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The Year in Film: 2014

The 2014 movie year began with the pretty-good, refreshingly different “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and ended with Tim Burton’s fine return to character drama, “Big Eyes.” In between, there were a handful of great movies and lots of clutter. Being a film buff is no different than loving great literature or music: the popular stuff is occasionally great but mostly bad, while the best movies are the ones you have to seek out and dig for. Here’s a quick rundown of the finest I saw, a few gems and lumps of coal that stood out and the bad ones worthy of mentioning one more time.

Ten Best of 2014

  1. The Better Angels– A hidden gem, little seen but gorgeous and emotionally resonant. The story of young Abraham Lincoln is a perfect blend of historical drama and cinema as poetic expression. It seems few have heard of this and many missed it in theaters. It’s out on DVD/blu-ray in March. Don’t miss out on this truly unique, affecting and spellbinding work, my favorite film discovery of 2014, Debut writer/director A.J. Edwards’ film inspired and moved me more than any other this year.
  2. Boyhood I was sorry to see Richard Linklater’s one-of-a-kind drama end.
  3. American Sniper– Another masterpiece from Mr. Eastwood. Bradley Cooper’s acting milestone.
  4. Interstellar– Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic aims big, shoots for the moon and, yes, takes us to infinity… and beyond.
  5. Gone Girl– David Fincher’s wicked game of a thriller is the antidote to decades of dreadful rom-coms.
  6. Jodorowsky’s Dune– A dream come true of a documentary, and a must for sci-fi film lovers.
  7. Blue Ruin– This perfectly nasty, unpredictable neo-noir thriller that plays like early Coens or Tarantino.
  8. Ida– Deceptively quiet, this devastating drama from Poland overflows with shocking surprises.
  9. Maleficent– Few “event” movies take this many risks and have a richness of vision and character.
  10. The One I Love– A weird, eerie twist on modern love stories, it stings as much as “Gone Girl.”

Ten Worst of 2014

  1. God’s Not Dead – No, God isn’t dead but I wish I could bury this movie alive. Suspension of disbelief is a requirement for most filmgoers, but I couldn’t believe that an atheist college professor would halt his course schedule and give an earnest new student a days-long platform to prove God exists. I couldn’t believe that the filmmakers would cast Kevin Sorbo as the teacher, or the shamelessly emotional, entirely unconvincing stance the teen (and the movie) take in declaring God’s existence. I couldn’t believe that the Newsboys concert climax, arguably the film’s most shameless promo or how legalistic the film’s stance on salvation and faith is. Finally, I flat out can’t believe that a movie this wretched grossed $60 million at the box office. Audiences who want to see movies reflecting their faith deserve great filmmaking, storytelling and acting. “God’s Not Dead” has none of those things.
  2. Transformers: Age of Extinction – Movies based on toys shouldn’t be so punishing to sit through.
  3. The Fault in Our Stars – It’s bad enough a young girl’s suffering from cancer was turned into a sappy teen fantasy. What I can’t forgive is the scene where she struggles to climb a flight of stairs…at the Anne Frank Museum. Justin Bieber’s recent, infamous visit to the same location was far less shameless.
  4. No Good Deed – This ugly home invasion thriller put two gifted, attractive actors, Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, in a vehicle that didn’t deserve them. The twist ending was a howler even M. Night Shyamalan would have tossed.
  5. I, Frankenstein – Every year, there are dozens of disposable, CGI-heavy “epics” that introduce piles of mythology, exposition and “rules” for the world it portrays and, above all, sets up a sequel-ready franchise. This dog wasn’t even as good as an “Underworld” sequel.
  6. Endless Love – The original was a turkey but at least it had guts and a truly bold story. The watered down remake wants to be “The Notebook” but isn’t even on par with “Nights in Rodanthe.”
  7. A Million Ways to Die in the West – The year’s biggest vanity project, in which star/director/writer Seth MacFarlane put himself front and center of every scene of his bizarre, unfunny comedy western.
  8. Left Behind – This Nicolas Cage-starring remake made me laugh so hard, I was tempted to leave it off the list. It stinks but it’s such a Hall of Fame Howler of an unintentional comedy, I’d happily watch it again tonight.
  9. Winter’s Tale – Colin Ferrell rode a flying horse, fell in love with a girl whose apartment he was robbing and battled the Devil, played by Will Smith. Those were the least strangest parts of this elaborate botch of a well regarded novel.
  10. Veronica Mars – Kristen Bell’s appeal and fond memories of the TV series aren’t enough to carry this smug, charmless spinoff, funded by Kickstarter money that was better spent elsewhere. What made the series special was nowhere to be found.

Biggest Disappointments

Get On Up

The Judge

Jersey Boys

Noah

Transcendence

Muppets Most Wanted

 

Seriously Underrated

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Sabotage

 

Flawed Films with Great Scenes

Birdman

Godzilla

The Giver

 

Scariest Movies I Saw:

Annabelle

Oculus

The Babadook

 

Scariest Final Scene

(tie) Only Lovers Left Alive/ Enemy

 

Most Fun I had in a Movie Theater This Year

Opening night of Ouija at the Queen Ka’ahumanu theater with a bunch of lively, rowdy teens.

 

Best Remake

About Last Night

 

Remakes that didn’t work

Annie

The Equalizer

RoboCop

 

Best Animated Film

How to Train Your Dragon 2

 

Best Hawaiian Film

The Haumana

 

Best Action Movies

John Wick

Lucy

The Maze Runner

Need For Speed

 

Guilty Pleasures

Dumb and Dumber To

Hercules

The Expendables 3

 

Why Was This a Hit?

Heaven is For Real

Ride Along

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

 

Thank You Moviegoers for Turning Your Backs On…

Pompeii

Sex Tape

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

That Awkward Moment

 

Best Sequels

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

22 Jump Street

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 

Sequels Nobody Asked For

Dolphin Tale 2

Horrible Bosses 2

Leprechaun: Origins

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Penguins of Madagascar

Planes: Fire and Rescue

The Purge: Anarchy

Rio 2

 

Sequels We Wanted Then Regretted Asking For

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

300: Rise of an Empire

 

Good Found Footage

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Willow Creek

 

Bad Found Footage

Alien Abduction

Devil’s Due

Earth To Echo

 

Creepiest Jake Gyllenhaal Movie

(Tie) Nightcrawlers/Enemy

 

MVP who elevated pretty-good movies:

Bill Murray, St. Vincent and The Monuments Men

 

Best Movie Poster

Cooties

cooties

Happy New Year and See You at the Movies in 2015!

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About Barry Wurst II

Barry Wurst II
Barry Wurst II is a senior editor & film critic at MAUIWatch. He wrote film reviews for a local Maui publication and taught film classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (UCCS). Wurst also co-hosted podcasts for Screengeeks.com and has been published in Bright Lights Film Journal and in other film-related websites. He is currently featured in the new MAUIWatch Podcast- The NERDWatch.

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