Paul & AJ’s Top 10 Films of 2014

The new year is less than two days old, so once again, it’s time to look back to our favorites of last year. As always, lists are imperfect, incomplete, and totally subject to change upon reflection and the passage of time.

We’ll start with Paul; he remains skeptical of this whole top 10 business, so this year, his contributions to our lists (including comics, albums, and TV shows) will be presented without comment.

(Mine, of course, will probably say too much.)

~ AJ

PAUL’S FAVORITE (NOT BEST) FILMS OF 2014
10. Boyhood (dir. Richard Linklater)
9. Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan)
8. Maleficent (dir. Robert Stromberg)
7. Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch)
6. The LEGO Movie (dirs. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
5. Guardians of the Galaxy (dir. James Gunn)
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dirs. Joe & Anthony Russo)
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Matt Reeves)
2. Big Hero 6 (dirs. Don Hall & Chris Williams)
1. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. Dean DeBlois)

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-ho)
Edge of Tomorrow (dir. Doug Liman)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (dir. Francis Lawrence)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (dir. Bryan Singer)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (dir. Marc Webb)

DIDN’T SEE
Birdman (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Force Majeure (dir. Ruben Ostlund)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (dir. Peter Jackson)

AJ’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2014

10. BIRDMAN (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Film Review Birdman

“A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing,” reads the quote (sometimes attributed to Susan Sontag) stuck to Riggan Thomson’s mirror. One imagines the former superhero actor, played by a back-and-swinging-for-the-fences Michael Keaton, clings to that mantra as he negotiates a shot at artistic integrity with his paranoid need to be loved. It also serves as a warning to anyone trying to dissect the film or Iñárritu’s intentions. After making a career out of overwhelmingly somber dramas, Iñárritu has made a frenzied comedy propelled by a furious drum score from Antonio Sanchez. He also peppers the film with flights of insanity, in which Riggan has telekinetic powers or takes to the skies just like his old alter ego. How much of this is real? What does the film’s beautiful final shot mean? There’s a lot to be said, but you can also take Birdman for the absurd, chaotic, hilarious thing it is.

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Jonah Hill Will Make You Jump, Jump: 21 Jump Street Review

 

Though I wouldn’t have predicted this in a thousand years, and I’ve been skeptical of others who have claimed this before me, I’m here now to tell you 21 Jump Street…is actually good.

Obviously an “homage” (read: send up, parody, reimagining, whatever) of the late-80s teen police procedural of the same name that ran on the infant Fox Network, which dealt with young cops masquerading as high school students to investigate crimes. The 2012 film version focuses less on the teen drama and more on the comedy potential inherent in such a preposterous concept. And though there’s a surprisingly effective heart and maturity to some of the story (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill share a real brotherly chemistry I wasn’t expecting), it’s the comedy that ultimately sells this. Special comedic thanks to Dave Franco, who along with Eliza Coupe was the only reason to watch the ninth and final season of Scrubs. He’s dopey and dim, with just a hint of dangerous, and is easily 50% of why you should see this movie.

Directed by the team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who previously brought us the criminally under appreciated animated film Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (which, btw, watch it right now!), there are some sequences that play like a live action cartoon, in the best possible way. The screenplay is credited to Michael Bacall, co-writer of the 2010 masterpiece Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which itself played heavily with live action cartoonishness. A couple of Pilgrim actors turn up in this film, most obviously Brie Larson who played Scott Pilgrim’s ex Envy, and here plays romantic lead Molly. Less immediately obvious (but much funnier) is Johnny Simmons (Young Neil), with a brief but pivotal cameo.

There are countless shout outs and Easter eggs for the 80s TV fans, and though this adaptation goes more for laughs than the original series perhaps intended, I think old school (pun intended) fans will find a lot to like here.