Though the Academy didn’t officially put an end to 2013 until March, 2014 is already half over. Films like “Godzilla,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and the just released “Transformers: Age of Extinction” have been making the biggest noise this year, here are ten other films that you should have seen or catch up on that I consider the 10 best of 2014, so far.
10. Edge of Tomorrow
There’s an old adage that there are only six kind of stories, and the rest is just adding different backdrops. “Edge of Tomorrow” is a great example of that as the film is a carbon copy of Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” but placed in the sci-fi genre. Still, Doug Liman’s film brings its own take to the familiar story and provides a hell of a good time. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are fantastic in what is just pure summer fun at the movie theaters for everyone.
9. The Lunchbox
A hidden gem from the early months of the year, “The Lunchbox” is a touching and heartfelt film. Irrfan Khan, most recognizable from his roles in “Slumdog Millionaire” or “Life of Pi,” is exceptional in the film that sees a young wife and an older man connect through notes after Mumbai’s lunch delivery service makes a mistake. It is a great bit of unexplained magic that puts these two souls together and their relationship, though not in person, is a joy to watch bud and see how they affect one
8. Bad Words
Hollywood is famous for misleading the marketing of their films, making people think a more reflective, calmly paced film like “Drive” is a rip-roaring action film. You could make the case that “Bad Words” was mistakenly sold as a raunchy comedy. Though it has some laughs, the film is much more dramatic than the trailers would have you believe. The switch had no affect on my enjoyment of the film, as Jason Bateman gives the best performance of his career and proves he is an adept filmmaker in his feature debut.
7. The Fault in Our Stars
For the record, I did not cry during “The Fault in Our Stars,” but I did recognize that this was an extremely well acted, well written, and overall well executed film. “Love Story” for millennials, “The Fault in Our Stars” avoids the pitfalls of clichés by the pitch perfect work from stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber. It is able to escape the young adult trappings that it was labeled with and proves to be a sophisticated story about love and death.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Despite the time traveling and the merging of original trilogy cast members and “X-Men: First Class” alum, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” succeeds because the film went smaller. Of course not in every area, the action sequences were some of the biggest in the franchises history, and they were entertaining, but the highlight of the movie was the stronger focus on Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique and James McAvoy’s Professor X. It was a great change of pace from the often Wolverine centered story lines (though Hugh Jackman was present and reliable as always) and it was a different type of dynamic that has not been present in past outings of the franchise.
5. Only Lovers Left Alive
“Only Lovers Left Alive” is just cool. Jim Jarmusch, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton all excel in this vampire film that worries less about plot and just portrays these horror movies tropes as immensely interesting characters beyond the fact that they suck people’s blood. Hiddleston and Swinton’s desire and struggle to avoid the natural inclinations of vampires and be above it is the film’s great struggle, and leads to one of the best ending images of the year.
4. Le Week-End
“Before Midnight” was my favorite film of last year. It was an honest look at the evolution of a couple’s relationship. “Le Week-End” is like the grandparent of “Midnight” as it follows Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as a long-married couple celebrating their honeymoon in Paris – but the honeymoon affect has long since wore off. “Le Week-End” does a great job of showing this couple at their best, but also the wear and tear of a relationship that has gone on as long as it has. It’s a funny, sweet, and in the end, reaffirming take on love with great performances from Broadbent and Duncan.
3. The Lego Movie
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are having one hell of a 2014 already. Exhibit A for that is the surprise hit of the year, “The Lego Movie.” One of the funniest movies of the year, the film is also a lot smarter and emotionally charged than you would expect being based off a bunch of building blocks. Whether it is the stellar voice cast who are all on point, the bevy of pop culture references, or the annoyingly catchy tune of “Everything is awesome,” I dare you to not have a good time watching “The Lego Movie.”
2. 22 Jump Street
Exhibit B on why Lord and Miller are the kings of 2014 so far is “22 Jump Street.”
I enjoyed “21 Jump Street” but was by no means blown away by it. “22” tops its predecessor by leaps and bounds by building off of the great chemistry between stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and diving deeper into satire than the first film. Lord and Miller rip nearly every single facet of a studio sequel in hilarious fashion – they’re not winking either, these are straight up gut punches to the many failings of sequels. But what makes it even better is that “22 Jump Street” is actually a good sequel in its own right. They got to have their cake and eat it too and made one of the best summer comedies since “The Hangover.”
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson has always been one of the most unique voices working in film, but with “The Grand Budapest Hotel” he may have just created his masterpiece. His biggest film to date, Anderson doesn’t let the scale change the way he tells a story, as all of his traditional trademarks that his fans love are present, but the film also is broad enough to thoroughly entertain those who are not as entrenched in Anderson’s past work. Top that with a brilliant ensemble led by a fantastic Ralph Fiennes, and an eloquent ode to clinging to past ideals in an ever-changing world makes “The Grand Budapest Hotel” a brilliant piece of cinema.