The Most Surprising(ly Good) Movies – 2014

1) Edge Of Tomorrow – Yes, they made a mistake on the title. But only because we weren’t ready to accept what this movie really is. They did the right thing. And it is our fault. Most people still have not seen Edge Of Tomorrow (nor Live Die Repeat) because they do not understand what it is. Well, because they think they understand what it is, but they do not. The only way to do that, is to see it. But knowing that it could and should have been called Live Die Repeat hopefully goes a long way to aiding that situation.


Point is, there was no way to know and as such no way not to be shocked at the outrageous tone of this seemingly serious science fiction nonsense. But if we had thought about it for a second, there was no way a movie like this could have been as serious as it was portending to be. So again, it’s our own fault.


2) Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Every once in awhile you will hear someone lament the idea that the world has allowed 5 Spider-Man movies to happen in the span of 12 years and it is ludicrous, but not in the bad way. It is Spider-Man after all. That 4 of those 5 Spider-Man movies are not good is the real source of bafflement. But that a character like Jack Ryan needs to be revamped every decade or so is legitimate cause for concern.


I don’t even know that there has been a bad one. People wanted to hate Ben Affleck so badly for some ungodly reason around the time of Sum Of All Fears, you may remember it that way, but it was fine. And Chris Pine is great, especially at revamping well known characters. And Kenneth Branagh is directing? That’s weird, but yeah, I guess he did do Thor and I’m still not used to that. And Kenneth Branagh is the bad guy? Seriously, there’s hardly a reason we should have so thoroughly dismissed this whole enterprise. But we did. Every one of us. And I am still trying to figure out why.


Plus, Keira Knightley’s American accent turns her into an entirely different person. Amazing.



3) Ride Along – There are worse people than Kevin Hart to have as surprise movie stars. His narrate-what’s-happening-at-high-volume joke is terribly one note that seems like it’s been playing a long time already, but remember when we thought Dane Cook should be the star of things? So you see, it can be worse. But that’s where my expectations were for this one.


And I hate to encourage more of it in any way, but it’s not Kevin Hart that makes Ride Along one of the funniest movies of the year. (He does have the best acting moment of his career though, I think, when he is in the car, getting a text, which sounds like I’m making a terrible joke of my own but I really do mean it.) It is Ice Cube, put simply, that makes this a thing to be watched. Over and over, I’d assume. He had one of the greatest comedic moments maybe of all time in 22 Jump Street in 2014, but before that he turned the James Woods role in The Hard Way into a comedy masterpiece. And maybe that much should not be so surprising. He’s been doing that for nearly 20 years now. But all the Are We Done Theres since have sort of eroded that notion.


4) Non-Stop – Taken was only six years ago. Before then, there was very little reason to think that Liam Neeson could star in a moderately budgeted action movie with no intention of transcending that or any genre. But in those six years Liam Neeson has done little else, even while seemingly never not in a movie currently in theaters. And none of that protracted lineage has come close to living up to its forefather, including direct descendent Taken sequels.


And so Non-Stop should be no different. The trapped on an airplane conceit itself unoriginal and those incessant on screen texts in the trailer weren’t helping anybody. But Non-Stop takes its title seriously. It is on its way early and where it must retract from the pummeling action barrage of Taken, it deftly replaces with a thriller tension that most movies touted as thrillers cannot manage.


Liam Neeson himself has never been the problem with the long line of plodding work he’s been doing since his wife’s death. Impressive not only given the circumstances, but with the volume and questionable quality of said work. But finally here he is surrounded by a quality cast of passengers and airline staff that creep out of the background and into the story seamlessly.


5) No Good Deed – When two of the best actors we have go and do some kind of throwaway thriller, it should probably make us consider it a little less lightly.


Yes, you’ve seen this movie before and do you really need another woman in peril in her own house thing at this point? There are plenty of reasons to have dismissed No Good Deed. And you’d be right about most of it. It isn’t some kind of shocking deconstruction of the genre. That sounds boring. This is a perfect encapsulation of the genre, with enough flourishes to distinguish itself and those aforementioned actors to sell you on every second of. Right up until the final twist that isn’t even that big of a deal but makes the whole thing make perfect sense.



Bad Words – Jason Bateman tries to scuff up his image a little and it goes extremely well. Plot wise it’s sort of science fiction in a way, you have to believe in what they’re telling you, but it plays by its own rules and that’s all that matters.


Maleficent – It’s really odd to see this on worst of the year lists. I know they are the ones that just safely attack major releases that nobody cared about, but there’s a lot going on in this movie and Angelina Jolie does this one thing that’s more heartbreaking than all the Nicolas Sparks movies put together plus another actually heartbreaking thing.


The Purge: Anarchy – This is the movie you were trying to watch while that first embarrassment of a Purge movie was playing.


Get On Up – I don’t even know. It’s seriously nuts, this movie. Just like the man himself, I guess, although I don’t think that was the point.


Divergent – While every other non-Hunger Games young adult fantasy series getting churned out plays like a parody of the genre, Divergent plays like an actual movie you want to see another one of.


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