The Top Ten Movies of 2014 (so far)

by Alan Rapp on July 4, 2014

in Top Tens & Lists

The Top Ten Movies of 2014 (so far)

We’ve hit the halfway point of the year and, as has become the custom, that means it’s time to look back on the best movies of the year so far. This year’s list includes three animated films, two sequels, the return of a beloved television character, a latest (and in one case the last) from few big name directors, and a pair of small indie films topping the list of what has been a pretty damn good first-half of the year at the movies.

10. The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

Based on a true story, writer, director, and star George Clooney‘s pet project about art experts and connoisseurs (Matt DamonBill Murray, John Goodman, and Bob Balaban, along with Englishman Hugh Bonneville, and Frenchman Jean Dujardin) who were put together to save priceless art being plundered and destroyed by the Nazis during WWII offers a fresh take on a war story while underling the importance of art and culture to the human race’s continued existence. It may not have been the critical or box office success either Clooney or the studio were hoping for, but it’s a well-crafted film with a terrific cast shining the light on a group of unconventional heroes performing a duty few others took all that seriously at the time. Now available on Home Video.

9. The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises

The final film of Hayao Miyazaki‘s career is a love letter to aviation with this fictionalized biography of Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno). The subtitles and more adult themes are likely to bore younger viewers but the sweeping look at Horikoshi’s life, the struggle with his aviation designs, the dreams of planes not yet realized, and the touching love story involving the woman he would marry and lose all-too-soon is a fitting final film for a man whose illustrious career in animation is impossible to ignore.

8. Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars

It took ten years and the unparalleled success of a Kickstarter campaign but creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell finally reunited in Neptune to offer fans one more story of Veronica Mars (Bell) centered around the arrest of Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), a high school reunion, and rampant corruption in the Neptune Police Department leading to the shooting of Weevil (Francis Capra). Reuniting most of the show’s major characters, Veronica’s shiny new life is put in jeopardy when her old world starts calling. Thankfully, sometimes you can go home again. Now available on Home Video.

7. Her

Her

Released in January, Spike Jonze‘s unusual love story between a depressed greeting card writer (Joaquin Phoenix) and a new revolutionary operating system (Scarlett Johansson) is an intriguing tale that, like much of Jonze’s work, left be a bit cold in the end. Still, the writer-director gets the most out of his cast while contemplating the future of human interaction while exploring the idea of love between man and machine. Now available on Home Video.

6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Taking it’s cue from Ed Brubaker‘s comic run which reintroduced Captain America‘s (Chris Evans) long-dead partner (Sebastian Stan) back into the Marvel Universe as a brainwashed Soviet assassin, Captain America: The Winter Soldier interweaves a plot involving the corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D. by the terrorist organization HYDRA and offers intrigue, action, and the return of Scarlett Johansson in her tight-fitting Black Widow costume in a comic book skillfully brought to life. What’s not to like? Still playing in some cities. Available on DVD and Blu-ray on September 9th.

5. The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie

As advertised, everything was awesome. I’m sure the movie means more to those of who grew up playing with LEGOs, but even if that isn’t the case for you personally I defy you not to enjoy the crazy adventure of unremarkable construction worker Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt) and his new friends who set out to save their world from the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Amazing animation and a wacky story with a heart of gold offer just the right mix for one of the year’s best movies so far. Now available on Home Video.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Very much a Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel features the director’s style and flair in this tale of an old-fashioned hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and his the new lobby boy (Tony Revolori) who find themselves on a grand adventure involving love, tragedy, fine art, murder, and terrific chase sequence down a snowy mountainside. It may lack the heart of Anderson’s best films, and the long lead-in needs to be trimmed, but for a night you could certainly do worse than checking in to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Now available on Home Video

3. How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Sometimes the sequel is actually better than the original. That’s the case here with How to Train Your Dragon 2 which continues the adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless bringing in more dragons, more action, and more character development with the introduction of the young viking’s long-lost mother Valka (Cate Blanchett). Expanding on the enjoyable first film, the sequel further develops and explains the hierarchy of dragons while focusing on Hiccup’s own journey of discovering not only who he is but where his destiny truly lies. Still in theaters.

2. Chef

Chef

Jon Favreau does it all writing, directing, and starring in this scrumptious treat of a film about a disgraced chef choosing to take his son (Emjay Anthony) with him on a journey and reinvent himself as a food truck owner. Father/son dynamics, road trip standards, and a smorgasbord of delicious food come together for a veritable feast. Unless you are in a major market you’ll likely have to search to find it, or wait until it makes its way to home video, but Chef is the kind of treat you simply can’t pass up and will soon be craving a hearty second serving of. Still playing in theaters.

1. Begin Again

Begin Again

Writer/director John Carney‘s answer to the question Can a Song Save Your Life? (the original title of Begin Again) is a resounding yes. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo star as a singer-songwriter and record-company executive whose collective sorrows are put on hold by a chance meeting. A film about music, relationships, and those special moments that can change your life forever, Begin Again dazzles providing the best movie of the year (so far). Favreau has rarely, if ever, been better in front of or behind the camera. And although I’m not prepared to say it’s Knightley’s best film, after only a single viewing I found it to be one of the most entertaining of her career. Still in theaters.

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