The year of watching dangerously

In 2014, movie reviewer Bob Grimm yelled things in crowded theaters

Illustration by Michael Grimm

For me, 2014 was a year of great relief. I had staked my emotional well being on whether or not Godzilla would suck. Had it sucked, I would've probably spiraled into a cinematically induced depression involving cheap beer, tacos and s'mores.

Not only did it not suck, it was actually really good! Not good enough to crack my Top 10, or even my Top 20, but good enough to make me yell “Braaaflewaaaahhhh!” when I saw Godzilla bellow for the first time on our brand spanking new IMAX screen in Sparks. (Yes, I yell “Braaaflewaaaahhhh!” when a movie gets me going.)

2014 was the year we got an IMAX screen here in Northern Nevada. I've been having debates with folks all year about which screens are better over at the Galaxy IMAX. A lot of my cohorts prefer the “regular” screens with the cushy recliner chairs. I am a big fan of these, but I am also a big fan of sleeping, and sleep is the enemy of the movie critic guy.

I haven't nodded off yet at the Galaxy, but it seems inevitable, especially if I drink beer and eat the tacos and s'mores I sneak in. For the purpose of movie reviewing, I like how the IMAX seats make you sit straight up, a key to keeping one alert and, of course, good posture.

The year's most surreal movie experience would have to be watching The Interview on Christmas Eve while sipping eggnog … in my home. Christmas Eve viewing in the home is usually reserved for Rudolph, Frosty or Stephen Colbert (His Christmas special is a classic!), but this year, I spent the holiday with Seth Rogen and James Franco on my big computer screen because Sony was forced into a rather unorthodox release plan for their hot potato movie. I was happy to see it, but it felt a little weird watching Rogen and Franco in what turned out to be a direct-to-video release, didn't it?

The year was super loaded with movies that ranged from very good to excellent. Seriously, I could name upwards of 50 movies I really liked. As for picking my favorites, it was actually a tough task for I enjoyed so many.

So here's the final look back on 2014. It was a year of great directorial efforts. It was a year that had “14” in it. It was a year where World War III almost started due to a stoner comedy. It was a year to remember.

That was corny … inexcusably corny. Sorry. Here are my lists.

The Best: Hooray!

1. Birdman: In a year of many incredible directorial feats, the top honor must go to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. By making his film about a washed up actor (Michael Keaton) look like one continuous shot, he pulled off some sort of technical miracle.

He didn’t stop with visual wonder, because his film is hilarious and emotionally impactful, stacked with amazing talent including Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis. After much debate, inner turmoil, and anxiety-ridden sleepless nights, I am deeming this the year’s best film. It wasn’t an easy call, because the next three films on the list were also in stiff competition for my favorite of the year.

2. Whiplash: Miles Teller, fittingly spectacular in The Spectacular Now, put himself through the ringer for this one, and that ringer is named J.K. Simmons. Simmons, as the meanest, most bad-assed music teacher to ever occupy a film, is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. Strangely, Teller isn’t getting the same buzz. He goes toe-to-toe with Simmons, and he does his own drumming, which is phenomenal.

3. Boyhood: This is an amazingly cohesive movie for something that was filmed a little bit at a time over the last 13 years. The film looks as if it was filmed all at once, the performances are consistent and strong, and the story is powerful. Director Richard Linklater's very best movie.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson has one of the more impressive streaks going in Hollywood. Over the past 18 years, he has made eight features, all of them either very good or excellent. This one, in which Ralph Fiennes plays an oddball concierge, ranks among his best.

5. Selma: David Oyelowo portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in director Ava DuVernay's stunning depiction of the civil rights march on Selma, Alabama. It's one of the year's most accomplished directorial efforts.

6. Frank: Michael Fassbender wears a huge mask for the majority of this film, one that delves into the eccentricities of being in a band that is trying to create meaningful music. It's a very funny, overlooked gem.

7. Edge of Tomorrow: Tom Cruise dies thousands of times in Doug Liman's crazy, hilarious and ingenious take on the alien invasion genre. It's surprising that more people didn't see this. Even Cruise haters could take pleasure in seeing him die in so many ways.

8. Foxcatcher: Steve Carell disappears into the role of John du Pont, the crazy rich guy who took it upon himself to shoot and kill one of the wrestlers on a team he created. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are heartbreakingly good as the Schultz brothers, two Olympic gold medal-winning siblings who, unfortunately, worked for du Pont when he had his breakdown.

