I always like to end the year with a Top 10 list of my favorite movies. Having not seen some critical favorites such as Birdman, Boyhood, Inherent Vice, or Foxcatcher (and many others), this list feels woefully incomplete. However, since I won’t be able to see those films until 2015, this is the best I can offer before the end of the year.
Let’s start with #1…
1) The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) You’re either a Wes Anderson fan or you’re not. I’m not sure that there’s much of an in between. Me, I’m a fan. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s funniest film. It’s hilarious. Everyone is in top form, especially Ralph Fiennes. I also think Alexandre Desplat’s score is something of a wonder. It’s not often that I’ll call a comedy my favorite film of the year, but this is a special film. I adore The Grand Budapest Hotel.
2) Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn) I was a bit of a comic book geek growing up but I admit I never heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy. So I was happy to go into a Marvel movie with a clear head and no knowledge about where certain arcs were heading. It was... refreshing. This movie is a total blast, I felt giddy for much of its 120 minutes. Gunn makes a Marvel movie to rival the thrills of classic Star Wars. And any movie with a talking raccoon is cool by me. Can’t wait for the sequel.
3) The Lego Movie (Chris Miller & Phil Lord) One of the year’s biggest surprises. I don’t know, I guess I expected a Lego movie to be a simple cash grab, but Miller and Lord have repeatedly shattered expectations before and this is their best film yet. Smart humor and visually excellent.
4) Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Sion Sono) Gonzo, go-for-broke filmmaking at its finest. Japanese madman/director Sion Sono is one of the most original artists working in film today and I think this is one of his finest films. I wrote a rambling review over at CityOnFire.com if you want to give it a read.
5) Godzilla (Gareth Edwards) Okay, so if you know me then you know I’m a Godzilla nut. So admittedly I am willing to forgive some of the sins of Edwards’ Godzilla. But even ignoring my fan status, I really appreciate the visual style Edwards gave the film. CGI has lost its ability to 'wow' in recent years but Godzilla and the Mutos are truly awe-inspiring in the film, reminding me of how I felt when watching Jurassic Park for the first time in theatres. The visuals make the audience feel small when viewing the onscreen spectacle, which is harder than it sounds. It’s not a film without some flaws, but I love it just the same.
6) Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong) A fantastic piece of dystopian sci-fi. Snowpiercer had a long, winding road to American theatres, but it was worth the wait. Read my full review over at CityOnFire.com.
7) Enemy (Denis Villeneuve) 2013’s Prisoners was one of last year’s biggest surprises. With Enemy, director Villeneuve and star Jake Gyllenhaal reteam for a smaller but equally impressive film. This is a dark and weird little story. It screws with your head. I was jittery for hours after watching this one.
8) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony & Joe Russo) I thought Captain America: The First Avenger was one of Marvel’s weakest films, but the sequel surprises by being one of Marvel’s very finest. You can strip away the superhero stuff and the plot would work just as well as a Cold War paranoia thriller. It reminded me a bit of Three Days of the Condor (so it’s very cool to see Condor’s star Robert Redford in a supporting role here). This is an excellent superhero flick, a very good spy flick, and a damn fine actioner. There is a lot to like about The Winter Soldier.
9) Noah (Darren Aronofsky) Okay, so I understand this film bugged some people. Personally, I liked it a great deal. It’s incredibly ambitious filmmaking and one of the best religious-themed films I've seen in a long time. Of the two 2014 religious epics maybe Ridley Scott’s Exodus stayed closer to the Bible stories, but I’m thinking Aronofsky’s Noah will be the one that’s remembered.
10) Fury (David Ayer) Back in March, director David Ayer gave 2014 one of its worst films with the Arnold Schwarzenegger crime pic Sabotage… Ayer then followed it up with the October release of Fury, one of the year’s best. That’s range. The Brad Pitt WWII tank drama is a brutal, visceral experience from beginning to end. There are some visuals in Fury that I’ll never get out of my head, no matter how hard I might try. Not exactly a film you 'enjoy', but it's very well made. Good movie.
