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Sunday, January 4, 2015

20 2014 Films I Just Want To Shout Out (Odds & Ends)


I originally posted this list over at Why So Blu, but wanted to make sure it made the rounds, as I use my site to wrap up 2014.  With that in mind, this year, given how I have ranked a large number of films in an effort to put together an ultimate Top 10+ list, I wanted to spend time creating a list focused on a solid selection of films that I may not go all the way in pronouncing as my end-of-year favorites, but certainly want to bring as much notice to them as possible.  With that in mind, here is a list of 20 films in alphabetical order, consisting of comedies, horror films, genre fun, documentaries and more, which I have a high level of admiration for. (Each one is linked to my review for it, when applicable.)


Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – American audiences may not be all that familiar with Alan Partrdige, but he is a hilarious character Steve Coogan has been playing since the early 90s.  This past year a movie surrounding the character war released and I find it hilarious.  It puts the radio host character into a hostage situation, with ridiculous results.  Not quite as great as another Steve Coogan comedy that will be mentioned on this list, but very funny in its own right.


The BabadookThe best horror film of the year.  Perhaps, over time, I will come to love this movie even more than I do now (I mean, I pre-ordered the actual pop-up book they are creating for this thing), but for the time being, I just want to urge horror fans to check this film out.  Part terrifying children’s book come-to-life, part psychological drama/thriller, The Babadook is a wonderful debut film from writer/director Jennifer Kent, with a spooky new horror character that is sure to be remembered.


CalvaryPlaywright John Michael McDonagh’s second feature film (following the terrific black comedy The Guard) is another showcase for actor Brendan Gleeson, who shines as an innocent priest given a week to live by a parishioner set on making an example out of him.  Featuring strong performances, heavy themes, and very few moments of levity, this is a serious film for sure, but very well executed for those ready to take in a weighty, but very cinematic experience.


Cheap ThrillsA truly wacked-out thriller that runs along with the idea of showing how much someone would suffer through in an effort to make money, while bringing a sick amount of joy to others.  Pat Healy is terrific in the lead role as a man who was already in the middle of the worst day of his life, only to have the worst/strangest night of his life to follow it up.  A well-crafted dark comedy, with plenty of shocking moments to twist and turn this story on its head.


Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead Thanks to the assurance of a few friends, I was anxious to see what more one could do with the concept of Nazi zombies.  It worked out, as the film was not only better than the first Dead Snow, it went even crazier with the concept in what could be considered the ‘best’ of ways.  With special zombie powers at play and an all-out action climax, this was a fun zombie movie to check out for those who want a little more Norwegian humor in their zombie films.


Grand PianoFrom the writer of Whiplash comes a slickly-produced thriller that pits a pianist in the middle of a performance up against a sniper threatening to kill him if he plays one not wrong.  It is a perfectly silly premise that is very fun to watch playout, with a short enough runtime to not feel like it runs out of gas at any point.  Plus, it stars Elijah Wood, John Cusack and Bill & Ted’s Alex Winter!


The GuestThis is great genre fun. Dan Stevens takes on the role of a mysterious and seemingly very polite soldier boy, taking residence in the house of the family of the man who saved his life over in the Middle East.  From there, various things happen that turn this movie into some kind of play on The Terminator mixed with colorful 70s/80s slasher films and a kick ass electronic soundtrack.


Jodorowsky’s DuneThere was a time when we might have been able to see an acclaimed cult filmmaker produce a film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune that could have starred David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dali, with art design by H.R. Giger, and a score by Pink Floyd.  This is the fascinating story that basically receives an oral history of what went down in this fantastic documentary, featuring a lively personality in the form of Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and much more to keep the viewer invested in this wild tale.


John WickIn the realm of movies featuring older action stars that came out this year, John Wick easily sits at the top, as it is a blast to watch, with Keanu Reeves putting in a terrific performance.  The story doesn’t get simpler, but directors Chad Stahleski and David Leitch put together some terrific action scenes to go with a whole world they created for this film, which includes a hotel for assassins run by Ian McShane.  Plenty of personality in this awesome revenge flick.


Life ItselfA look at the life of renowned film critic Roger Ebert.  A great watch for anyone interested in the life of a man who used his words so passionately up to the end and who better than Steve James, director of Hoop Dreams, to be the one to put together this documentary.  A lot of emotional moments, lots of insight, and a great look at the former team that was Siskel & Ebert, Life Itself got a big ‘thumbs up’ from me.


