The Bock’s Office: What tops the list for 2014? | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: What tops the list for 2014?

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) lines up a shot while on duty in Iraq in "American Sniper." The movie is one of film critic Andy Bockelman's selections as the best movies of 2014.

Each year, I compile a top 10 list of the best films of the past 12 months, and each year it feels incomplete because of the near-impossibility of viewing every single movie to determine the hidden gems or deciding if the big releases are worth the hype.

Either way, here is my countdown of my selections for the features I was able to watch that had the biggest effect on me.

The Bock’s Office Top 10 of 2014

1. "Boyhood"

2. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

3. "Inherent Vice"

4. "Nightcrawler”

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5. "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"

6. "Wild"

7. "Calvary"

8. "Rosewater"

9. "The Lego Movie"

10. "American Sniper"

The Bock’s Office Worst of 2014

5. "Magic in the Moonlight"

1920s stage magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) has a love for exposing frauds in his field, but even he doesn't know what to make of a young clairvoyant (Emma Stone) who seems to be the real deal.

A dry script by writer-director Woody Allen doesn't lend itself to good performances, and the plot is beyond redemption in the filmmaker's worst work since 2003's "Anything Else."

4. "Winter's Tale"

A desperate thief (Colin Farrell) on the run from an evil gangster (Russell Crowe) falls deeply in love with the ill young woman (Jessica Brown Findlay) whose home he attempts to rob. When she dies tragically, his life is somehow preserved for a century as he finds himself in present-day New York, thinking he has survived for a greater purpose.

An OK romance gets increasingly ridiculous with supernatural elements, resulting in a nonsensical, almost unwatchable conclusion.

Oh, and did we mention that Will Smith plays the Devil?

3. "RoboCop"

In a futuristic Detroit, Det. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically wounded by criminals and is chosen for a new program that will merge what's left of his body and mind with a robotic outfit that will allow him to clean up the streets in a whole new way.

This reboot of the 1980s sci-fi classic deserves a forced shutdown, toning down the violence that once was controversial yet powerful and trying to make its hero more relatable without actually giving him a personality. The one improvement is Samuel L. Jackson as a loudmouthed parody of every far right talk show host that ever existed.

2. "Dumb and Dumber To"

Lifelong friends Lloyd and Harry (Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels) are back together again after 20 years, this time putting their limited brainpower to use by tracking down Harry's long-lost daughter (Rachel Melvin).

The Farrelly brothers return to the characters that made them famous and fail spectacularly with a sequel that gives "dumb" a bad name. Carrey and Daniels try incredibly hard to get back to what worked for them before, rarely getting close to deserving laughs.

A scene that reunites the pair with the Mutt Cuts van only for them to promptly destroy it pretty much sums up everything.

1. "Noah" and "Exodus: Gods and Kings"

In "Noah," the title man (Russell Crowe) has visions of an imminent deluge from God to wipe out the sinners of the early world. In "Exodus," Moses (Christian Bale) learns of his destiny to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt.

2014 was a year packed with faith-based films that met with praise and criticism, but Hollywood's two biggest attempts to cash in on the Good Book are poorly made and hollow in their retelling of biblical epics framed as secular action flicks. Whether it was the depiction of the nephilim, the uneventful parting of the Red Sea or the blatant white-washed casting all around, directors Darren Aronofsky and Ridley Scott have some penance in store for them.

10. "American Sniper"

Devoted to his country, United States Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is an important component of American military actions in Iraq, bringing leadership and an unparalleled skill for long-range shooting to his fellow soldiers, gaining a target on his head by enemy forces. As he commits himself to multiple tours of duty, his wife (Sienna Miller) grows concerned that the effects of war may be hurting him more than he knows.

Cooper disappears into the role of the man who stands as the most lethal sniper in American history and gave his all and then some. Direction by Clint Eastwood captures the madness of many of his missions — including a firefight that his pregnant spouse is unfortunate enough to hear during a conversation on a satellite phone — as well as the psychological toll veterans can experience when they're unable to separate work and home and almost lose themselves entirely.

As tough as some scenes are to watch, it's the reality of what became of Kyle that's the saddest part of all.