The rest of my Top 25 looks a little something like. . .
11) Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)
12) Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
13) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves)
14) The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans)
15) X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer)
16) Oculus (Mike Flanagan)
17) Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier)
18) Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
19) Gone Girl (David Fincher)
20) Begin Again (John Carney)
21) Chef (Jon Favreau)
22) Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)
23) Afflicted (Clif Prowse & Derek Lee)
24) As the Light Goes Out (Derek Kwok)
25) John Wick (Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)
What about you? What are some of your favorite films of the year?
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
Whether you’re home alone watching Netflix for hours on end, snowed in and shivering cold, or hanging out with family & friends, or if celebrating Christmas just isn't your thing, I hope you’re having a good time with how you've chosen to spend this holiday season.
Me? I’m sticking to the classics: family time, good food, hiding from the cold, and a few gifts to spread around.
Oh! I have a gift for you. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day you can get my book Death’s Good Intentions for FREE on Kindle. CLICK THE LINK
This is the last time Death’s Good Intentions will be available for free on the Kindle marketplace. On December 27th Death’s Good Intentions will end its Amazon exclusivity through Kindle Select, so no more free days. Which is fine. I’m cool giving away some books to you good people in hopes that you’ll read and enjoy my book (and leave a review?!), but this is the end of freebies for DGI.
Enjoy the book and I hope you have yourself a happy holiday!
I tried to read as many of the 2014 must-read books I could… but of course I couldn’t get to them all. It was a busy year for me. Writing one big book, editing three others, plus a little thing called Life. I read the books I could and the ones I missed will have to wait for next year… or the year after… or the year after that. You know how it goes. Anyway, here are my Top 10 favorites released in 2014.
1) The Martian by Andy Weir – My number one favorite book of the year. The story of an astronaut left behind on Mars sounds like a grim thriller but it’s actually hilarious thanks to Weir’s humor and a wonderful main character. I loved this book and would recommend it to basically everyone. I’ll be reading this one again someday. Read my full review at Goodreads.
2) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Historical fiction isn’t usually my thing, but I was drawn in by all the reviews. And hey, the critics got it right with this one. It’s not wrong to call this a coming-of-age story set during WWII, but leaving it at that really doesn’t do the book any justice. This is a wonderful novel. Beautiful prose, strong characters, and a compelling plot – this book has it all. It’s also… don’t tell anybody this… the only book on this list that managed to make me cry. Just a little, you understand. Not a lot. Not very much at all! But yes, there were tears, it’s true. Read my full review at Goodreads.
3) Bird Box by Josh Malerman – Tense thriller that plays with horror ideas in an interesting way. Basically, the world’s come to an end thanks to the arrival of these creatures. What do they look like? Nobody’s sure. If you see one of them you go insane and promptly kill yourself. Now, this book is going to bother some people who want (need?) to know what monsters lurk in the shadows. Because of the very nature of the creatures you are largely denied any hard information on what exactly is going on beyond the blindfold. Personally, I really liked this approach. I’ve always been more scared by the horror that’s just out of sight and Bird Box tapped into that fear extraordinarily well. Read my full review at Goodreads.
4) The Troop by Nick Cutter – Holy shit this was disgusting and awful and awesome and holy shit oh my GOD it’s just so fucking YEUUWHY… Hmm. Yes. That describes my feelings for this book quite well, actually. The Troop is a good, tough horror story. Unputdownable. I doubt I will ever read The Troop again—it’s just so nasty—but I can’t wait for Nick Cutter’s The Deep in 2015 and whatever else he’s cooking up for the future. Read my full review at Goodreads.
5) Othella by Therin Knite –Despite being an ‘indie author’ I really don’t read as much self-published fiction as I should. Sorry, guys. Still, from the 2014 indie fiction I have read, I think Therin Knite’s sci-fi novel Othella was the best of the best – and, if you want to make a thing out of it, yeah it was a whole lot better than most the traditionally published books I read this year. It’s a sci-fi thriller about a world on the brink, a technological society of geniuses who are tasked with bringing civilization back from the edge, and the dark secrets that threaten to bring it all down. It’s just really cool. I look forward to the sequel. Read my full review at Goodreads.
