Friday, January 2, 2015

The Top 10 Films Of 2014

Another year is coming to an end and that means it is time to talk about the best films of the year yet again. As with any year there are plenty of movies I didn't get around to seeing for one reason or another but that didn't make 2014 any less strong. This year was one of the strongest overall years for film in recent years. From summer blockbusters that raked in hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars to independently produced horror my list of personal favorites covers a wide array of types of movies.

2014 also had quite a few duds and big disappointments. From the massive letdown that was INTERSTELLAR and the follow up to one of 2013's best horror films that was just plain awful ANNABELLE, (not to mention the other straight to video horror films that blew chunks like WRONG TURN 6 and SEE NO EVIL 2) there was just as much to gripe about. Fortunately the good outweighed the bad and when all was said and done 2014 was a pretty damn good year. So without anymore babbling here is Celluloid Terror's Top 10 Films of 2014!


Plenty of franchises have been remade, rebooted, re-this and re-that lately. Planet Of The Apes wasn't an exception. Luckily the classic Sci-fi series overcame Tim Burton's shoddy remake in 2001 and came back with a prequel to the original in 2011 with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Rise gave the series a rock solid back story and a taste of the ape action. This summer gave us DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES which takes place ten years after Rise and gives us more of what we got at the end of Rise. DAWN closes the gap between Rise and the original film with tons of action including an awesome assault on the city by the apes, ape on ape crime, and even some more heartwarming moments between the head ape Caesar and humans as they understand each other but fail to keep their respective species from going to war. I had a bit of anticipation for this film to be released but it exceeded my expectations in just about every way. If we get one more prequel film for the POTA franchise I'll be excited to see how it turns out after a good showing from Rise and a great showing from DAWN.


It's independent, it's horror and it's Wisconsin. It's HOLE IN THE WALL at number 9. This anthology horror film, made on budgets that may have actually included shoestrings from an all Wisconsin based group of filmmakers blew me away earlier this year. It's so trashy and offensive that it tugged on my heartstrings and touched on many of the things I hold dear. Does that say a lot about me? Probably. The horror films range from brutal and gory to sickeningly sexual and depraved. John Waters would be proud. And I am too. What about? I'm not sure exactly. Maybe that I know there are still filmmakers out there who simply don't give a shit about the rules or the mainstream. There's nothing mainstream about HOLE IN THE WALL. There's nothing here for most viewers but as readers of this blog there is probably something here for you so you should absolutely seek it out. Maybe I'm proud that I can help sing the praises of such a great film made by such a great group. I'll go with that.


The X-Men series is probably the franchise that sparked the fire for big budget comic book movies. The first film came out in 2000 and it and its first sequel were excellent. Now the franchise is seven films deep and has fully recovered after a bad stumbles. The latest entry, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is based on one of the most popular story lines in the comic's history and raked in nearly $750million at the box office. A healthy chunk of the roughly $3billion the franchise has made in total. DOFP is among the best entries in the franchise, standing toe to toe with 2003's X2 and 2011's FIRST CLASS. We've come to know quite a few of the characters in the franchise and their performances are certainly up to snuff here, even surpassing previous films but if anything the films 131 minute run time feels like it isn't enough. The story feels rushed and cut short. Almost like an abbreviated version of what could (and should) have been. There's plenty to enjoy here and it is a very good movie but if this movie had been extended by another half an hour or forty five minutes it could have given us the true depth that this story line deserved. Despite it not being everything it potentially could have been DAYS OF FUTURE PAST gives us plenty of X-MEN action and emotions that we haven't seen in the franchise before.


"Found footage" has come be a dirty word. The style of film making generally produces shitty results with a lot of shaky camera work. Like most things that suck there are exceptions and THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT is that exception. This found footage style movie follows a group of friends as they go on a cross country trip to find the most extreme haunted houses around and eventually hear of a secret haunt that could cost them their lives. The point-of-view photography adds to the tension as you can almost insert yourself in to the group's terror. This is not always the case in these types of movies, and more often than not the style of photography takes you out of the movie. The situations presented are creepy and tense and the group we follow are all likable. I can't overstate how important that is, especially in films that present themselves as fact and not mere entertainment. Nothing in this film comes off as forced or fake. It is natural in its execution and that adds to the terror. The ambiguous ending only adds to the creep factor that the film built.