9. "The Lego Movie"

In a world made out of bricks, Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt) has never exactly fit in, despite all his efforts of trying to be part of the crowd. What the oddball construction worker never expected was that he would be recruited by a rebel (Elizabeth Banks), a wizard (Morgan Freeman) and Batman (Will Arnett) to join the Master Builders, a secret society opposing a sinister despot (Will Ferrell).

There's so much to love about this animated wonder, from the idea of Taco Tuesday to the endless supply of quotes and party music, but the biggest selling point is a story that is all about living life outside the instruction manual that makes it the best cartoon of the year.

8. "Rosewater"

In 2009, Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal) returns to his home country to cover the country's contentious elections. Amid the social upheaval following the results, he is arrested on suspicion of espionage and subjected to months of interrogation.

What began as a well-meaning, jokey interview on "The Daily Show" for Bahari soon became the worst ordeal of his life, making it no surprise that Jon Stewart would want to attach himself to a project like this, adapting and filming Bahari's memoir, "Then They Came for Me," for the screen. While it tends to vilify the Iranian government more than it should, its overall goal of shining a spotlight on the work of journalists worldwide — also seen this past year in the little-seen "Kill the Messenger" — is an imperative one.

7. "Calvary"

Father James (Brendan Gleeson), the priest of a small Irish village, is given a week to live by an anonymous man in a confessional. With this threat hanging over him, the clergyman tries to go about his usual business in the community, his routine altered slightly by the arrival of his estranged daughter (Kelly Reilly), who still resents him for choosing the church over her upon the death of his wife.

John Michael McDonagh's staunch look at modern religion does not paint a pretty portrait of the average parish or, in return, their view of the Catholic Church. A fatalistic character study feels entirely grounded by Gleeson's performance as a man of God who's far from perfect but nonetheless steadfast to his beliefs.

6. "Wild"

After years of recent struggle and heartache, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to hike solo on the Pacific Crest Trail, hoping the solitude along the rugged route will help her figure out what she wants in life as she copes with drug addiction recovery, a divorce that she blames on herself — hence her chosen surname — and lingering grief over the death of her mother (Laura Dern).

Witherspoon is a joy to watch as a woman who finds it within herself to pull out of her personal tailspin even with an enormous burden on her shoulders, and no, not just her oversized backpack. The scenic views of California and Oregon are no less spectacular in a film that fits well with recent tales of self-discovery in nature like "Into the Wild" and "127 Hours."

5. "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"

Has-been superhero movie star Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) has his career on the line with a self-financed Broadway production that could either revive his good name or leave him forgotten forever. Feuding among his fellow castmates doesn't help, but his diminishing mental state may be the deciding factor for everyone.

This send-up of show business could not be more artfully done by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, shifting from bizarre to brilliant whenever the need arises, skewering the trendy nature of today's entertainment, vitriolic critics and the public that follows mindlessly.

4. "Nightcrawler"

A young man (Jake Gyllenhaal) stumbles into the world of video journalism by recording crime scenes. As he starts to become a success, his willingness to slightly alter conditions and footage to his advantage quickly becomes even more skewed as he violates all kinds of rules for the sake of getting his boss (Rene Russo) ratings.

Gyllenhaal presents us with someone who's purely empty inside — a sociopath with a camcorder and the promise of big bucks if he's willing to mute his conscience. Definitely a dangerous combination.

3. "Inherent Vice"

1970s private eye Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is approached by his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) to find her wealthy lover (Eric Roberts), who has mysteriously disappeared. His hesitant agreement leads him on a crazy odyssey around southern California, as he encounters belligerent policemen, unpredictable criminals and a cult hiding in plain sight.

Retro mysteries always have done well — "Chinatown" showed us the 1930s in the ’70s, "L.A. Confidential" was the ’90s view of the ’50s, and now Paul Thomas Anderson's take on Thomas Pynchon's novel is a gleefully wacky twist on film noir and the happenings of the Me Decade.

More part-time hippie and world class pothead than serious investigator, Doc is ably played by Phoenix, leading a phenomenal ensemble of eclectic folks, with Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, Martin Short, Hong Chau and Benicio Del Toro just a few of the standouts. However, the best of the bunch is Josh Brolin as Bigfoot Bjornsen, a no-nonsense buzz-cut cop and aspiring actor who wolfs down chocolate-dipped bananas like Kojak ate lollipops.

