I’m not going to waste too much time this year on introductions. We all pretty much know this is the dumping ground for lesser films prior to the summer blockbusters and awards season after that. Still, it’s worth mentioning that this was a slog to go through, and I didn’t even see these movies; I just charged myself with reviewing why I never got around to them.
Yes, 2014 may have been a record year for me seeing the most movies from that year, but there were still movies I never got around to or never even had the ability to see due to either foreign or limited release. I still like going over them, however, as this process often leads to me finding some unexpected gems that I might enjoy. Some of these I might become so interested in that I see them before I even get to the films I did see, so there is actually a possibility you might see these films reappear in this 2014 in Review series if that becomes the case.
Anyway, here are many of the films from January to April 2014 that I didn’t see, for one reason or another. It’s by no means complete, but that’s what you get when you’re using Wikipedia and Best of/Worst of lists from other sites. Read more…
It’s January! That means that we’re all looking forward to a year of new movies while looking back on the year past and nitpicking all the stupid things that we think Hollywood should avoid in the future while totally ignoring the fact that they’re all really going to just keep doing the same stuff over and over again.
And that really was the general consensus regarding 2014, from what I can tell. While 2014 had plenty of films we hoped were going to be good, there weren’t very many movies that we could look forward to with certainty of their excellence, either. Examples:
- There was a freaking movie based on LEGO blocks…
- Marvel was hedging their bets on two of their most ambitious films yet. The first was a sequel that completely changed up the series’ tone from the retro sci-fi cheerfulness of its predecessor to a more serious, pessimistic, and shockingly violent espionage flick, despite it being helmed by a duo who were heretofore better known for working in TV comedy and directing You, Me, and Dupree. The second was a film set at a far point in the galaxy with all sorts of weirdness going on, including a talking raccoon and a tree with an extremely limited vocabulary in two of the lead roles.
- Hunger Games fever was seeing its first major me-too film adaptations in The Giver, The Maze Runner, and Divergent while the actual Hunger Games film series continued with the first part of the cash-grabby, two-part Mockingjay adaptation. What’s next? Hobbit knock offs?
- Disney was following up their smash hit, Frozen, with their first ever Disney-branded Marvel adaptation in Big Hero 6, which took serious liberties with the X-Men-related comic book source material, including moving the story from modern day Tokyo to the far future hybrid city of San Fransokyo.
- No Pixar film, while DreamWorks was churning out an update to a classic cartoon in Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a sequel to How to Train Your Dragon, and a spinoff of Madagascar starring the Penguins of Madagascar… titled Penguins of Madagascar.
- Teenage romance films in the same vein as the seemingly never ending Nicholas Sparks adaptations, one of which was a remake of a crappy 1980s teenage romance film, one involving a girl on the brink of death while roaming around in a ghostlike form, and, perhaps the most egregious sounding of the three, an adaptation of a novel about two kids with cancer who happen to also fall in love.
- More reboots:
- Godzilla. Another one. Made by Americans.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, courtesy of producer Michael Bay, who was meanwhile continuing his Transformers series with a reboot of sorts, too.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past, which actually managed to make erasing the previous series of films from the new timeline a part of the storyline.
- Veronica Mars, which was a crowsource-funded restart of a cancelled TV series.
- Left Behind, which also managed to shove in freaking Nicolas Cage in there in one of his most baffling roles of his career. Speaking of which…
- Christian films reached both an all time high for popularity, at least as far as theatrical release goes, and a nadir for quality, the most offensive being the latest Kirk Cameron atrocity.
Yeah, 2014 looked like it was going to be a pretty bland year, even if you weren’t into the serious dramas and independent film scene, which… I honestly don’t keep up with nearly as much as I probably should when it comes to pre-release buzz. I can’t imagine that there are that many who do beyond actual paid professional critics, of which I am tragically not.
In the end, it was indeed a pretty off year for films, but I’m actually not so sure that’s a bad thing. While there were plenty of terrible movies, most of those were easy to spot from a mile away, and many of those uncertain major films actually managed to prove themselves to be a non-issue, while some of them actually turned out to be pretty fantastic, in fact! Yet more unexpected gems also emerged from the darkness to surprise everyone with how good they were… or, at the very least, they surprised me. Looking back, 2014 was a year that the expected gave way to the unexpected — and it was refreshing and satisfying.
On a personal level, 2014 was also pretty great for my film habit, by the way. I managed to buy myself a surround sound system finally thanks to a nice Christmas bonus. (Yay for being freaked out about whether the neighbors will complain!) It was the first year in which I rented a film that was also still playing in theatres — some of them either not available in my area and some just because I was a lazy bum who didn’t want to make the trip. I don’t anticipate me doing this for every release in the future, though, as I still love going to the theatre, and the prices for these films are pretty much comparable despite my TV and sound system not matching that of a theatre, but for things like documentaries or limited releases that are playing just too far away from my apartment, it’s proven to be a pretty convenient medium — particularly when I managed to get some free Vudu rental credit.
Consequently, this was also the year that I broke a personal record for the number of films I saw before the year’s end: a whopping 104, either through theatrical release or rental. By comparison, in 2011, the year I started blogging, I’d only seen 32 from that year in total, with some spillover into 2012 for the viewing time frame. With the added incentive of blogging from the very start, 2012 saw an increase to 58 by the time I posted my last year in review entry. 2013 again saw an increase to 68, meaning my 2014 viewing habits increased by nearly 53% from the previous year — and I’m not done yet, as there are still some films I want to see that I’ll likely watch before I complete this review series. I don’t know whether I should be proud or not… but I choose to be proud. I’ve already told my friends and family, anyway, and it still didn’t inspire them to stage an intervention, so I think I’m good.
