Beth Reynolds’ Picks

Veronica-Calling-Herself-Marshmallow

Best of the Year

5. Noah – Aronofsky’s epic Biblical tale remains one of the most ambitious films of the year so far. Russell Crowe brings his usual intense if not slightly unhinged emotion to the role of Noah, lending a sympathetic yet tortured quality to the movie’s namesake character.

4. 22 Jump Street – I’d like to think I have a great sense of humor, but it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud in the theater.  This movie managed to elicit full on belly laughs from me through its entire running time.

3. Veronica MarsThe revival of Rob Thomas’s cult hit television show hit the big screen thanks to a Kickstarter program launched by Thomas and the show’s star, Kristen Bell. Veronica Mars isn’t groundbreaking cinema, and it won’t be winning any awards, but as a dedicated Marshmallow I was completely satisfied by this conclusion to a story that was forced to end too soon 7 years ago.  This movie just plain makes me happy.

2. Edge of Tomorrow – This movie is everything a summer blockbuster should be.  The nonstop action sequences along with the unexpected excitement that accompanied a story that at first glance appeared to be nothing more than a mash-up of Groundhog Day and Independence Day.  And for the record, Emily Blunt rocks.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014’s first big superhero movie remains not only the best in its genre so far this year, but it’s also one of the best in any category.

Worst of the Year

Divergent – Although it didn’t disappoint at the box office and was sure to have more than appeased teen fans of the book, this adaptation of the latest YA dystopian phenomenal was monumentally disappointing.

David Shreve’s Picks

Mistaken for Strangers Image

Best of the Year

5. Joe— David Gordon Green’s standard lyrical attention to landscape and film-prose narrative combine with Larry Brown’s rough and tumble, dirty blue collar drama and the best Nic Cage we’ve seen since Adaptation.

4. Blue Ruin— More of a pronouncement than a movie. I’m doubling down on the Coen-like skill exhibited in Jeremy Saulnier’s gritty revenge flick.

3. Mistaken for StrangersTom Berninger films his brother Matt’s band The National on their biggest tour to date, along the way capturing a  heartfelt family drama and a hilariously sincere rock documentary.

2. OculusThe best horror movie to come along in many years.  Flanagan’s mishmash of unreliable narration would harness Oscar attention for Best Editing on a level playing field.

1. GodzillaI counted eight moments of audience applause during this reboot.  That should matter for something.  Gareth Edwards’ version of Godzilla embraces cinematic magic and imagination in a way that recalls and builds upon E.T. and Indiana Jones.

Worst of the Year (A Movie I Enjoyed LESS than Blended).

Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1&2Ever heard a grown man cry for five hours?  Ever heard a grown man cry for five hours while watching porn and using stupid metaphors?

 

Diego Crespo’s Picks

la_ca_0102_Captain_America

Best of the Year

5. 22 Jump Street — Not only the greatest comedy sequel ever made, but possibly one of the greatest sequels, 22 Jump Street is literally non-stop laughs. I’m a relatively quiet movie goer, even when it comes to comedies, but there was maybe 5 minutes in the entire movie where I wasn’t laughing out loud (loling as the kids call it).

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 — A movie that’s fun for the whole family. It never belittles us just because “It’s a kids’ movie” and never, ever pulls punches.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel — Wes Anderson movies have the charm of fairy tales. His use of color, actors, and writing is unparalleled. This is the most Wes Anderson-y one yet. I fell in love the minute the movie started.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier — Chris Evans solidifies himself as one of the truly great actors playing a superhero. Unlike the other Marvel movies (as much as I love ’em) The Winter Soldier has a deeper plot that climaxes directly in line with both the heroes and villains central motivations.

1. The Lego Movie — Hands down, the best animated movie since Toy Story 3. It’s a subversion of the “Hero’s Journey” trope and a slap in the face to the abundance of movies that use “because destiny” as their hero’s reasoning (Looking at you TASM).  Everything is awesome!

Worst of the Year

Transformers: Age of Extinction — A movie so unceremoniously long and aggressively stupid that I began questioning how our species allowed this to happen.. Not to mention the overwhelming sexist and racist statements made throughout the entire 2 hour and 45 minute runtime. If you like this movie, there’s a very good chance that you’re a bad person.

J. S. Shreve’s Picks

Like Father Like Son

Best of the Year

5. Edge of Tomorrow – Fifteen minutes into this movie I wasn’t on board, and I still don’t agree with the entire setup to put Cage/Cruise in the situation that allows the movie to move forward. But after I consciously forgot about that and enjoyed the video-game repetition (something I know all too well), I was hooked and entertained throughout.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel – You can always rely on Wes Anderson to deliver a quality product, even if I do yearn for him to venture outside of his norm.

3. Life Itself – Steve James captures the memory of Roger Ebert with this touching and moving tribute to his life and career.

2. The Raid 2 – This film christened the Sundance Film Festival for me like no other film could have done. It’s a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing technical achievement.

1. Like Father, Like Son -Hirokazu Kore-eda  gives us another moving, thoughtful examination of family dynamics.

Worst of the Year

Godzilla – The screenwriters did not intentionally make the characters a secondary focus; they just wrote very bad characters and a very bad screenplay, and a large number of people somehow think this was intended brilliance.

 

Josh Rosenfield’s Picks

All hail to the king.

