It’s rare for a movie to bottle the feeling of a rush, to create a visual experience that makes you feel like you’re inside adrenaline. Directed by visionary Luc Besson, the only action director who loves strong female heroines more than Quentin Tarantino, Lucy follows a college student in Taipei who finds herself kidnapped and turned into a drug mule, with a baggie of experimental, mind-opening drugs sewn into her stomach. When the bag begins leaking its content into her bloodstream, she starts accessing the 90 per cent of the human brain that’s normally dormant. Scarlett Johansson is excellent in her transformation into a less and less “human” being. Comparisons to movies like Limitless or The Matrix are quickly left in the dust as Lucy rockets along as an unrelenting speed. The first few scenes are a little weak, but once the movie hits its stride, it swiftly evolves into one of the briskest and most stylish sci-fi action movies of the year.
Whether everyone admits it or not, “important” documentaries are dismissed by many because of the assumption their subject matter will be too heavy to make for an entertaining movie. Every year, though, there are a few of those documentaries posters proclaim “everyone should see!” that do make for gripping tales, and 2014 had none better than Citizenfour. In January 2013, documentarian Laura Poitras was contacted by an ex-employee of the CIA and the NSA about illegal surveillance by the U.S. Government of its citizens. That man would become known to the world six months later as Edward Snowden, and this movie would document the whole thing. At times, Citizenfour almost feels like a conspiracy thriller, with scenes that leave you unsure if Snowden is being paranoid or if he’s spot-on about every suspicion. Like The Square and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Citizenfour’s power as a documentary is in following an event that you already saw covered on the news, but from an up-close point-of-view that offers a wholly new perspective.
13. THE BABADOOK
If there’s one thing your humble critic has said time and again about modern horror movies, it’s that there’s generally only one truly great one every year. Prior years have seen Insidious, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Conjuring hold the crown in their respective years; The Babadook takes it with aplomb for 2014. Much like each of the aforementioned scarefests, The Babadook covers familiar ground but becomes new brilliance through its execution. Amelie (Essie Davis) is a single mother raising her son Sam (Noah Wiseman) alone, after her husband’s death. When Sam finds a sinister pop-up book, he asks Amelie to read it to him. The dark and malevolent imagery of the book is bad enough, but soon it begins to be real — unless you believe Amelie is actually losing her mind the whole time due to the mounting stresses of her life as a struggling single mother and insomniac. Whatever the conclusive answers, The Babadook is one of those movie scary enough you’ll want to leave the light on after watching.
Director Nicholas Stoller has shown sharp comedy chops in movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, and Neighbors may be his best yet. Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are a young married couple and the first-time parents of an infant daughter. When a frat let by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) moves in next door, what begins as a tenuous friendship between the adults and the young adults turns into an all-out war of parents versus frat brothers. Neighbors ingeniously uses the frat situation as a catalyst for a story that is, at its heart, about men’s fear of growing up. (Mac misses being an immature kid, which the prank war lets him tap back into; Teddy is afraid of what his meaningless life will hold after college and uses Mac as a target for his frustrations.) All the cleverness in the world wouldn’t be enough to make the movie truly shine if it weren’t also hilarious, but Neighbors is also one of the outright funniest movies of 2014.
11. BAD WORDS
Ever since his career renaissance as the prototypical nice guy in Arrested Development, Jason Bateman has built his comedic career on playing the genial straight man in everything from Juno to Horrible Bosses. In his directorial debut, he smartly stars as the shockingly misanthropic Guy Trilby, a jackass who bitterly enters a grade-school spelling bee on a technicality. Guy doesn’t care how low he has to stoop to eliminate his eight-year-old competitors, which leads to some of the most inappropriate scenes in a comedy since Bad Santa. When Guy begrudgingly befriends one of the other contestants, Chaitanya (Rohan Chand), his grinchy heart ever-so-slowly begins melting — but don’t expect any warm, fuzzy feelings at the end. Remarkably well-shot and narratively unpredictable, Bad Words is incredibly mean-spirited, but an undeniably brilliant comedy.
One thought on “SPECIAL: The Best Movies of 2014”
Pingback: RANKED: The Year 2014 | The Apple Box