9. Interstellar: This was a great year for science fiction, and Christopher Nolan's take on space travel is grand moviemaking. It's a film that dares to go everywhere. Also, it has the year's best piece of “late in the movie” casting.

10. Under the Skin: Another great science fiction movie. This is the year's most trippy film. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien wearing human skin, driving around Scotland and really picking up guys. (The men had no idea who she was.) An interesting way to cast a film, and the results are surreal.

Top 10 lists are for posers! We do Top 20 here at the Reno News & Review, so the beat goes on.

11. Gone Girl: David Fincher adapts another novel, and this one winds up being a whole lot better than his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo waste of time. Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck play a married couple that just doesn’t do marriage well.

12. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Marvel Universe got a nutty, and excellent, installment with this one featuring a star-making performance from Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper voicing a raccoon.

13. The Babadook: The year's scariest movie. Essie Davis gives a devastating performance as a mom who loses her husband on the way to a hospital to birth her son. The son grows up to be either 1) haunted by a strange entity called the Babadook or 2) totally crazy. Watching Davis fall apart is the stuff of nightmares.

14. Life Itself: A stirring tribute to the great Roger Ebert, this documentary was commissioned while he was alive and wound up capturing his last days on Earth. It also contains precious archival footage, including some great times-and fights-between Ebert and his late partner in crime, Gene Siskel. It's hard to believe they are both gone.

15. Wild: Reese Witherspoon takes one long-assed walk in this biopic based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed, who trekked the Pacific Crest Trail to get her life out of a tailspin. This is the best thing Witherspoon has done in years.

16. Nightcrawler: This scathing satire of tabloid news features Jake Gyllenhaal in one of his two great 2014 performances (actually, three, because he played twins in Enemy).

17. Fury: In some ways, this Brad Pitt starring WWII tank epic was a full-blown horror movie. It was super gory and very scary. I do feel sorry for the cast and crew, for Shia LaBeouf became infamous for not showering for days on end during the production. His costars are all suffering from Post Shia's Ball Sweat Syndrome.

18. Cold In July: On outstanding cast, including Don Johnson, Sam Shepard and Michael C. Hall, made this one of the year's great surprises. Shepard is especially good as an ex-con seeking revenge, while Johnson steals scenes as a private investigator. Nobody saw this movie. It's available to rent. See it.

19. Borgman: This Dutch film about a homeless guy living with a rich family and ruining their lives almost makes Gone Girl look like a depiction of domestic bliss.

20. Snowpiercer: Tilda Swinton is much fun in this post-apocalyptic movie about humans trying to survive onboard a super-train. The characters in this movie are destined to spend their entire lives racing around a snow-engulfed earth on this train. I spent a couple of days on an Amtrak going cross-country, and I thought for sure I was going to die.

That’s 20 great movies, and my list of very good movies extends well beyond that. Again, this was a great year for film.

But that doesn’t mean it was devoid of cinematic stinky entrails.

The year was rife with lousy sequels (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Horrible Bosses 2, Dumb and Dumber To. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), lame reboots (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and films that made Angelina Jolie look way too freaky (Maleficent).

While those movies stunk, they don’t compare to the list below. The list below is dangerous. Avoid at all costs if you value your intellectual capacity and wish to maintain normal motor activities. More than three of these films in one week will induce profuse drooling, drastic mood swings and eye seepage.

The Worst: the suffering… oh, the suffering!

1. The Identical: This strange Elvis/Bible Thumping movie hybrid is, and always will be, one of the worst movies that will ever be made. It's of legendary badness, like The Room and Roberto Benigni’s Pinocchio. You have to be really bad to top the next film on this list in badness.

2. Blended: Wow. Just … wow. Adam Sandler, a former guilty pleasure of mine, just keeps finding ways to get lousier at the cinemas. This racist piece of crap represents the very worst film he has ever made, and this guy was in the Grown Ups movies.

3. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1+2: A two-part film about a sex addict that is as sexy as somebody coming up to you and putting steaming hot oatmeal with raisins in your pants.

Now, I realize there are some of you out there who might find that kind of thing erotic. Stay with me here.

After somebody puts that oatmeal in your pants, they shackle your hands and lock you in a room with no shower and a stereo blasting nothing but One Direction. Five weeks later, they come in and chisel at the hardened oatmeal with a spoon while biting down, hard, on your nose.

