2014 Year-End Movie Review: David Medsker


Let’s get this out of the way up front: there is a lot of popcorn on my list this year. That might sound bad, since critics are supposed to dislike what’s popular (that’s not true, actually: we just dislike anything we think is bad, whether or not it’s popular), but hey, I’m just happy that I liked enough movies this year to put a Top 10 list together. (This is my first full Top 10 since 2010.) There weren’t a lot of blockbusters this year, but some of the year’s biggest films were big for a reason: they were better than the others.

Of course, I say that, and yet the top four movies on my list barely made a penny. Let’s see if we can change that, shall we?

My Favorite Movies of 2014


The Battle of Alpha Males: it’s a timeless plot device. Usually it concerns two guys on the same level (“Tin Men,” “Pushing Tin”) and sometimes involves having sex with your enemy’s spouse (again, “Tin Men” and “Pushing Tin), but here it is the battle of student versus teacher at a music conservatory. Miles Teller, the prodigious drummer, and J.K. Simmons, the sadistic teacher, have never been better, but the movie’s best trick is that it gets the audience to root for both sides, even though both men are horribly flawed and unlikable. It came and went quietly in its theatrical run, but this is a must-see when it hits the video circuit.



It’s assumed that everyone’s soul has a price, that there is a limit to what people will do for money or success. “Nightcrawler” makes it painfully clear that when it comes to a functioning sociopath like Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s superb), all bets are off. Indeed, the uplifting corporate buzz speak that Louis uses to influence characters in the film serves a dual purpose: it gets him what he wants, and it warns the audience that if they work with or for anyone who uses that language, RUN.


There are so many genius moments in this movie that it is hard to count. The entire movie is shot to look like it was done in one take, even though it takes place over several days (your move, Alfonso Curaón). Edward Norton is pitch-perfect casting for the part of Mike, playing on his own reputation as a difficult actor, but having Michael Keaton play the lead, a guy who did exactly what his character does in walking away from a blockbuster franchise, is just sublime. It is one of the rare films that uses mainstream pop culture as a means to make an artful statement about life. There are many unforgettable moments, but the movie’s last shot will be permanently etched into your memory.



Everyone has a moment in their lives that they wish that they could undo. This Swedish import is a movie about that moment, and the unstoppable ripple effect that the moment has. A family goes skiing in the French Alps, when a supposedly controlled avalanche goes out of control and causes one of the family members to do something that they can’t take back, ever. I barely breathed for the second half of this movie, and it had nothing to do with what was happening, but because of what wasn’t happening. Make sure you and your significant other haven’t had a fight recently before watching it, though: otherwise, the movie might be a homewrecker.


Until they prove me otherwise, I will go into any film that says “Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller” with the utmost of confidence, because after this, “21 Jump Street,” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” they have proven their worth in spades. Funny, smart, and thrilling, with a great message about the perils of conformity, “The LEGO Movie” was far better than it had any right to be. It also has the movie song of the year. Sing with me now: “Everything is awesome…”


Pages: 1 2  (Next Page)