by Heath Holland
2014 was a pretty good year for movies, and it definitely brought me more hits than misses this year. While there are still some consequences to living in the artistic anus of America (meaning I wasn’t able to see a couple of movies like Nightcrawler and The Homesman), I was able to catch up with nearly everything I wanted to see throughout the year. Let’s boogie.
10. Amazing Spider-Man 2
I’ve put this at the bottom for a reason. I know, okay? I KNOW. You can listen to an entire podcast to hear me gush about the way this movie affected me, and yes, still does. The faults of the movie are more apparent to me than they were on that podcast, and I recognize it as a studio movie and a producer’s movie more than a director’s movie. Not all of it works very well, and some of it doesn’t work at all. Still, in spite of all that’s working against it, there’s a lot more that I like than that I don’t. It’s the little character beats, rather than the broad strokes, that really draw me in, and those little things make this interpretation of Spider-Man speak to me in ways that others haven’t, for some reason. I can’t explain WHY any better than that, but I can’t deny the truth, either.
8. Enemies Closer
Enemies Closer, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Tom Everett Scott, is a low-budget action film from director Peter Hyams, the man behind the earlier Van Damme films Timecop and Sudden Death. Tom Everett Scott plays a forest ranger with a military background who squares off against Van Damme’s villainous drug lord in the North American wilderness. I saw this early in the year and it made a big impression that’s stuck with me ever since. It’s not a GREAT action film, but it’s very good, and it delivers the things I want from this kind of movie. Of all the “old school” action movies that came out this year, this is the one that I think was most successful. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a solid, classic-style action film with a relatively low budget, and I think other movies could learn from Enemies Closer.
7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I wasn’t all that excited about this movie before I saw it; the comics that it’s based on are revered, so I was prepared for a pretty close adaptation with few surprises. Luckily, these Marvel movies only use those classic comics as a jumping-off point. The films have their own ideas and go to places that work best for a MOVIE. Comic books are awesome, and I’ve dedicated a lot of my life to them, but I don’t want to see a filmed version of a story I’ve already read. Comics and movies are completely different things, and if the movies are going to be any good then they’re going to have to tell their own stories and play to strengths of FILM. It’s not as simple as filming classic comic books scene for scene, and I now think that Marvel gets that more than any other studio currently making superhero fare. The printed comic book storyline Captain America: The Winter Soldier stands almost completely apart from the cinematic Captain America: The Winter Solider, which is the way it should be. Oh, and it’s an awesome movie.
the first film, have come to appreciate the second, and have no idea how I feel about the third) mostly because it’s all just too much of everything. Brett Ratner has essentially made a mid-budget heroic fantasy film that does a lot of the same things as The Hobbit in just 98 minutes. It also doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as Jackson (or Tolkien’s book, for that matter). Most importantly, Hercules is a whole lot of fun.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
My thoughts on this one are basically that I can’t believe Bryan Singer pulled it off. After 11 years away from the X-Universe, during which 20th Century Fox allowed the series to flounder all over the place without a clear direction, Singer returned and managed to somehow make everything fit together in a way that makes sense. What’s more, I care about pretty much every single character in the movie and understand why they’re here and what their motivation is. After Patrick and I podcasted about the movie, I watched all the films in the order that they were released. By the time X-Men: Days of Future Past was over, I had a new appreciation for what Singer and writer Simon Kinberg had accomplished. It’s a crowning achievement that captures the essence of the X-Men, and the budget, effects, and filmmaking leadership of Singer ensure that these mutants have never felt more relevant or human. I was crazy about the X-Men for a really long time, but had cooled on the team over the last few years. X-Men: Days of Future Past reminds me what makes them so amazing and relights the fire I used to have for them. Also, MCAVOY.
4. Super Duper Alice Cooper
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
About a half-hour into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I realized that I was more invested in the plight of these apes, which are almost entirely digital creations, than in the human characters I watch in most movies. One scene in particular was full of so much subtlety and subtext that I was convinced it was one of the best performances of the year. Mark Ahn commented recently that the level of digital manipulation that is now possible opens the door to a discussion on what constitutes as acting, and I agree with him. Yet, I can’t deny how impressed and engaged I was with this movie, or how uncomfortable and anxious it made me. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes completely wears me out, and I mean that in the best possible way.
