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Why So Blu’s Staff Picks For 2014’s Best Films of the Year… So Far

best of 2014We are a little over halfway through 2014 and with that, I figured it would be a good idea for Why So Blu’s writing staff to spread the word on which films they believe to be the best of the year so far (along with some picks for the worst).  This article contains just that, as Brian, Brandon, and myself put down their thoughts on their three favorite films released theatrically this year.  There were many films to choose from, so narrowing it down may not have been an easy task, but it was a fun process and a nice way to prepare for the second half of this year, which is also full of promise.  Continue on and see which films came out on top!

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Brian’s Picks

What I love best about the calendar year of 2014 is here we are just a little more than half way through the year and unlike the other 365-day terms of recent memories, there has been a healthy surplus of commendable movies thus far to discuss and promote.  So when it ultimately came time to compile our personal favorite three of the year so far I was pretty conflicted with my selections since I had to eliminate such favored flicks like Captain America: Winter Soldier and Snowpiercer, but in the end all that matters is that I ultimately feel comfortable with the ones I have chosen.  Regrettably, there are a few features (Under the Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Only Lovers Left Alive) that I wish I would have been able to check out before the writing of this article, but in hindsight, that’s what Top 10 lists are for later on in the year.  I’ll get to them eventually, but for now sound the start of the round boxing bell as my top three selections have been decided along with my worst of the year so far too.  Sit back, relax and let me take you on a quick magic carpet ride as I razzle-dazzle you with my current elections.  Feel free to tell me how much you agree or disagree down below in the comments section.

Lego Movie 53.  The LEGO Movie – Every year I seem to fall prey to this trap where I dismiss a film without even seeing it simply because I don’t think it would ever be something that I would like.  You would think I would have learned my lesson from all the Life cereal commercials back in my childhood days, but alas my mistakes in life still shamefully plague me even in adulthood.  I promised myself this year would be different and I would be bolder in my decisions to check out films outside my normal comfort zone like The Muppets: Most Wanted or The LEGO Movie for example.  LOL.  What bold choices, huh?  In the case of the latter title, the words ‘sheer brilliance’ instantly come to mind.  I recently checked the film out for the fourth time this past weekend and truth be told I think I pick up on different jokes and gags with each subsequent viewing.  I always find myself laughing uncontrollably.  The Chris Miller and Phil Lord script is absolutely ingenious in my opinion.  How the hell do you get someone to love your film about LEGOs when they don’t give a flying shag about LEGOs in the first place?  The short answer is you make a film like this that transcends the generations and tackles pop culture head on.  It truly is a film the whole family, young and old, can enjoy.  And most importantly, it’s tits on the Blu-ray format!  In summary, if you cannot have fun with The LEGO Movie, then you’re either brain dead, a Nazi or you have a lot of movies to catch up on to get all the pop culture references.  Whatever of the three applies to you, fix it! (Review HERE)  

How To Train Your Dragon 2

2.  How To Train Your Dragon 2 – Amazingly, I have not one but two animated features this year in my top three.  That totally trumps last year, which left me with a big goose egg in the animated feature viewing department.  As a huge fan of the first outing, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the perfect film no matter how you slice it in my opinion.  It has action, heart and above all…emotion.  It’s that emotional roller coaster ride it takes you on that rivals any film in its genre in recent years.  Like the first film, it’s a darker entry for children movies and it’s unmistakably a war flick so parents must be aware of that before dragging young ones in simply because it’s animated and they think it will be cute.  However, for fans of the first one or children old enough not to be afraid of dragons and other dark moments (subject matter such as abandonment, death, etc.), there’s no way you or they will leave the theater disappointed with this one.  In fact, it topples and knocks down all of your pre-conceived expectations.  The producing team could have taken the easy route and pulled out an Empire Strikes Back and saved the redemption moments for the final film in a trilogy, but the filmmakers give you your money’s worth and so much more as you’re taken on a high flying adventure in which tales of classic storytelling heroes are made of.  In fact, the story’s so rich you literally forget you’re watching an animated film.  It’s a sad, but enlightening experience that will leave you wanting more.  And like with The LEGO Movie up above, if you don’t feel the same, then you need help.  How To Train Your Dragon2 flies you high into the heavens and back and has something for everyone provided of course your child or date doesn’t scare too easily.  (Review HERE)  

dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_poster_a_p

1.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes– It’s kind of weird, huh?  What’s that?  Oh sorry.  I was just mulling this over in my head and it must have trickled down to my finger stubs doing the typing here.  I was just thinking that’s it’s kind of odd that my three favorite films of 2014 so far are all heavily animated, most notably the second and third place ones, but let’s face it…this first selection is pretty heavily CG-laden don’t you think?  However, don’t let the fact that these apes aren’t really real fool you.  This one packs quite a wallop and provides more sopping Kleenex-driven emotional moments than The Notebook and my below worst film of the year combined.  That’s right!  Caesar, Rocket, Koba and Maurice are back on the big screen in a bigger, more bad-a$$ grand spectacle of awe, battle and above all else…ape awesomeness!  I was lucky enough to not only catch an early screening of this a couple weeks back, but also attend a panel discussion with director Matt Reeves and actors Andy Serkis and Gary Oldman.  The latter pair needs no introduction for their contributions, but even to this day some two weeks later I sit in awe of Matt Reeves and all that he did to make this the best Apes picture ever.  I’ll get more into it with my review later this week, but let’s just say after I awarded Rise of the Planet of the Apes as my top choice back in 2011 my expectations we’re at an all-time high and as you can tell without me writing any more elaborate prose…this sequel did not disappoint thanks to the leadership, direction and creative visions of Matt Reeves, but I digress.  That’s what my full review is for later on this week.  I’m looking forward with much anticipation to checking this one out again theatrically!  That’s how I know it’s good and I did not want to throw my feces at it like I did at the movie I’m about to take a crap on below. (Review Coming Soon)

TRANFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTIONWorstTransformers: Age of Extinction – I think with my theatrical review a few weeks back I made it perfectly clear that The Transformers: Age of Extinction was the worst film I personally saw so far this calendar year.  As a diehard fan of the first film it pains me to even admit how bad this film is.  I don’t even know where I should start.  Should I talk about how horrendous and insulting the story was?  Should I talk about how offensive and nonsensically violent this movie is?  Should I talk about how absolutely nothing made sense and the story teetered on for 2 hours and forty-five minutes loosely trying to figure itself out?  Should I talk about how they used the same screenwriter of the last two putrid sequels?  Oh I know!  Should talk about how they dropped an F-bomb in a movie based on toys?  WTF?!  Or maybe this will take the cake.  SPOLIER ALERT!  SPOILER ALERT!  How about the fact that at the end of the movie Optimus Prime suddenly has the ability to fly into deep space when in this entire 4-picture franchise he’s been running away on wheels?  I think that was the slap-in-you-face WTF moment of the year.  Don’t you think?  The film was awarded a score of 1.5 from me solely based on the laughs that Stanley Tucci conjured up in my belly and some nice looking fast cars.  Other than that I would have a different use for the Blu-ray cover art that would accompany this future product release.  Here’s looking ahead to the future of cinema without a Michael Bay Transformers film.  Until then…wallow through this piece of sh1t with the utmost of caution and rightfully so apprehension. (Review HERE)

Aaron’s Picks

All I really have to say beforehand is that I’ve seen a number of very good films in the first half of 2014 and it is practically splitting hairs, when it comes to deciding these first two spots, before getting to my current number one.

only lovers left alive whysoblu 13.  Only Lovers Left Alive – This is a film that I could not get out of my head, after seeing it.  I could attribute that to many of my favorite films of the year so far, but Jim Jarmusch’s has made a vampire film where the lead characters being vampires is one of the least interesting things about it.  Sure, that aspect provides momentum for the story and allows us to read into these characters, but I love the style and mood of this film as a whole, let alone the great cast, headed by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, who make for an amazing couple.  The hypnotic look and sound of this film only add to why I adore it so much, as this is another big win from Jarmusch, who has such a different take on what to play at in his films. (Review HERE)

lego movie whysoblu 92.  The LEGO Movie – Few movies have delivered the amount of joy that I took from The LEGO Movie and it only helps that on top of the fun and colorful aspects to this movie, there is a smart story, with really cool ideas and themes buried under the surface.  Phil Lord and Chris Miller have proven themselves as a comedic force from both sides of the spectrum, with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 & 22 Jump St., but The LEGO Movie is easily the best thing that they have done so far, as they combine a level of irreverence with a fantastic approach to turning these building blocks into something truly special, pushing the concept of this film far beyond just being an excuse to sell toys.  The LEGO Movie is highly entertaining and earns great marks for being such a creative and unique spectacle. (Review HERE)

snowpiercer whysoblu 81.  Snowpiercer – A sci-fi/action thriller, headed by visionary director Bong Joon-Ho was certainly on track to be a move I really enjoyed, following his work on films like The Host and Mother, but Snowpiercer really blew me away with how capable it was of delivering a unique experience that easily brings to mind many sci-fi influences, but still has an overall cinematic experience that is all its own.  Make no mistake, this is a very weird film, but it combines its weirdness with strong performances, a great level of style, and a handle on the action that may not be as relentless and insane as The Raid 2, but it certainly delivers upon the visceral experience that goes well with the story that is rife with commentary and motifs, while still working as a very entertaining feature. (Review HERE)