Once the oatmeal has been chiseled away, it is discovered that some of it managed to seep into zones where the spoon can’t reach, and massive infections of all shapes and sizes have riddled your naughty bits.

Then, Shia LaBeouf, one of the film’s stars who has infamously bragged about not showering for days on end, enters the room and spanks you for 18 hours straight while biting down, hard, on your nose.

Do you still think it could be sexy?

4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Peter Jackson's Hobbit fiascos were a soul-sucking experience in which my eyes felt raped and my butt got sore. I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I loathe the Hobbit catastrophes. We are talking all time, spirit-crushing cinematic failure.

5. Left Behind: Nicolas Cage stars in a remake of a movie that starred Kirk Cameron and is a Christian funded depiction of the Rapture. He plays a pilot who loses his co-pilot to the heavenly ascension while flying to a U2 concert in London.

Oh my god, this actually happened! This is one of those movies that is so bad, it’s glorious. Also, it must be noted that Cage is looking more like Andy Kaufman with each passing day.

I want to take the rest of this article’s word allotment to just talk about how joyfully bad this is. Hold on, I’m going to call my editor and see if I can just spend the rest of this article talking about the U2, the Rapture and Nicolas Cage’s bugging eyes.

He said no.

6. The Judge: Robert Duvall shits himself in this movie. He also poops all over Robert Downey Jr. There's just poop everywhere in this film, and it isn't always of the physical nature. For instance, the screenplay is a screaming, stinking dung heap.

7. I, Frankenstein: I bet you didn’t think you would ever see Frankenstein’s monster in a trendy hoodie. I did like his hoodie. Everything else sucked.

8. Men, Women & Children: Oh, look … it’s Adam Sandler again. Only this time it’s “serious” Adam Sandler. Serious Sandler has degenerated into a level of lameness equal to that of funny Sandler. Or, should I say, the formerly funny Sandler.

9. Transformers: Age of Extinction: Hey, if you like movies depicting those things you used to have in your toy box beating the crap out of each other for what feels like 732 hours, these movies are your nirvana. For folks like me, they are punishment akin to having toenails torn out by evil jackals.

10. Into the Woods: I actually liked Annie more than this misguided attempt to adapt a Stephen Sondheim musical. I love Disney. I take Disney vacations whenever I can. Into the Woods is not a musical that Disney should’ve adapted. Not a good call.

What's coming in 2015?

Oh, just a little curio called Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Yes, December will bring us a film that not only reboots the franchise, it also brings back Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. I was excited about the prospects for Godzilla at this time last year. Knowing that I’m getting a new Star Wars, and more Star Wars after that, is better than knowing I now have a Dunkin’ Donuts in Carson City, and a bunch more locations on the way.

The Grimmy Awards

Best Actors: Michael Keaton (Birdman), Miles Teller (Whiplash), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), David Oyelowo (Selma), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler and Enemy)

Best Actresses: Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild), Essie Davis (The Babadook), Tessa Thompson (Dear White People)

Best Supporting Actors: J. K Simmons (Whiplash), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Shia LaBeouf (Fury)

Best Supporting Actresses: Emma Stone (Birdman), Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Frank), Carrie Coon (Gone Girl), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)

Worst Actor: Nicolas Cage (Left Behind)

Worst Actress: Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies)

Best Actor in a Bad Movie: Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses 2)

Best Actress in a Bad Movie: Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

Worst Actor in a Good Movie: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla)

Worst Actress in a Good Movie: Cameron Diaz (Annie)

Film I'm Slightly Embarrassed About Liking: Annie

Best Cure for Grumpiness: Puppies and ice cream!

Best Animated Movie: Big Hero 6

Best Laminated Movie: Funky Thompson and the Really Bad Fake ID

Overrated: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into the Woods, Nymphomaniac

Underrated: The Interview, Tusk, Robocop

Best Single Line of Dialogue: “It's 2014 … women are smart now!” James Franco in The Interview

Best Place to Get Coffee and Donuts: Dunkin' Donuts (We finally have one! Rapture!)

Best Comeback: Keanu Reeves (John Wick)

Best Song: “I Love You All” from Frank

Worst Accent: Christian Bale's intermittent New York/Jewish accent in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Best Thing to Protect Your Feet From Shoes: Socks

Second Best Thing to Protect Your Feet From Shoes: Ravenous Guard Dog