The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Top 10 of 2014

Here we sit with another year in the books. Let me tell ya....2014 kinda sucked in the movie department! Here's my Top 10 for 2014, not films just released in the calendar year but for all the movies I saw from January 1 through December 31, 2014. As I've said, this isn't necessarily classic films or all-time greats, but the 10 films I simply put, enjoyed the most. What entertained me. Enjoy! What did you think of 2014? Click on the name of the movie to go to the full review.

10. The Spikes Gang (1974)
Revisionist westerns are usually pretty hit or miss for me. They try too hard, try to be too realistic in their portrayals of the American west. This one? I loved it. Gary Grimes, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith play teenagers who leave home and encounter an infamous bandit (Lee Marvin) on the run. I couldn't get enough of this one, but 'Spikes' saves some twists for the last 20 minutes.

9. Cuban Fury (2014)
I love a good comedy, but they rarely make my Top 10 lists. I don't know what it was about this 2014 comedy, but it worked so well for me. Having played Simon Pegg's sidekick in some great comedies, Nick Frost gets his chance to take on a starring a middle-aged man who must re-embrace his tango dancing past to get noticed by his boss (Rashida Jones). Also look for Chris O'Dowd and Ian McShane. Nothing about it screams 'GREAT!' but I laughed a ton. Genuine, out loud, my stomach hurts laughing. Those are rare.

8. Unknown (2006)
One of my favorite shows is the classic The Twilight Zone. This mysterious thriller screamed of some Zone inspirations. Five men (Jim Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Joe Pantoliano, Barry Pepper, Jeremy Sisto) wake up in a locked up and seemingly abandoned warehouse in the desert with no memory of who they are or how they got there. What the hell happened to put them in this spot? Peter Stormare and Bridge Moynahan also star. Loved the mystery, the sense of doom, and even the payoff is worthwhile. Not a hugely well known flick but a gem that I loved.

7. Locke (2014)
Tom Hardy continues to impress and keeps on climbing up my list of favorite actors. This is Tom Hardy's movie, the British actor playing Ivan Locke, a construction site manager on the brink of a huge career breakthrough but he's got some problems to fix first. The movie develops like a stage play, the entire running time spent with Hardy's Locke in his car, driving on the highway and talking on the phone. It might not work for all viewers, but my goodness, I loved this one.

6. Nightcrawler (2014)
I thought I was getting one movie and ended up with something far better with this crime thriller. I've always thought Jake Gyllenhaal was an incredibly talented actor, but this may be his best work yet. His part as budding crime videographer of sorts, Lou Bloom, is terrifyingly, horrifically good, a performance I hope earns him a Best Actor nomination. Also look for Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed in key supporting parts. It isn't getting quite the buzz some other films are as the awards season approaches, but it's pretty great.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
From director Martin Scorsese and star Leonard DiCaprio, this true story was an awards darling about this time last year. DiCaprio stars as Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who starts up his own business empire without morals or business ethics in sight. A long movie full of some great performances -- especially DiCaprio -- with Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey and Margot Robbie helping steal the show. Full of excess and ridiculous moments, it's funny, dramatic and one great flick.

4. St. Vincent (2014)
Approaching Clint Eastwood in the aging legend and crotchety old guy role, Bill Murray is supremely excellent in this comedy/drama that sure looks and sounds pretty familiar but ends up being much more. Murray is a man in his 60s, living on his own and set in his ways, who gets some new neighbors, a single mom (Melissa McCarthy) and her somewhat nerdy son (Jaeden Lieberher). When she needs help, Murray’s Vincent steps in as an unlikely babysitter. Funny, dark, emotional and moving, I loved this movie with Chris O’Dowd and Naomi Watts also starring.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
If there’s a such thing as a “risky Marvel movie,” then this was it. Not a huge cast with generally unknown characters, ‘Guardians’ was a gem and made boatloads of money. A great, if unlikely cast – Chris Pratt as a Han Solo-like anti-hero, Zoe Saldana as the femme fatale-like assassin, Dave Bautista as an alien strongman, Bradley Cooper as a smart-mouth, gun-toting mercenary, Vin Diesel as a talking tree – combine for this space adventure as a team of five unlikely prisoners end up together, potentially saving the world. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this one but a movie that’s just so much fun. Loved it throughout with too many cool scenes and good laughs to mention.

2. Fury (2014)
 There are two genres I love more than others, westerns and war movies. This David Ayer-directed World War II film looked like a throwback to men-on-a-mission war movies from the 1960s but mixed in with the extremely graphic violence of a movie like Saving Private Ryan. Familiar stuff in terms of the war genre but done with a fresh eye, a new look. Brad Pitt is excellent as Wardaddy, the veteran commander of a Sherman tank trying to get his crew and tank through the war unscathed. The end of the war seems close – very close – but nothing is guaranteed as the tank (dubbed ‘Fury’) heads out toward the front lines. Very good cast – Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal – works well with a well-written stories, some horrific action and violence, and a very moving finale. The definition of an uncomfortable movie but a modern gem, a classic war film.

1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
What a gigantically pleasant surprise. When I saw the trailer for this 2013 drama, I was intrigued but not necessarily interested. Boy, was I wrong. Ben Stiller stars as Walter Mitty, a negatives analyst at Life Magazine who has vivid daydreams that take him away from his somewhat dull, straightforward daily life. I absolutely loved the message of this film, loved the idea and execution, the performances and especially the ending. Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Adrian Martinez, Patton Oswalt and Kathryn Haan co-star.

What does 2015 hold? The list of movies I'm looking forward to keeps getting longer and longer so who knows for sure. I can say as far as movies go, I'm really looking forward to what 2015 offers in theaters. Bring it on 2015!

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