptic world, survivors now live aboard a train that perpetually runs across the global, protecting them from the freezing temperatures of the outside. With cars broken down into social classes, Chris Evans leads a band of the poor, malnourished tail-end passengers to the front to what Tilda Swinton (who gives an unforgettable performance) refers to as “the sacred engine.” Each car the revolutionists break into reveals a new world and a whole new mystery as all is not what it seems to be on this train.

2 – Guardians of the Galaxy
3D Blu-ray | Blu-ray | DVD

If Captain America: The Winter Soldier revolutionized the way we see comic book films, then James Gunn took that concept, turned it over, and spun it on its head with Guardians of the Galaxy. The summer movie was a rip-roaring action adventure that mixed comedy and comic books into one, then heavily sprinkled it with great music that made even the youngest fans want to visit the songs of the 70s. It doesn’t stop there though, as Guardians also has a lot of heart, and had us believing in the risks that Marvel takes by releasing a zany film that has its lesser known stars like Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista appear, while their bigger names like Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper take a back seat by voicing a walking tree and a talking, gun-toting raccoon, respectively. Ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy was a risk worth taking, and opens the door for wacky and lesser-known Marvel properties to get their own films.

1 – Whiplash
Blu-ray | DVD

Damien Chazelle‘s darling Whiplash is a very intense telling of ambition, first impressions, and being the best. The ambitious young student (Miles Teller) seeks to impress the ferocious jazz band instructor (J.K. Simmons) with terrifying teaching methods is a story we have all heard before. But beneath that layer lies a story of clashing egos, electrifying jazz music, and a portrayal of pushing characters to their breaking point. And while it may have a simple plot, Whiplash is a pulse-pounding film that uses every ounce of energy to deliver something unique and satisfying.

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