2. Stage Fright
earlier this year), and I just can’t understand the audience failing to connect with this movie. I think it’s delightful and clever and hilarious, and full of songs that I could listen to over and over again. I haven’t enjoyed a musical horror film this much since 2009’s Suck (another Canadian film), but I think I like Stage Fright even more. I read somewhere that some horror fans didn’t think it was scary enough; I think that misses the whole point. It’s not just a horror flick, it’s an entire experience, man! I can’t wrap my head around a movie full of this much passion, humor, and FUN not being accepted by the crowd it’s intended for. I absolutely love it. O, Canada, save a spot or me, I’m coming.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
At the beginning of 2014, Adam Riske and I had a conversation about 2014’s upcoming movies. I predicted Guardians of the Galaxy would, and I quote, “bomb hard.” Clearly the man who wrote that was suffering from some sort of mental condition and has no business speculating about movies. Ugh. What a jackass. As it turns out, GOTG (that’s what the kids are calling it) is the biggest hit of the year and director James Gunn is now a name that movie audiences everywhere can’t ignore.
GOTG is a movie that I wish had existed when I was younger, because I guarantee you that it would have occupied every waking moment of my free time. I’d be writing fan fiction, doodling The Milano on all my school folders, and annoying all my friends by walking around constantly singing “ooga-chaka, ooga-ooga-ooga-chaka.” Okay, I do all of those things anyway. What amazes me about GOTG is how transcendent it is: it’s based on Marvel comics, but I read some of those comics and they didn’t capture me like the movie did. The movie has transcended the comics, thanks to the vision of James Gunn and the perfect casting. It’s also transcended genre, because it’s not just a sci-fi adventure or a space opera. It’s full of comedy and action and remains grounded and accessible throughout, thanks in large part to the soundtrack and the many touchstones Gunn gives us to latch onto. It’s not for one crowd or one age or one gender; Guardians of the Galaxy is for everyone. It’s tragic and uplifting, breezy but full of weight. GOTG is a fully realized world that I can escape to and forget all my real-life problems for a couple of hours, where the good guys win and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. As clichéd as what I’m about to say is, it’s also the absolute honest truth: this is WHY I go to the movies. I think I’m going to watch it again right now.
Some different interesting choices Heath. Very good list. GOTG is growing more and more in my mind. Ive seen it 3 times now and I want to see it again soon. The humour is perfect and is what draws me back more than the action stuffReplyDelete
I haven't seen Stagefright. Its been on my radar for a while now. I like Horror musicals when they are done right. I thought Evil Dead The Musical was amazing
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ALL the comic book/superhero movie love, haha. This was a particularly strong year for that genre (and TASM2 came out! Haha, just kidding.) The thing I love about top 10 lists is seeing everyone's unique tastes and that they are willing and unafraid to stick up for the movies they love. Your list is no different, and that's great. Good job, Heath!ReplyDelete
Thanks, John. Yeah, I'm a genre guy at heart. I see almost everything, but it's genre stuff that fires my imagination and resonates with me more than anything else. I'm not knocking those deep, artistic movies by not including them, I'm just being honest about what really clicked for me. Last year G.I. Joe: Retaliation ended up on my "best of" list and all of the movies that ended up getting nominated for an Academy Awards did not. In the words of Andre Benjamin of Outkast, "I'm just being honest." Hey-Ya!Delete
"An Academy Awards" is what the kids are calling it this year.Delete
I totally admire this list lolReplyDelete
Reading a Heath Holland top ten reminds me of when Tarantino will randomly put out his top tens. At first you're a little baffled, but then you remember who wrote it and it makes sense. Also, if there are a few choices you haven't seen, you want to see them now because they must be a fun time haha.ReplyDelete
I'm really stoked about this Alice Cooper doc now. I've always liked him because he's jist this chill guy. Like your dad but wearing eyeliner.
By the way, "jist" is Appalachian American for just.Delete
Alice Cooper fascinates me. He's a legend who was on a first name basis with Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, has songs that could be made into entire horror movies (my favorite is the story told in the trilogy of songs that closes Raise Your Fist and Yell: Chop, Chop, Chop, Gail, and Roses on White Lace), and yet he's a husband, a father, a member of his church (his dad was a pastor), and an avid golfer. The contradictions are incredible, but he's not pretending. He's just being himself, and I love that.Delete
I looked up some Alice Cooper interviews after you posted this. I know it sounds odd, but I think I enjoy hearing Alice Cooper talk about his religious views more than most regular Christian friends I have. He's so honest and unapologetic.Delete
I know exactly what you mean.Delete
I too love the first Hobbit, didn't like DoS at all, and haven't yet seen TBotFA. What I came to realize in the past year, though, is that I just don't particularly care about the dwarves and their quest. I like Bilbo, and I'm interested to see what first drew him out of the Shire, introduced him to Elrond, and caused him to acquire the Ring - all of which happens in AUJ. Just because Tolkien wrote the whole book of The Hobbit doesn't necessarily mean the whole book deserves to be adapted. I'm not exactly desperate to go back in time and demand Jackson shoot a separate, twenty-minute "One-Shot" short film of the Tom Bombadil stuff, after all...ReplyDelete
I just can't reconcile the excess of these Hobbit movies, especially now that I've seen the whole scope of what Jackson was going for. I'm not saying I'm against it, but I can't wrap my head around it. I think I've got ONE thing left to say about Hobbits at the movies, and that will be coming soon.Delete
Sweet! I thought the last Hobbit was the best of the three but still just OK. My most last memory of the trilogy is the dwarves going into Bilbo's house and eating his food. Probably not what PJ was going for...Delete
Didn't that really upset you? Man, that first movie was so charming. I'd rather watch etiquette films about how dwarves should properly behave as dinner guests. Someone should make an instructional video.Delete
Rule #1: don't criticize your host's selection of cheese.
