Column: Top 10 movies to hit theaters in 2014

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike appear in a scene from "Gone Girl." The film, based on the best-selling novel, is Tony Wittkowski’s top pick. (Merrick Morton | AP)

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike appear in a scene from “Gone Girl.” The film, based on the best-selling novel, is Tony Wittkowski’s top pick. (Merrick Morton | AP)

By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

What a year it’s been for fans of cinema.

We’ve seen Mark Wahlberg take over the mantel of the Transformers series — we miss you, Shia Labeouf — and we’ve also paid witness to how many headlines Seth Rogen and James Franco claim with their take on North Korea in The Interview.

Since everyone is a fan of lists these days, I decided to generate one of my own to offer what I thought were the best movies to hit theaters in 2014.

While it was difficult to narrow my list down to 10 full-length films, I did include a few parameters for the readers to keep in mind.

I limited my picks to movies I have seen and did not include ones I missed despite my best efforts. So, while movies like Birdman, Foxcatcher and Inherent Vice might deserve a spot on my list in the future, I was forced to exclude them as some of my original choices played in select theaters.

When determining my list, I considered how well my selections finished with their Rotten Tomatoes score. While it did not make a large impact, I did not include any movies that completely bombed. Only two of my choices fell under a 75 percent approval rating.

The third criterion I looked at included how well the movie did in the box office domestically, and not how well it performed on its opening weekend. Thankfully, all my choices cracked the top 100 among movie earners for 2014.

Without further ado, here are my choices:

 

 

10. 22 Jump Street

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 84 percent

• Box Office Results: $191,719,337

The movie was something many moviegoers wanted to be made after the success of 21 Jump Street. While the majority of characters returned, including a brief appearance from Dave Franco in prison, it was the bromance between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill that made the movie what it is. It proved to be one of the rare sequels that was better than the original, because it made fun of how much sequels tend to be the same as their predecessors.

 

 

9. The Judge

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 47 percent

• Box Office Results: $46,907,979

The Judge put Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall together in the same room for the majority of the film. What more could you want? Yes, the plot of the damaged father-son relationship is a bit cliché. But the film makes up for that by having Downey Jr. spew dialogue in Tony Stark-esqe fashion as a lawyer who is arrogant and successful.

 

 

8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 89 percent

• Box Office Results: $259,766,572

We all knew it would come to this. Marvel has been killing it the past few years, and sequels were a hot ticket in 2014. Having Chris Evans suit up once more in the stars and stripes was a no-brainer. Getting the Russo brothers to direct put it over the top. The Winter Soldier sent the Marvel Cinematic Universe through a loop, sending the plot for the rest of the series in different directions. It proved to be the second best Avengers movie created to date (more on that later).

 

 

7. X-Men: Days of Future Past

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 92 percent

• Box Office Results: $233,921,534

Like I said, superhero movies and sequels remained supreme in 2014 and holds true for the latest installment of the X-Men series. Bryan Singer was the one constant in good X-Men movies and his return guaranteed success. Time travel can be difficult in any plot, but Days of Future Past found a way to make it work. The movie combined the best elements of the series to produce an adequate outing with both humor and drama.

 

 

6. Chef

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 88 percent

• Box Office Results: $31,424,003

While it didn’t do too well in the box office, Chef was one of the big surprises for 2014. The film was written, produced, directed and starred in by Jon Favreau — yeah, the same guy who directed Iron Man (the best Avengers movie). I especially enjoyed this film’s use of Twitter and the dangers it comes with. The cast of Favreau, Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara and Dustin Hoffman, combined with a funny script made for a great comedy that left me hungry for more.

 

 

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 92 percent

• Box Office Results: $59,076,019

For those of you who do not know Wes Anderson, much is being missed. The independent director has become famous for his stylish film-making. The Grand Budapest Hotel uses decorative, visual environments that complements the acting of Ralph Fiennes as womanizing concierge Gustave H. The structure of the film is interesting, as it is a story within a story that is being told through a book.

 

 

4. This Is Where I Leave You

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 42 percent

• Box Office Results: $34,296,320

I strongly disagree with the majority of critics, who felt this film had its moments, but left an uninspired effect on the audience. The movie had some of the best banter between the likes of Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda. Maybe I’m just a sucker for films that include a witty display of what happens when you bring a dysfunctional family together and force them to live together for a week.

 

 

3. St. Vincent

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 76 percent

• Box Office Results: $42,911,965

Bill Murray is funny again and all is right with the world. I normally dislike child actors, but St. Vincent had a great one cast to go toe-to-toe with Murray. While it does create a lot of laughs and is heavily compared to Bad Santa, the film also produces a handful of sentimental moments. One of its weaknesses was the heavy amount of potential it had, which may have hampered its chances for the award season.

 

 

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 90 percent

• Box Office Results: $332,862,030

It made the most money at the domestic box office this year and found a way to join the love of superheroes and the following of Star Wars. Chris Pratt was stellar, and who doesn’t love a talking tree named Groot? The soundtrack was amazing and the way the music was used evoked every emotion the songs were intended for. James Gunn did a wonderful job with one of the lesser-known stories from Marvel, proving we’ll watch anything.

 

 

1. Gone Girl

• Rotten Tomatoes score: 88 percent

• Box Office Results: $165,929,744

My No. 1 choice belongs to David Fincher’s film adaptation of Gone Girl. The film had everything you expect from Fincher — it was dark, intelligent, stylish, and you never trusted any of the characters until the end. The film brought out the Ben Affleck we know and somewhat love, mainly because he was playing himself. Gone Girl was another way of Fincher telling the public that everyone goes a little crazy sometimes.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 1, 2015)

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