Lucy   An outlandish premise that was met with a trailer convincing many that this would simply be a film about Scarlett Johansson beating up people, Luc Besson has made his best film in years in the form of a trashy thriller about one innocent woman being turned into a being evolving into more than anyone could imagine.  Sure, it has a lot of silliness and a reliance on Morgan Freeman’s exposition to keep things together, but it was one of the most out there and ambitious mainstream releases of the summer.


OculusA movie about a killer mirror that was much better than reading that sentence sounds!  Given the success of crap horror films like Annabelle and Ouija this past October, I wish Oculus, which was quite well received (especially for horror), was released during this timeframe instead.  With an emphasis on dread, a clever story, and some strong performances, Oculus was one of the Blumhouse Productions that I was really happy to respond so favorably to this past year.


Odd ThomasEasily director Stephen Sommers’ best film since his super fun take on The Mummy back in 1999, unfortunately Sommers is not in the same league as Michael Bay, when it comes to having lots of people hate on his blockbuster sensibilities, but still being able to make the big, fun movies he wants to.  Regardless, his take on Dean Koontz’ supernatural adventure story is incredibly fun and engaging, with wonderful characters, and a wicked sense of humor.


The One I LoveA romantic comedy from the arthouse world, with a sci-fi twist that I cannot spoil.  Plenty of intrigue fueled curiosity about The One I Love, with Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss doing great work together as a couple experiencing an odd weekend away together to say the least.  I have very much enjoyed revisiting this film and have been happy to see it catch on so well with critics.


The SacramentI am a huge fan of director Ti West and while The Sacrament puts the filmmaker in a different mode in terms of utilizing a documentary style to build the film around, it still has the slow-boil tension that makes for another fine horror experience.  Some key performances in the midst of what would be a terrifying situation involving a religious cult has made for a film with some memorable imagery and plenty of reason for me to continue looking forward to what Ti West will come up with next.


The SignalI love spreading the word on this movie.  No, it is not perfect, and no I am not just recommending it because of how cool it was to be able to interview the screenwriters (found HERE and HERE), but I would go out of my way to tell people to see this interesting sci-fi story, as it has a level of ambition and creativity that I found to be quite refreshing when I saw it.  Better to not get into the actual story and just let people discover it for themselves, but yes, The Signal is a cool little movie.


Step Up All InI have said plenty of times this year that Step Up All In was one of the best films of the summer for being able to pull off exactly what it wanted to.  We get great, well-edited, dance-based action sequences, a killer soundtrack, hilarious bad writing made enjoyable by game and over-the-top performances, and a respect for this silly series’ continuity. Myself, Why So Blu writer Brandon Peters, Forbes’ writer Scott Mendelson, and author Randy Shaffer even spent a half hour talking about how much fun this movie is right HERE. The fact is, if you want to see a silly dance movie, this is one of the bests.


They Came TogetherWe live in a world that could give us crap spoof films like Meet the Spartans in theaters, but somehow an actual hilarious and clever parody of romcoms, starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, among the many many other recognizable hilarious actors working today, could only be released on VOD.  Regardless, They Came Together is from the mind of those behind films like Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models and it has a lot of weird comedy for sure, but is plenty entertaining.


The Trip to ItalyThe Trip made me laugh plenty, this sequel does the same.  Director Michael Winterbottom has once again brought Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon together for another hilarious road trip comedy, where the two eat at great restaurants and have epic banter sessions, filled with hilarious impressions and reflections on their lives, given how they play exaggerated versions of themselves.  The best thing about all of this, The Trip to Italy is now available on Netflix Instant!


Under The SkinI may not have gone as crazy for this film as I know many others have, but it has certainly stuck with me in the months since I have seen it and will continue to have a lasting impression.  The story of a mysterious seductress and her discovery of life, this is the other wild 2014 sci-fi movie, featuring Scarlett Johansson, which not only has me impressed by her choices, but has done a great deal for me finding plenty of respect for an A-list performer from today that can deliver in really offbeat, but interesting projects (Jake Gyllenhaal will be getting a couple mentions in my Best-of list for this reason).  Chilling, weird, and quite wonderful.

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And that's it for today. Stay tuned for the Best and the Worst, along with the Out Now Top Ten of 2014!

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