JODOROWSKY'S DUNE is the lone documentary on the list and deservedly so. If Alejandro Jodorowsky has anything to do with it you can automatically consider me interested. That goes about a million times more for learning about the failed production of Jodorowsky's film adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic Sci-fi novel Dune. For decades it had been a legend of cinema, but for the first time we get an extended look at what the master of surrealism had in mind for the film, including the complete film in comic book form. Along with the extensive sit down with Jodorowsky there's interviews with talent who was attached, folks from the business side of the production and even the late artist H.R. Giger. Yes, Jodorowsky's Dune would have been a mind bending marvel if nothing else but at least JODOROWSKY'S DUNE is a glimpse into the creation of this legendary non-production and in to the mind of a brilliantly creative mind and soul.


Perhaps the purest adrenaline rush of the year came in the form of a sequel to the purest adrenaline rush of 2011. THE RAID 2 follows Rama, the protagonist from the first film as he goes undercover for the police to infiltrate the criminal underworld and bring it down from within while also exposing corrupt cops. This is a two and half hour marathon of brilliantly choreographed fight scenes on a scale that hasn't been seen since the films of the Shaw Bros. The level of violence exceeds just about anything you've anything and there are a number of times that you'll find yourself exclaiming various noises and phrases (usually expletives) as you see it all unfold. Pacing for a film of this length is very important and THE RAID 2 never drags or overstays its welcome. Scenes move briskly while carrying the story seamlessly. THE RAID 2 has some of the most memorable showdowns in recent action movie history and even a couple of the coolest characters in "hammer girl" and "baseball boy".


If there is controversy in my list I expect this is where readers will find it. Coming in at number 4 is GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. James Gunn was given the green light to take some chances with a major blockbuster production to stay true to the source material in this Marvel comic book adaptation and the high praise and steep rewards reaped at the box office are the proof that it was wise to let Gunn do his thing. GUARDIANS was a blast, from the rag tag group, to the near perfect humor in the dialogue and and even the soundtrack that was probably a bit unexpected but worked brilliantly this movie is summed up with one word- "fun". I've made no secret that I don't like Vin Diesel or Batista but I'll give credit where credit is due- they're both great (okay, Vinny D didn't have much to do, but Batista was damn near brilliant). Hell, everyone was damn near brilliant in it and we finally get closer to war with Thanos. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY comes in at number 4 because a recent viewing of the film didn't give me quite the same reaction that my initial theatrical viewing did. That's not to say that I found it to be less of a film the second time around, it wasn't, but on my first viewing I had an emotional reaction to the film that didn't carry over. GUARDIANS remains an incredibly well done large scale blockbuster that has an identity all its own.


Despite reading a lot of positive reviews for the film, THE GUEST totally blindsided me. I wouldn't count myself among the fans of the writer and director's previous work which certainly tempered my expectations a bit. My expectations remained pretty high however and this film surpassed them with ease. I recently posted a review of the film and its upcoming Blu-ray release which you can view HERE for more on the film.


2014's summer movie season started pretty early and the bar was set exceptionally high with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. The second Cap film takes place in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is damn close to being the perfect comic book movie. The acting is above average, the effects are perfect and beautiful and the action is exciting, and over the top. In an expansive series of films filled with great comic book movies THE WINTER SOLDIER rises above just about all of the rest which speaks to its not only its overall quality of production but its entertainment value. This pretty much brings us up to The Avengers 2 which is set for summer of 2015 and will hopefully be up to par with the first Avengers film and THE WINTER SOLDIER, which happen to be my two favorite films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


 Surprise surprise the Godzilla fanboy puts the new GODZILLA film at number 1. Well, maybe it is a surprise since there's a ton of complaining and bitching about the movie not having enough Godzilla footage. If you've never seen a Godzilla move it isn't endless footage of a guy stomping around a miniature city set in a green suit. There's always a story involving humans and there are commonly extended periods without giant monsters destroying shit. Of course we watch these movies to see giant monsters destroying shit but there's a lot of fun to be had on the other parts of the movie as well. Hell, some of the cheesiest and most entertaining parts come away from the rubber suit fights! GODZILLA is the second American take on the classic Japanese character, and after the disaster that happened in 1998 I think we'd all be okay if America never got another chance. Luckily, we did and the product that Gareth Edwards turned out as director of the film was nothing short of epic. The showdowns between Godzilla and MUTO, the fights and destruction of the cities, the wink to Mothra (see you in the sequel!), and the well done human interactions all added up to everything I hoped a modern day American take on Godzilla would be.

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