Rule #2: BYOB.
Rule #3: After dinner and a smoke, politely dismiss yourself and leave your host in peace. DO NOT stay up until almost dawn singing gloomy dwarvish folk songs by the fire. It's considered the be impolite.
I knew going into the movie that Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Saruman would all appear. I had no idea, however, that they would all share a scene! Seeing them assembled around the same table gave me as great a thrill as seeing Tony Stark meet Cap in The Avengers. If a great movie can indeed be defined as "two great scenes and no bad ones", I'd argue for that meeting and Bilbo's confrontation with Gollum as satisfying the first requirement. The second requirement, well... :PDelete
@Heath - Yeah, that scene where the dwarves crash Bilbo's will always get under my skin. It's just a weird thing of mine. I hate disorder when it comes to someone's home.Delete
I haven't seen all the movies on your list but what I have seen, I agree with. I was never a fan of the original Spiderman movies or the 1st Amazing Spiderman. I never understood Toby McGuire in anything let alone as Spiderman and the 1st Amazing was boring. Like you, the movie shouldn't work for me but does. Captain America was better than I expected. To me, Guardians of the Galaxy was the best movie of the year. The first time I saw it, I like it a lot but the second time...I loved it! I think it's one of my favorite movies in the last couple of years. I don't think you can appreciate it until you see it a second time. There are cheesy moments that shouldn't work for a guy in his mid-thirties but they do. I feel like James Gunn could easily become one of my favorite directors.ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed the variation on your list, Heath. It's unlike most other top 10 lists that I have seen, but I would agree with you that most of these movies are fun, well made films (I would have some arguments against Spider Man, but you like what you like and way to stick to your guns). Filth was a really interesting movie for me, and although I agree with you that it doesn't really work throughout, James Macavoy has turned into one of my favorite actors currently working next to Gyllenhal.ReplyDelete
Small quibble: Singer was fairly involved in the story drafting of X-Men: First Class, and would have directed it if he didn't still owe the WB another film. So he wasn't "away" for those whole 11 years... ;)ReplyDelete
That's a really good point.Delete
Heath marching to the beat of his own drummer, and sticking with "Amazing Spider-Man 2" through thick and thin. Good for you, dude. Seen four of the movies you watched (it'll be five after I watch "Stage Fright" as soon as I log off this site), and three of them are in heavy contention for my Top 10 list which I still haven't figured out (Saturday morning's gonna be brutal). Thanks for the suggestions though, "Filth" and "Super Duper Alice Cooper" sound interesting.ReplyDelete
I really want to check out Enemies Closer. Definitely right up my alley. Did you end up seeing John Wick?ReplyDelete
Interested to see your last Hobbit movie column. I've got some (sad) final thoughts on this trilogy as well.
Happy New Year!
I haven't seen John Wick yet. It's at the scary theater where all the arrests happen, so I'm going to have to wait for that one to hit DVD in February. I'm cautiously hopeful about that one, Mark. I think it sounds like my kind of movie, but I also don't want to expect too much from it. So you're saying it's better than 47 Ronin? Because you were sure right about that one.Delete
I went on a bender of action-ish movies for the last few weeks at the theaters and VOD, which included The Equalizer, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Fury, and John Wick. I enjoyed watching all of them, but I would say John Wick was definitely my favorite and probably the best of all of them. It might not be your favorite, but it's a good time. Lean, no-nonsense, feels re-watchable.Delete
Maybe John Wick can come to your neighborhood and help out with that scary theater situation.
Interesting picks Heath! Glad to see you're sticking to your TASM2 guns - I was not a big fan after watching it in the theatre but I am going to give it a second try in your honour!ReplyDelete