Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Top 5 Favorite Films of 2014


#1  –  Jaws

How do I compile a Top 5 list of favorite movies I saw in theaters last year, that were actually released in 2014, when only two of the dozen or so I went to see were worthy of induction in the list? Well, I either include three sub-par offerings from 2014, or three classics I also saw that were originally released decades earlier. In the end, I went with the second option, which is why Jaws takes top prize as my favorite film of 2014. I was lucky enough to be visiting my Dad in Arizona last summer when a local theater chain was showing Jaws as part of their weekly ‘revival night’ series, so off I went. And what a cool night it was, seeing a perfect print of my favorite movie on the big screen again, surrounded by a packed house of equally-enthusiastic Jaws fans. Without a doubt, my best movie-going experience of the year.

#2  –  The Grand Budapest Hotel

My favorite new movie of 2014, that I hoped would reel in a Best Picture win, but not having seen any of the other nominees, I obviously had no idea if The Grand Budapest Hotel was a shoo-in for the award, or merely a runner-up. For me anyway, it was an absolute comedic and visual treat, with Ralph Fiennes playing the concierge of a respected hotel accused of murdering a wealthy older woman, who has bequeathed to him a valuable painting wanted by her heirs. I saw the film in March, but I knew right then it would be my favorite of the year; I’m usually hit or miss with the films of writer-director Wes Anderson, but this one was definitely a hit. Great direction, smart screenwriting, and a tidal wave of Anderson’s stock actors.

#3  –  Edge of Tomorrow

A Tom Cruise science fiction film cracks my Top 5 for the second consecutive year (Oblivion made it for 2013), with this one again set in the future, where alien creatures invade Earth and prove to be superior opponents while on the verge of taking over the world; Cruise is an army PR officer who becomes caught in a time loop and teams up with super-soldier Emily Blunt to stop them. Action-packed, thrilling, and at times amusing, with Cruise surprisingly (and perhaps refreshingly) playing more a wimp than the tough-guy hero you’d expect him to be. For whatever reason, Cruise always seems to get a bad rap, but I thought he and Blunt did a fantastic job in this movie.

#4  –  Ghostbusters

My last visit to a theater in 2014 was in early September, when I went to a 30th anniversary screening of Ghostbusters at a multiplex not far from my apartment. In a nutshell, for those uninitiated: a quartet of paranormal investigators – Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson – have their hands full when New York City is overrun by ghosts, evil spirits, and a towering, puffy-white demon. I hadn’t seen the movie in quite some time, and hadn’t seen it in theaters since it was first released in 1984, so it was fun to experience it again with a small but appreciative crowd, and like my earlier screening of Jaws, with a perfect digital print. And yes, it was still hilarious after all these years.

#5  –  Roadblock

Part of a film noir festival my brother and I went to at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles, this crime thriller from 1951 featured noir legend Charles McGraw as an insurance investigator who’s seduced by a mobster’s girlfriend, who convinces him to take part in a million dollar railway heist; as you’d expect, things don’t quite go as planned. An above-average noir enhanced by the presence of perennial hardcase McGraw, who turned it around and played a full-on chump who couldn’t get enough of money-hungry dish Joan Dixon. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of the genre, and of McGraw.

Three Other Sorta-Favorites That Just Missed the Top 5

Jodorowsky’s Dune



8 comments on “Top 5 Favorite Films of 2014

  1. grandrapidsgirl

    I beg to disagree (or to agree to disagree). A Top 5 Movies of 2014 list should include movies released in the year 2014. That way we learn what 5 movies you liked that year!! AND The Grand Budapest Hotel would be number ONE – which it should be! But you saw some interesting flicks last year!

    • Todd Benefiel

      Yes, I agree to agree to disagree…this should be a list of 2014-only movies. But if I had to choose the movies I actually liked from 2014, my list would be titled Top 2 Favorite Movies of 2014! There were seriously no other movies I saw that I would give a Rotten Tomatoes score of 50% or higher to; I guess you could look at the trio of ‘sorta-favorites’ I list in the post as being my other three Top 5 entries, but I wouldn’t really consider those true favorites, and I would have no desire to ever see them again, much less add them to my collection (like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Edge of Tomorrow have been added).

      And look out for my 2015 list! We’re past the midway point of the year, and I’ve only seen FOUR theatrical releases so far, and one of those was, of course, Jaws. And right now, I can think of only one more movie I’d be interested in seeing, and that’s the new Bond film Spectre. So I guess with those, I have my Top 5 list for next year covered!

  2. Stu

    I also beg to disagree. Jaws? Ghostbusters? Who do I talk to around here about a refund?
    Anyway, good to read your thoughts on these anyway, and that’s a good reminder that I need to see Eegah AND Jodorowsky’s Dune. I have it sitting around at home gathering dust.

    • Todd Benefiel

      Why good sir, you can to talk to ME about a refund; you won’t get one, of course, but you can sure talk to me about it. And which one of those two films do you have at home gathering dust…if it’s Eegah, then you’ve just scored some major points with this site. Again, not any points that will get you a refund, but they may get you a discount at McDonald’s.

  3. grandrapidsgirl

    Spectre – Yes!!! Looking forward to your 2015 Top 5 post!!! 🙂

    • Todd Benefiel

      I can pretty much guarantee that Spectre will be on that list…whether it’s the ONLY film from 2015 on that list remains to be seen!

  4. Kelly Betron

    I watched Jaws recently (June 2015) and discovered my husband finds this film to be absolutely ridiculous. While this is not grounds for divorce, his numbers did go down in the polls. I have a fond memory of my brother, Cinema Monolith’s own Todd Benefiel, taking me to see this movie with our neighborhood friend, Mike Lyons, in Bellevue, WA when I was 10-years-old. I was completely freaked-out by the scene where the human head falls through the hole in the bottom of the sunken boat. Did Mom know you scarred me for life? Thanks, Big Brother, for always introducing me to the best that cinema has to offer! XO – LMD

    • Todd Benefiel

      Thanks for the visit and comments, sistah! When you saw Jaws in June, did you go to a theater, or did you watch it at home? And did hubby find it ridiculous because a) it scared him so much he hid his embarrassing fear by ridiculing it, b) he’s more of a Frozen kind of guy, or c) he’s recollecting his viewing of Jaws: The Revenge instead? And I do remember that visit we made to the Crossroads Quad Cinema back in 1979…I wonder if Mike suffered ongoing psychological ill-effects as well.

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