6) The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – The book’s description doesn't want you to know what the book is really about. I’m gonna SPOIL it for you... It’s about zombies. Yeah, I know. I’m tired of them, too. They’re everywhere and I fail to understand why. But I gotta give it up for an author who manages to do something fresh and new with the tired genre. The Girl with All the Gifts is both horrific and sweet, featuring my favorite zombie girl in all of book & film. The book made this bored “fan” of the genre very happy. Read my full review at Goodreads.
7) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – A book that I found I admired more than I actually enjoyed. But still, the book succeeded in taking me deep into its epic story. I don’t agree with all of its choices – particularly leaving most of the world building for page 500 – but there’s a lot to like about the book. It’s hugely ambitious, and among other things it presents us with perhaps the most believable and depressing vision of the near future I’ve ever read. Read my full review at Goodreads.
8) Landline by Rainbow Rowell – This isn’t my typical kind of book. It’s a dialogue driven bittersweet romantic comedy with a Magic Fucking Phone that talks to the past. Yep. Landline was so far from being on my radar that I hadn’t heard of it until Goodreads voters named it one of their favorite books of the year. I also confess I don’t really know who Rainbow Rowell is (I had heard of her book Fangirl, though). So yeah, I am pretty far from the intended audience for this book. But I wanted to give it a go based on all the craze praise… and it’s really, really good. Rowell writes fantastic dialogue. Landline made me laugh out loud, which is rare. She’s a great writer. I do think the book overstayed its welcome just a bit. The concept started to tire sometime before the end. But still, it’s a book well deserving of praise. And hey, sometimes it’s cool to read something outside of your typical genre/comfort zone. I’m glad I gave Landline a try. Read my full review at Goodreads.
9) Revival by Stephen King – Despite the hype that this is ‘vintage King’, I really don’t see Revival as a horror novel. It’s a dark saga of two men intertwined by tragedy and curiosity. Their curiosity brings them face-to-face with some horrific stuff along the way, but should the novel be considered horror? Ehh, I don’t know. So, I kind of went into Revival with certain expectations. Once I got past the fact that the book wasn’t what I expected I began to enjoy it a lot more. King’s fantastic writing makes it one of my favorite books of the year. ALSO: I quite liked King’s Mr. Mercedes. Read my full review at Goodreads.
10) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami – I’m relatively new to Murakami’s work, but I think I’m getting a pretty good idea of what to expect from his books. When I first read Colorless Tsukuru I was rather disappointed (as shown in my review). I thought the book started off brilliantly but slowly became repetitive before coming to a completely anticlimactic ending. But in the months since reading it, I’ve found that my feelings towards the book have softened. More than that, I’m surprised by how much the book has stuck with me. I think on Colorless Tsukuru more than I think of many other books I read this year. Read my full review at Goodreads.
One of my other favorite reads of the year was Joe Hill's Locke & Key comic book series. I feel pretty good calling Locke & Key one of the greatest comics of all time.
The 2014 books I’m most disappointed I missed (and most looking forward to catching up with) are Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun, Hugh Howey’s Sand, Stuart Keane’s All or Nothing, James Ellroy’s Perfidia, Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, and Ksenia Anske’s Rosehead. Of course those books must compete with the classics that I gotta read and the new 2015 books that are coming out. I can’t wait to read Nick Cutter’s The Deep and Joe Hill’s The Fireman.
How about you? What are some of your favorite books from 2014? What are some of the books you’re most looking forward to in 2015?
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
Blog notice: mostly this blog is for sharing my thoughts and talking about my books. From time to time I will also comment on books, films, music, sports, and/or videogames. During these times I may use images of the creative works under discussion. I'm posting the images under the "fair use" allowance, for purposes such as criticism, comments, reporting, teaching, and research. If you have any issue with images used on this blog, please contact me and the images will be removed.
I am not paid for my reviews and I do not take book review requests at this time.