Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 in Film (Ann and Stan)

This is Ann's "2014 in Films (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2014 in film (Ann and Stan),"

Ann and Stan here doing our annual look at movies.  This is our list of the top ten films that you could download, stream or purchase.  Purchase on BluRay or DVD.  Not on videotape.

But a trip to a music store reminded us that vinyl exists now as a collectible leaving us to wonder whether somewhere in the country there's a purist group pining for the return of VHS or even Betamax?

Hopefully not, but you never know.

What we do know is that these are ten highly satisfying and enjoyable films.

1) "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

Pretty can be nice but it doesn't mean blockbuster as "Twilight" beefcake is learning the hard way.  But Chris Evans is more than a pretty face and he proves it again in the year's best film.  A superhero caper, this isn't.  It's a film that explores our world today.  Strong applause is earned by Anthony Mackie and Emily VanCamp for their roles, to be sure.  But if anyone rivals Evans in this film, it's Scarlett Johansson who makes Black Widow come alive in a way she hasn't in the Iron Man films or even in "The Avengers."   Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo should be directing every Marvel film -- that includes the X-Men.  The return of Bryan Singer should have made "X-Men: Days of Future Past" a great film.  Instead, it's a huge disappointment and the only one who doesn't have to be embarrassed is Hugh Jackman.  Chris Evans' film works because women are extras.  By contrast, each X-Men film these days tends to find women reduced to doing less and less.  The sexism reeks.  And how sad that Singer brought such meaning and relevance to the first two X-Men films now seems to be executing lame retreads while the Russos steal his thunder.

2)  "Malificent."

One of the year's biggest blockbuster hits -- and the biggest live action summer hit that wasn't a sequel -- really made it solely on Angelina Jolie.  She was repeatedly so much better than the material and it's a real shame Disney can't hire quality writers.  But she and basic plot pull you in despite the frequent soggy moments.

3) "The Other Woman."

Cameron Diaz had the distinction of being the best thing in two awful movies ("Annie" and "Sex Tape") but she also had the distinction of appearing in one of the best comedies of the year.  Since "How To Marry A Millionaire," a holy trinity of women has meant solid laughs -- see Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton pairing up for "9 to 5" and Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler teaming up for "First Wives Club"). Cameron, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton continued the hilarity. So far, no teaming of three women has resulted in a sequel or a re-pairing in another film.  We'd love to see Cameron, Leslie and Kate break that rule.

4) "22 Jump Street"

Grab on whatever you grab onto, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return in this hilarious sequel that says Seth Rogan and James Franco, you're silly together but Jonah and Channing are bust a gut hilarious.

5) "Begin Again"

In a better world, this little film that should would have been the little film that could.  It pack a powerful punch and frequently surprises you while always entertaining you.  Why do they make movies?  "Begin Again" answers that question with charm and suspense.  This was probably the best film that most Americans missed in 2014.

6)  "Under The Skin"

This sci fi film is a visual delight and director Jonathan Glazer's been hailed as a new Hitchcock and a new Kurbrick.  But what really makes it work is Scarlett Johansson as the alien.  Scarlett could have had three films on our list had "Lucy" already been released (it comes out on DVD in January).

7)  "Ride Along"

Ice Cube thought "Ride Along" was going to be his film.  And he even got top billing.  But even that couldn't conceal the fact that Kevin Hart walked away with the film.  And left you laughing despite the fact that the script was little more than a rip-off an episode of "Friends."  Whether he'll make strong future choices or not remains to be seen but this movie made Kevin Hart a break out star.

8) "Thor: The Dark World"

Honestly, there is no superhero we'd rather ignore in a comic book.  That said, Thor has been the basis for two outstanding films.  The first one was one of the most layered solo superhero movies (we rank the first two X-Men as the best group superhero films) but the second one took it to a whole nother level.  Forget the genre, this film was amazing all on its own terms.

9) "Let's Be Cops."

If there's any happy ending to the cancellation of the classic sitcom "Happy Endings," it's that it allowed Damon Wayans Jr. to return to the role he played in the "New Girl" pilot which allowed him to reteam with Jake Johnson.  The two have a chemistry on the show that goes beyond the rest of the cast and "Let's Be Cops" mines that chemistry to create a buddy-fake-cop movie that works like nothing has since the 80s.

10) "Fading Gigolo"

John Turturro didn't just direct, write and act in this comedy classic, he also put together an excellent cast and Sofia Vergara especially deserves strong praise for her performance which shows a side that "Modern Family" never has.  Vergara, Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber and, especially, Woody Allen help make this film a comedy gem.