2014 has been a particularly good year for movies. It seems everyone found a group of movies they could hold onto in a very personal way. I like that. It created a very diverse set of top tens around the Internet. However, because opinions were so diverse, it makes a lot of us think, “Why did so many people like that?” or “Why does no one talk about this movie?”
Well, Rope of Silicon writer Jordan Benesh and I decided to choose five films each of us thought got far more praise than they deserved and five films we thought did not get enough love. Thus, we bring you the top ten overrated and underrated movies of 2014. The first five and five combination is mine, Mike Shutt‘s, and Jordan’s start on page three. Enjoy!
The lists are not numerically ranked. Just alphabetical. When our top tens come around, then you will get some rankings.
This was the opening night film at the South by Southwest Film Festival this year. The crowd was loud and enthusiastic. I chalked that up to it being opening night and Austin being used in the film. SXSW audiences are pretty raucous, so it is difficult to tell how it translates to the outside world. I mean, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone played like gangbusters… Yeah… I figured the response would be the same for Jon Favreau‘s Chef. To my surprise (and disappointment), most people went along with Favreau’s safe, predictable, and not very funny story of a chef trying to get his groove back. The film was so thinly veiled as an apology from Favreau about Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens and how he needed to make daring art again, but there was nothing daring about this film. The father-son story here is one we have seen a million times. The dad works too much and needs to learn to communicate with his kid. I get it!
I’m glad Favreau is going back to small stuff, though. Oh wait… – Mike Shutt
I almost want to blame bad timing for this one. The film was released in September (not a great month) in the middle of Toronto International Film Festival coverage. It is easy for a film in that time frame to slip through the cracks, and this one did not deserve that. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby was the rather ambitious directorial debut from Ned Benson. Tell the same relationship from both people’s perspectives, in two separate movies (Him and Her). The Weinsteins ultimately released a combined version (Them), and the result is a really effective relationship drama. It certainly does not hurt that Jessica Chastain is one-half of this pair, giving a really emotionally complex performance and might be her best to date. James McAvoy is just as good as the other half, although the editing of the two movies together hinder his story a bit. I am still extremely curious to see the separate versions, but even combined, there is a lot of power there. – Mike Shutt
More often than not, the leading men in these young adult books are just bland and boring, but in The Fault in Our Stars, he is ratcheted up to insufferable. Ansel Elgort‘s stupidly named Augustus Waters is a character I immediately want to punch the second he stepped on screen, and the urge to punch him only grew. From his affectation of putting a cigarette in his mouth but not lighting it to consistently calling the even more stupidly named Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), “Hazel Grace”, despite no one else in her life ever doing that, he was just a parasite. Couple that with this schmaltzy, saccharine teenage love story, and I had a horrible time at the theater. For a film that posits it is not your normal cancer story, it certainly turns into something sentimental and vomit-inducing. It’s a shame. Shailene Woodley is a far better actor than this material deserves. – Mike Shutt
There have been quite a few documentaries this year about artists, such as Jodorowsky’s Dune and 20,000 Days on Earth. My favorite of the bunch is one no one is talking about: Harmontown. After being fired as show runner from “Community” after its third (hilarious) season, Dan Harmon started up a podcast and decided to take it on the road with director Neil Berkeley along to document it. What follows is portrait of a man who is both self loathing and an egomaniac. A self admitted alcoholic madman/creative genius. He obsesses over pleasing people, and he hates himself when he doesn’t reach the creative height he knows he should. It does not sugarcoat anything about Harmon, but even with all of the muck, it still shows how he has changed and affected so many people who watch “Community”, “Rick and Morty”, and all of the other things Harmon is responsible for. This is one I really want more people to check out, and then continue to listen to the “Harmontown” podcast (because it’s great). – Mike Shutt