2014 Most Anticipated Roundup

I've been absent for a while - writing up a most anticipated list can just be a time suck. And holidays and family, too! So I've been trying to get my footing for 2015 and so far I've had an awesome 14 days in the new year. I've even managed to see one of my Most Anticiapted 2015 movies already! More on that tomorrow.

In between all that time, I've managed to cross off more movies from my 2014 list and here's a summary of all those that I've seen!

2. Interstellar (PG-13) - Runtime: 169 minutes
Starring: Matthew McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
If you have not found the time to watch this epic science fiction movie, it's best you check it out sometime soon. Maybe not Nolan's best film, his tribute to sci-fi classics like 2001 and Solaris is certainly ambitious and pretty awesome at times. Visually, this is the most stunning and sublime film from 2014 - nothing compares. The acting is top-notch and while the story has its flaws, is still brimming with life. The movie hits a snag near the middle when Matt Damon pops up (who knew Damon could drag a movie down?) but other than that this is a fun movie while also making you think about humanity and what our possibilities might be beyond our solar system. And don't be intimidated by the runtime - this movie clips along at a fast pace. I think some people might find the first 40 minutes a bit boring, but the movie is developing the characters there and their relationships that pay off big time later on in the movie. It will be interesting to see how this movie plays out in the next 10-15 years. Will it be a classic? I don't know, but it certainly was one of the best this year.

6a. Nightcrawler (R)  - Runtime: 117 minutes
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
This one filled in the spot of number 6 - my most cursed spot from last year. I filled and re-filled that spot three times! But I think what ended up here was appropriate. And what a crazy movie it was. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a great performance as the creepy Louis Bloom, a determined and eager criminal who finds himself drawn to chasing down and filming crimes and horrific accidents. It's a fantastic look into our society of the can't look away from the horror. If it bleeds, it leads and certainly this movie takes you along the thrills and chases Louis Bloom craves. Lost among Gyllenhaal's performance is the great supporting role from Riz Ahmed, the guy who plays Bloom's right hand man. They have an interesting relationship - something way more interesting than Bloom's relationship with the news producer played by Rene Russo. The last 20-30 minutes of the movie really deliver a gut punch and I think it ends on a perfect note. This is a can't miss movie - and is one of the better films this year.

8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (PG-13) - Runtime: 123 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Peter Craig, Danny Strong
What a disappointment. I think this movie will benefit more with watching the second part back-to-back. But the decision to split the third book into two movies didn't work very well. Honestly, the only movie in my opinion that has benefited from a split was the last Harry Potter. That book was filling in so much information from the previous 6 that it made much, much more sense. With Mockingjay, there just isn't enough going on during this first part to warrant a good story. There's not much to get excited about - Katniss is more or less passive here and all the talk between the leaders of District 13 and the Capital is only setting up what should be a good final installment. But it's so boring to slog through. There's a really good scene when Katniss visits a District 11 (?) hospital, but other than that this movie is a flatline throughout. Even Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman can't lift this movie up.

Runner-Up: I, Frankenstein (PG-13) - Runtime: 92 minutes
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy
Director: Stuart Beattie
Writer: Stuart Beattie
Possibly the worst movie from last year, I, Frankenstein tries to ride the somewhat-successful coattails of the Underworld franchise, but comes up way short. This movie is almost too similar in premise to that franchise that you are almost better off spending your time watching those four movies than this 90-minute snooze-fest. There's angels and demons and they're fighting for centuries like the vampires and lycans from Underworld, and Aaron Eckhart is the key to changing things. Sound familiar, because it seems like they just swapped out the characters from the those other movies. Where Underworld felt at least a bit original, I, Frankenstein is just boring and confusing and just a whole mess. Frankenstein (I think that's his name? I'm not too sure) is a character that you don't care at all about and we're expected to root for this half-dead guy? Eckhart seems to halfheartedly stumble through this movie which doesn't help. Stay away from this movie!

11. Sex Tape (R) - Runtime: 94 minutes
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writers: Kate Angelo, Jason Segal, Nicholas Stoller
I, Frakenstein faces some stiff competition with Sex Tape for worst movie last year. I thought the talent involved would elevate this silly premise. Jason Segal is absolutely a comedic genius and Cameron Diaz can be really funny (The Other Woman and Bad Teacher were totally underrated comedies). And Jake Kasdan, the director behind Walk Hard, Bad Teacher and several awesome TV shows like Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks, seemed like he could make this work. Instead is a dumb premise filled with arguably dumber characters that you can't even connect with (I mean, Jason Segal's character is so rich and pretentious that he hands out his old iPads to people like his mailman. That's like Oprah rich right there). And this old and tired joke about being married and not having sex has been so played out, it's not worth mining for any comedy. And when you find out who the "bad guy" is in this movie you'll want to just turn it off even though you only have 20 minutes left. It is quite possibly the worst movie I've seen in a while simply because the talent behind this movie is so great and they delivered a huge sloppy mess.

31. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG) - Runtime: 102 minutes
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler
Director: Dean DeBlois
Writer: Dean DeBlois
This was a good sequel. It didn't disappoint and took the characters and story in a fun new direction (Hiccup and Toothless go looking for other dragons and other places in the world!). And lo and behold he finds his mom along the way. I wish there was more from the B-characters in this movie because they're all really interesting. But that is the movie's only big flaw. Otherwise the story is great - the climactic battle between those two ginormous dragons is fantastic and appropriately epic. If you enjoy historically accurate vikings, then this movie is not for you - I mean Hiccup does not want to go to war - so yeah, thanks for sending mixed messages to the kids. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll certainly enjoy this next installment.

50. Hercules (PG-13) - Runtime: 98 minutes
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Now this is how you make a Hercules movie. Forget the other one - Dwayne Johnson is Hercules and this was a fun action movie that played with the idea of myth-making. You see, the legend of Hercules is just a story - in reality, according to this movie, is he was a good story-teller and used tricks and illusions to create a bigger-than-life persona to the cities and towns he traveled to. Johnson is perfect and surrounded by a likeable cast that you actually care for. I usually don't like these "dumb" action movies, but this was great and had the right amount of action and comedy and the characters were actually well-written. Brett Ratner may not have redeemed himself with this movie, but he's certainly not a bad director like everyone makes him out to be.

46. The Interview (R) - Runtime: 112 minutes
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen
Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Writer: Dan Sterling
What a dumb movie. But damn it was pretty funny. I LOL'd quite a bit. It's too bad this movie didn't see a proper release - it could've made quite the splash much like This is the End did a year before. I love how people who haven't seen the movie write about it saying it was a dumb, worthless piece of movie making. I mean, it's got the same sensibility as This is the End and other comedies like it, so I don't understand why people have to be so contradictory. Franco hams it up in his role as an egotistical talk show host. And Seth Rogen plays it pretty straight here - which is fine because Randall Park, the man who plays Kim Jong-un, steals every scene he's in. He's perfectly funny and his scene with Franco in the tank is the highlight of the movie. A certain must-see if you like Rogen and company, otherwise if you can't stand the guy, you'll hate this movie.

19. The Giver (PG-13) - Runtime: 97 minutes
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites
Director: Phillip Noyce
Writers: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weide
This could have been a good, if not great movie, if they just treated the source material with respect. Instead you get a movie that tries desperately to cater to 13 year-old boys with a jarring third act that tries to cram some action into an otherwise intelligent story about conformity and being human. The movie tries so hard to tell this story through action movie beats, but Lois Lowry's book is more meditative and subtle. They try to add a love interest in the movie and it just doesn't work with the story. I was really, really disappointed because this could have been quirky and eccentric (like Spike Jonze's adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are) but this is just another terrible young adult movie.

10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (PG-13) - Runtime: 144 minutes
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh, Guillermo del Toro
Okay, I will fully admit that I'm a huge, huge fan of Lord of the Rings. I'll see the extended trilogy once a year if I can. I did enjoy the first two Hobbit movies as well, just not as much. But this - this movie was terrible. Like how could this story stretch any further than 45 minutes? Oh, there's several 20 minutes action scenes with no dialogue that get old and tired after the first one? And that dick of a dwarf, Thorin, turns what could have been a nice ending into an hour and half mess. Seriously, if Thorin wasn't such an asshole (yeah, yeah I know he's go the "dragon sickness" but still), this movie could have been a fun hour and a half. I know that's what happens in the book, but damn they squeeze that battle out like Vietnam. It's funny because the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a great film trilogy and a very dull and boring book trilogy (my opinion that I stand by). And The Hobbit is a fun little adventure in book form, but a terrible film adaptation. This movie further solidifies in my mind that The Hobbit, at most, should have been two movies. This entire last chapter could have been condensed into a tight and thrilling 45 minutes. You could cut out 45 minutes from the first two movies and have a great and perfectly-paced two-parter that lasts about 5 hours. Being a sucker, I will no doubt wait for the extended trilogy edition when it comes out on Blu-ray and buy it. BUT I WON'T ENJOY IT AS MUCH. Maybe some crazy fan will spend the next year editing out the unnecessary parts and create a perfect 5 hour edition. I'm waiting, internet.

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