So, yeah, I’m actually pretty excited to talk about the films of 2014. I anticipate that it’s going to be interesting and pretty different compared to past years. As always, I’m going to roll this out in stages, first with three entries discussing the films I didn’t see, then an entry discussing just the middle ground films I saw, an entry on the worst films I saw, and, finally, my favorite films from the year. (I say “favorite” because, while they’re all good, in my opinion, I do not rank them in order of excellence but rather personal favor. The “worst” list works pretty much the same way, pretty much, but in the reverse.)
For a rough schedule, here’s how I anticipate it working out, though it’s subject to change if I need to space it out (I will have seen over 104 films, after all, and I might choose to break up the middle ground film entry just due to numbers):
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – April)
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (May – August)
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (September – December)
- 2014 IN REVIEW: Neither the Best, Nor the Worst Films I Saw
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Worst Films of the Year
- 2014 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year
Produced by: Steve Pegram
Written by: Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
Story by: Sarah Smith (uncredited)
Edited by: John Carnochan, James Cooper
Animation studio: Aardman Animations
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Ashley Jensen, Imelda Staunton, Marc Wootton, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Ramona Marquez, Michael Palin
Every year, we hear that people are losing the true Christmas spirit, how everything’s become focused on material possessions rather than family togetherness. Horror stories from Black Friday sales frenzies flood the news, and having the most presents under the tree dominate our thoughts, so we’re told. But what if that attitude started spreading to one of the season’s most iconic figures, Santa Claus? That’s the basic start for the premise of Aardman’s contribution to the Christmas film pantheon, Arthur Christmas. Read more…
Produced by: Michael London
Written by: Thomas Bezucha
Edited by: Jeffrey Ford
Cinematography by: Jonathan Brown
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Tyrone Giordano, Brian J. White, Elizabeth Reaser, Paul Schneider
Every family has a traditional family Christmas film, I’m fairly certain. My family has a few, and they’re probably yours, too: Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf… (I’ve pretty much already exhausted reviewing all my favorites.) Of course, everyone has their oddballs. I like to throw in Die Hard, though not everyone recognizes that one as a Christmas movie (they totally should – family togetherness and such). My mom and sister? They like The Family Stone, and so, more often than not, that’s one of the movies we end up watching this time of year, though I, admittedly, usually end up finding a nice distraction while enjoying the company of family. I’m not a fan of the film, you see, and I’ve seen it enough times to feel like I knew it inside and out. I admittedly got a bit mouthy about it last year, though, despite seeing it a few times, and this upset them both. This year, I figured I’d watch it again on my own and see if I was being unfair to it. Naturally, this also meant that I intended on writing a review of it, too. Here it is. Read more…
Produced by: Petri Jokiranta
Screenplay by: Jalmari Helander
Story by: Jalmari Helander, Juuso Helander
Edited by: Kimmo Taavila
Cinematography by: Mika Orasmaa
Music by: Juri Seppä
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Rauno Juvonen, Per Christian Ellefsen, Ilmari Järvenpää, Peeter Jakobi, Jonathan Hutchings, Risto Salmi, Jens Sivertsen, Sigmund Bøe, Olav Pedersen, Nils M. Iselvmo
Based on the 2003 short film Rare Exports Inc. by Jalmari Helander and Juuso Helander
Santa Claus has largely been portrayed as being a saintly old man who travels the world delivering gifts to children on Christmas night, but that’s largely been because most productions are based on the image cultivated by American pop culture – you know, the one seen in film and on soda cans. Some films have attempted to stray from this mostly by making a point of it, incorporating some traditions while adapting and adding their own twists – Rise of the Guardians still portrayed him as a large, jolly man, but also a Russian brawler who will gleefully leap into battle with dark forces, while Arthur Christmas had Santa and his crew of elves leading a technologically advanced operation that adapted to each culture they visited, though Santa, by default, was still largely influenced by the traditional Santa. It seems like a hard thing to get away from, and it can largely become pretty stale, no matter what twist they may put on it. Rare Exports, as its name suggests, is as far from tradition as one can get from tradition without losing any semblance of who the central figure is supposed to be, though. Read more…
Produced by: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Jack Giarraputo, Brooks Arthur
Written by: Adam Sandler, Allen Covert, Brooks Arhtur, Brad Isaacs
Edited by: Amy Budden
Music by: Teddy Castellucci, Marc Ellis, Ray Ellis
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jackie Titone, Austin Stout, Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon, Norm Crosby, Jon Lovitz, Dylan Sprouse, Cole Sprouse, Tyra Banks, Blake Clark, Peter Dante, Ellen Albertini Dow, Kevin Farley, Lari Friedman, Tom Kenny, Carl Weathers, Allison Krauss
Christmas overshadows most other holidays that take place during this time of year. This is particularly because it’s unofficially considered to be a “season” rather than just a specific day. Christmas is also less of a cultural thing, as it’s essentially a global holiday that is celebrated by people who aren’t even Christian. More specifically cultural holidays, like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or, uh… Boxing Day… are thus given less attention. This despite the fact that Hanukkah is actually a longer celebration. That being said, it’s not like it’s completely hidden in the shadows in obscurity – we’ve all heard about it, even if we’re not Jewish ourselves – so it’s always been kind of puzzling why we haven’t seen very many films centered around the holiday. Perhaps it’s because studio executives think that the subject matter would isolate too many people from the potential audience? That really must be it since, you know, money. It’s not like there haven’t been films about Jewish people, but their holidays? Not so much. Cultural sensitivity be damned, I guess? … Of course, there are always ways of getting around such things. Like, for instance, cashing in on a big name star. Someone like… Adam Sandler. Read more…