sabotage whysoblu 2Worst – Sabotage – I was going to be pretty fine with giving a pass to this David Ayer written and directed film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, as I did not expect much beyond a shoot-em-up thriller, but, especially after how much I liked Ayer’s previous film, End of Watch, I could not believe how repelled I was by what Sabotage had to offer.  It amounts to a group of very unlikable characters, who are killed off one by one for doing a bad thing and being weirdly punished for it.  Add to that I lot of crazy hairstyles, so nasty violence, and some laughable bad dialogue all around (including Arnold attempting to pal around with the others by doing bad improve) , and you have what was one of the more miserable film experiences I had this year, granted I avoided a couple on purpose. (Review HERE)

Brandon’s Picks

Brutal…could have at least done half a top 10 for half a year.  Any who:

The Grand Budapest Hotel whysoblu 12-0013.  The Grand Budapest Hotel – Yes, I love Wes Anderson.  And I feel ‘Budapest’ is another masterpiece from him.  This is also my pick for best cinematography in this half year as well.  I fell in love with just how much preparation, planning and attention to detail Anderson put in every shot in the 1:33.1 frame.  You could pause at any moment and have an image you could display in your home.  The film also features a fun performance from Ralph Fiennes and Adrien Brody as well as a brooding intimidating one from Willem Dafoe.  This is Anderson at his best, and a glorious follow-up to Moonrise Kingdom.

Blue-Ruin2.  Blue Ruin – See this movie, see this movie now (on VOD, comes to Blu-ray July 22, my review will be up VERY soon).  It’s a great mixture of realism with a pulpy revenge thriller.  It is a film that begins where the typical revenge thriller ends.  It’s a beautifully shot movie that is very quiet, but speaks loudly all at the same time.  Blue Ruin has an incredible lead performance by Macon Blair that hopefully has opened up the doors for him to be a player in many films to come.  Director Jeremy Saulnier follows up the underrated Murder Party with a film featuring intense dramatics, suspense, graphic violence, and has you hooked from the first frame.  Take this ride. (Review Coming Soon)

snowpiercer whysoblu 11.  Snowpiercer – Everything everyone has said praising this movie is right on the money.  If it’s in a reasonable driving distance, go see it on the big screen.  On your way to the car in the parking lot you just know you’ve seen something special.  A film you’re going to revisit time and time again.  Snowpiercer hit on almost every possible level of enjoyment I could have when watching a film.  I don’t really want to say a whole lot about the movie because I want you to see it first!


robocop whysoblu 4Worst – Robocop – I feel sort of lucky that this is the worst film I’ve yet to encounter this year (and my second worst by no means belongs on any “Worst list”).  I’m positive there has probably been far more foul stuff out there.  With two kids nowadays, I just can’t see everything to see everything for my “Worst” pick to be fully legitimized.  And I’m not rushing to see the “bad ones”, so I’ve taken far more to taking a strong majority’s word for it for now and I’ll get to some of them later.  Robocop wasn’t absolutely terrible for me, it was just wildly mediocre, boring and seemed afraid to get fully on board with any new ideas it sort of wanted to steer the Alex Murphy ship with.  Not my cup of tea, but I mentioned in my review while I wasn’t a fan of it, I’m sure there’s a large quantity that will be ok with it and maybe some that will really like it.  But, I must thank this movie as it got us a delicious new transfer of the original on Blu-ray! (Review HERE)

 

Many of these films are currently available for purchase or pre-order on Blu-ray:

 

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4. He also co-hosts a podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

2 Responses to “Why So Blu’s Staff Picks For 2014’s Best Films of the Year… So Far”


  1. Brian White

    ah crap! I forgot about wanting to see Blue Ruin too!

    I am looking forward to checking out Grand Budapest and Only Lovers Left Alive, both of which you guys mention up above.

    Thanks for throwing this together, Aaron! I LOVE your graphics and LOVE your lead in image even more!!! Bravo!

    If I had to pick a number 4 I would have probably went with Snowpiercer, but damn that Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow is lingering in my Top 10 too.

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Thanks, it was fun to put the images together. And yeah, plenty of picks, which I discuss more in this week’s podcast episode – http://www.thecodeiszeek.com/2014/07/out-now-with-aaron-and-abe-bonus.html