2. "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

Following the aftermath of a deadly disease that crippled the Earth's human population, the remaining survivors have a chance to thrive again, but only by crossing paths with a colony of evolved apes that live near them. The ape's noble leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis), is willing to trust them, but conflict between the two groups may lead to an outbreak of war.

The best popcorn flick of the summer contains all the gravitas you could want from any drama that didn't star computer-generated simians, and the newest "Apes" is the best of its kind since Charlton Heston pounded his fists on the ground nearly 50 years ago.

1. "Boyhood"

A kid named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grows up in Texas, making memories good and bad with his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke), his older sister (Lorelei Linklater) and the people that come into their lives across the span of 12 years.

Writer-director Richard Linklater first began putting together a story in 2002 that followed childhood from age 6 to 18, and the results are magnificent as something that's complex in its preparation and simple in its presentation. A great, breezy script by Linklater lets this makeshift family shine as they are filmed at various intervals, with no lapses at any point.

Drawing influence from the Britain's long-running "Up Series" and François Truffaut's Antoine Doinel films, the experimental concept miraculously never eclipses the universally bittersweet nature of a boy becoming a man.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

The Bock’s Office Top 10 of 2014

1. “Boyhood”

2. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

3. “Inherent Vice”

4. “Nightcrawler”

5. “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

6. “Wild”

7. “Calvary”

8. “Rosewater”

9. “The Lego Movie”

10. “American Sniper”

If you go

“American Sniper,” rated R

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 133 minutes

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes and Kyle Gallner

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

If you go

“Wild,” rated R

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 115 minutes

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski and Gaby Hoffmann

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

The Bock’s Office Worst of 2014

5. “Magic in the Moonlight”

1920s stage magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) has a love for exposing frauds in his field, but even he doesn’t know what to make of a young clairvoyant (Emma Stone) who seems to be the real deal.

A dry script by writer-director Woody Allen doesn’t lend itself to good performances, and the plot is beyond redemption in the filmmaker’s worst work since 2003’s “Anything Else.”

4. “Winter’s Tale”

A desperate thief (Colin Farrell) on the run from an evil gangster (Russell Crowe) falls deeply in love with the ill young woman (Jessica Brown Findlay) whose home he attempts to rob. When she dies tragically, his life is somehow preserved for a century as he finds himself in present-day New York, thinking he has survived for a greater purpose.

An OK romance gets increasingly ridiculous with supernatural elements, resulting in a nonsensical, almost unwatchable conclusion.

Oh, and did we mention that Will Smith plays the Devil?

3. “RoboCop”

In a futuristic Detroit, Det. Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is critically wounded by criminals and is chosen for a new program that will merge what’s left of his body and mind with a robotic outfit that will allow him to clean up the streets in a whole new way.

This reboot of the 1980s sci-fi classic deserves a forced shutdown, toning down the violence that once was controversial yet powerful and trying to make its hero more relatable without actually giving him a personality. The one improvement is Samuel L. Jackson as a loudmouthed parody of every far right talk show host that ever existed.

2. “Dumb and Dumber To”

Lifelong friends Lloyd and Harry (Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels) are back together again after 20 years, this time putting their limited brainpower to use by tracking down Harry’s long-lost daughter (Rachel Melvin).

The Farrelly brothers return to the characters that made them famous and fail spectacularly with a sequel that gives “dumb” a bad name. Carrey and Daniels try incredibly hard to get back to what worked for them before, rarely getting close to deserving laughs.

A scene that reunites the pair with the Mutt Cuts van only for them to promptly destroy it pretty much sums up everything.

1. “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

In “Noah,” the title man (Russell Crowe) has visions of an imminent deluge from God to wipe out the sinners of the early world. In “Exodus,” Moses (Christian Bale) learns of his destiny to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt.

2014 was a year packed with faith-based films that met with praise and criticism, but Hollywood’s two biggest attempts to cash in on the Good Book are poorly made and hollow in their retelling of biblical epics framed as secular action flicks. Whether it was the depiction of the nephilim, the uneventful parting of the Red Sea or the blatant white-washed casting all around, directors Darren Aronofsky and Ridley Scott have some penance in store for them.

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