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Top Ten Films of 2014 (JimmyO)

The year of 2014 was, in my humble opinion, a very special one for films. While it was clear that some of the predicted blockbusters didn’t show the signs of life that had been expected, there were so many other gems that left an impact. Thankfully, I found there to be a ton of surprises when it came to entertaining big screen offerings, as to what did (or didn’t) make money. And there are certainly a number of quality films that found their way into the cinema – as well as VOD.

Like any other year, January started off with a couple of minor horror flicks and movies that are far from memorable. During the summer months we found a slew of big budget features, many of which failed to set fire to the box office. Yet as always, the end of the year gave us a number of revelations, this includes a shockingly good Marvel movie in August, as well as a dozen or so cool Indies. In the end, this is a year that was unpredictable, yet ultimately satisfying. So continue on and find out the flicks that put a smile on my face, and continued to remind me how wonderful the movie going experience can be.

Check out Chris Bumbray's Top 10 RIGHT HERE!

Check out the video version TOP 10 HERE!:

1. Boyhood

As a fan of Richard Linklater, I wasn’t surprised to have such a positive reaction to his latest. However, I had no idea as to what a fantastic work it would end up ultimately being. This is a very honest portrait of growing up, facing the many obstacles of coming of age, and finding out exactly who you are supposed to be. It is also wonderful to see the parents being more than just stereotypes. The performances from both Ethan Hawke, and especially Patricia Arquette, are just terrific. Linklater took a risk on a young Ellar Coltrane who you quite literally see grow up on screen during the film, and it was a risk well worth taking. BOYHOOD is an exceptional exploration of a functional as they can be family, with a moving script and Linklater’s wonderfully personal style of filmmaking.

Check out Chris Bumbray's Top 10 RIGHT HERE!

2. Whiplash

There is something truly special about WHIPLASH. You may have heard how incredible J.K. Simmons is as a disturbingly harsh teacher, and it’s completely true. Both he and Miles Teller give superb performances as a teacher and student at odds with each other. It is an especially turbulent relationship that is brilliantly played by both of these fine actors. If you want to be a musician, this may be a tough watch, but it is one that should be experienced. Writer and director Damien Chazelle has crafted a fascinating musical journey that can be devastating, and all the while completely inspiring.

3. Gone Girl

Before I stepped into GONE GIRL I was fully aware of what exactly was about to take place. I knew all of the twists and turns that it would travel, yet it still packed one hell of a punch – try and see it fresh if you’ve yet to catch it. David Fincher – along with the novel’s author Gillian Flynn who wrote the screenplay – managed to take all the pulpy goodness of the source material, and create a sensationally sordid satire with a fantastic performance from Rosamund Pike. With a smart script and a sleek style, this is one thriller that seems to get better with every viewing.

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a majestic and potent feature that adds a compelling layer to the PLANET OF THE APES franchise. It is a beautifully told tale with the ability to create such phenomenal ape characters, led by the brilliance of Andy Serkis who portrays Caesar as well as Toby Kebbell as Koba. It is easy to get lost in their trials and tribulations thanks to some seriously talented actors and the incredible effects from WETA. The use of motion-capture here is absolutely stunning. This is the kind of sequel that builds perfectly to the next and raises the stakes - as well as my excitement - for what director Matt Reeves is going to offer up next.

5. Birdman

In the strange and hypnotic BIRDMAN, written and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, we are given witness to what is either the downfall, or perhaps the rise of a washed-up actor. The director moves through this maze of insanity with ease and skill – seemingly in one long take - revealing the fragile egos and heartbreak of a stage production directed by one time cinematic superhero Riggan – a stunning performance from Michael Keaton. The actor – who as we all know once portrayed a superhero in his own career – is phenomenal in this complex role. Part biting satire, and a little bit of heartbreaking drama, this is a fantastic film that flies perfectly above what could have easily been an experimental failure.

6. Edge of Tomorrow

Live. Die. Repeat. Well, I’d gladly repeat this return to form for leading man Tom Cruise. As a troublesome military officer with no real combat experience, Cruise gives one of his best performances to date. Thankfully he is aided by a fantastic Emily Blunt as one tough Special Forces soldier who has an unusual plan to win an extraterrestrial war. Blunt is terrific here, and most assuredly both Ripley and Sarah Connor would be proud. Loaded with humor, intensity and fun, EDGE OF TOMORROW is a thrillingly exciting feature film that deserved a much wider audience.

7. The Babadook

This scary and frighteningly human drama is one of the best horror films of the past few years. As haunting as it may be when THE BABADOOK comes to knock, it is just as effective as a story of a mother and son. Both Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are perfect cast, and they fully bring the viewer into their chilling tale. Writer/director Jennifer Kent offers a fresh approach to the horror genre with this stylish display of subliminal frights. We all have our own boogeymen hiding in the crevices of the mind, and Kent ably brings that fear to life in a profound and satisfying way.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy

While I’ve always appreciated the Marvel universe and have a preference for the character CAPTAIN AMERICA - THE WINTER SOLDIER came so close to making this list – it was GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY that threw me for a loop. This infectious display offered up by James Gunn is funny, moving and gave me a thirst for Seventies pop music. Chris Pratt, along with the rest of the cast, is so much fun to watch. And it effortlessly manages to be exciting as hell. Not only can you rejoice in the sensational elements on display, you can tap your foot to the music.

9. Nightcrawler

NIGHTCRAWLER is a provocative and terrifying showcase of just how far someone would go to get a story. As the film’s anti-hero, Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely incredible here. As the oftentimes despicable Lou Bloom, Gyllenhaal fearlessly explores the ugly side of desperation. It is impossible to not think of the sordid lengths your local news may go after watching this profoundly unsettling flick. In his directorial debut, writer Dan Gilroy (THE BOURNE LEGACY, REAL STEEL) brings to light the pitch black ugliness of one man’s strange obsession to succeed by any means necessary.

10. Under the Skin

This highly divisive feature film from Jonathan Glazer stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien feeding off the life blood of numerous men she picks up. With a hypnotic and freaky score by Mica Levi, this abstract journey is a slow and disturbingly thought provoking experience. Definitely falling in the love it or hate it category, for me, this was a fascinating allegory on the human experience that happened to feature the lovely Ms. Johansson in the fearless – and often naked – leading role. This is an absorbing bit of cinema that I couldn’t take my eyes off of.

Runners Up

When it came time to put together this year’s batch of my favorites, it was a much more difficult task than I expected. In fact, a number of smaller films such as BLUE RUIN, BEGIN AGAIN, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, CHEF and STARRY EYES nearly found a spot – if only I could have made it a top 20. Add to that a couple of intriguing flicks with great performances. LOCKE with Tom Hardy was incredibly intense and THE GUEST with Dan Stevens was one impressive follow up to last year’s YOU’RE NEXT from writer/director team Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett.

As for the larger scale, I have to give major credit to X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES, INTERSTELLAR and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Each of these fine features nearly finished off in the top 10. And when it came to animated fare, I thoroughly enjoyed HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2, THE BOOK OF LIFE and THE LEGO MOVIE. Well, those were all films that came very near to making my final count.

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