Best of the Year

5. The Lego MovieFar better than it has any right to be, The Lego Movie features a complex set of themes alongside coherently kinetic direction, a fully-realized and colorful world, and a never-ending string of fantastic jokes. It’s something of a miracle.

4. Godzilla –  Gareth Edwards has a full command of Spielberg’s cinematic language, and much like Spielberg he crafted a fun summer blockbuster that — contrary to many other films of this kind — is focused mainly on the insignificance of humanity in the face of nature.

3. The Double – Jesse Eisenberg kills it in a dual role in this Kafkaesque exploration of corporatism. Not content with being simply a paranoid critique of capitalism, The Double also takes a little time to tear down filmmakers (and audience members) who indulge in the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” stereotype.

2. We Are the Best! –  We Are The Best! is as joyous a film as you’re likely to see all year. It proves itself to be a true outsider anthem by celebrating the rebellious trio at its center, and never mocking them. If this film doesn’t make you happy, nothing will.

1. Under the Skin Under the Skin’s inventive style, disturbing visuals, and universal themes make it a beautifully terrifying paean to the possibilities of cinema. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is as subtly enigmatic as the film itself. It’s a wonder to behold.

Worst of the Year

I, Frankenstein – About five minutes into this film, Miranda Otto’s character introduces herself as “High Queen of the Gargoyle Order,” and I knew I was in for something special. It’s impossible to sum up everything that this movie does wrong in such a brief space, so I’ll keep it at that quote and leave the rest to your imaginations.

Keith Rice’s Picks

Oculus

Best of the Year

5.  Captain America: Winter Soldier –   Apologies to Mr. Whedon and The Avengers, but Captain America: Winter Soldier may have swiped the best Marvel movie crown.  Chris Evans embodies both Steve Rogers and Captain America flawlessly and The Winter Soldier is a brutally effective villain.

4.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 With some of the best animation I’ve seen in a long time, fully realized and evocative characters, and most importantly a strong emotional core, How to Train Your Dragon 2 should be a strong contender for Best Animated Film when the Oscars roll around.

3.  Oculus –  One of the most engrossing and unsettling horror films I’ve seen in a long while, Oculus subverts and toys with familiar horror and narrative tropes.  It’s easily the best editing I’ve seen in a film this year, and the layers of unreliable narration are brilliantly executed.

2. Joe – Nic Cage reminds me us that he is capable of Oscar caliber performances.  Joe is well-executed blue collar drama anchored by gorgeous cinematography and stunning performances.

1. Godzilla – This, boys and girls, is a reboot/remake done right.  Don’t listen to J. Scott Shreve up there; the character arcs were in fact an intentional narrative device highlighting the movie’s central theme.  It was a summer blockbuster, and one that would make Spielberg proud (and maybe a little envious), but it was also intelligent, extremely well-structured and a hell of a lot of fun.   And good lord the cinematography is amazing…

Worst of the Year

Brick Mansions – I said all I need to say here

 

Sara Grasberg’s Picks

Best of the YearGrand Budapest

5. Oculus – Oculus takes a mind-bending, intellectual approach to being scary, but it achieves its fair share of well-paced scares by playing with our sense of perception. Its main strength is its careful editing, which really helps the film succeed.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel – A vaguely European pseudo-history with astel-colored madcap crime caper that is offbeat, funny, and sweepingly spectacular: it is exactly what one might expect from a Wes Anderson movie and yets much darker, even more intricate, and, again, a whole lot more “grand.”

3. Godzilla – A film that is awe-inspiring, chill-inducing , and surprisingly thought-provoking. All those debates between “too much” versus “too superficial” in terms of the film’s human characters/human drama become moot when you think about how small we humans are in comparison to these massive monsters which we have wrought.

2. They Came Together – This movie is a lovable if not totally ridiculous checklist of sorts– Wain is aware of every trope and gag and ingredient of the genre, and like a mad but reverent scientist, he plays out the formula in outrageous, over-the-top fashion.

1. Cheap Thrills – Blending the most horrific of horror elements with truly dark comedy, this film is exhilarating, entertaining and unrelenting– a toxic cocktail of money, masculinity and desperation.

Worst of the Year

Bad Words – Ultimately it just tried way too hard to be edgy and vulgar, only to slip and succumb to fairly tame conventions. For a movie that went frustratingly out of its way to be vile, its worst offense is actually its own pulling back and playing it safe.

Travis Losh’s Picks

Edge of Tomorrow

Best of the Year

5. Edge of Tomorrow – The deep, Sci-Fi backstory burrowed into my love of the genre. Yeah, Emily Blunt doing that stretchy thing repeatedly might have helped too. Did Doug Liman watch Source Code?

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel – I am a Wes Anderson skeptic that believes he has only produced 3 good films. This is one of them.

3. Blue Ruin – Jeremy Saulnier has a solid chance of turning out some great films. I hope this wasn’t beginners luck.

2. The Raid 2 – Pure action that doesn’t miss a step from its first installment. Gareth Evans shows he can throw unflinching fight scenes in with a detailed back story. Damn, the camera work here was beautiful.

1. Snowpiercer – Bong Joon-Ho is brilliant in recalling the dystopian films of the past. But, the true brilliance lies in his ability to bring such substance to a film that, on the front, seems shallow. One of the most enjoyable films in a long time.

Worst of the Year

A Million Ways to Die in the West – Seth MacFarlane can go fuck himself.