Hey guys, Jana here,
It’s been a big year for the entertainment world. Netflix’s initial push to bring movie-theater worthy films straight to streaming customers and bypassing the big screen altogether set off a chain of deals that will take those fresh releases and push them directly into homes allowing us to bypass a $15.00 soda, but denying us the $20.00 popcorn you can only get at the theater.Then came the deluge of series and movies being made for exclusive run with everyone from Netflix, Amazon to Crackle and everything in between. Top that off with the huge breach of privacy Sony experienced. New releases were flooded onto P2P sharing sites and private emails from the film company’s big wigs that show us how the infrastructure of Sony really works, not to mention what those involved really think of some of their superstars.
I’m going to break down the year into hits and misses, best and worst based on my own scientific process, palm readings, divining rods, tarot cards and Magic 8 Ball predictions. Pack a lunch because this is comprehensive.
Let’s start with the movies!
It was a decent year for movies, a little comic book heavy, but I’ve always been a comic book fan. It’s a little eye-rolling that every person in the world claims they’re huge comic book fans, when they’ve probably never bought a paper comic book a day in their life. You’re not comic book fans, you’re fans of movies based on comic books. Big difference. This list of flicks seems kind of light to me. As I went through the year by film, it was only then I realized just how few movies made my list.
Best Films of 2014
‘Gone Girl’ – Released October 3, 2014 With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. This is the kind of movie I want to watch with Ben Affleck. He played the part of Nick Dunne, flawlessly. It helps that the script is based on a fantastic novel that was absolutely spectacular, engaging and had a phenomenal plot twist. This is the kind of movie I would pay money, hand over fist, to see this kind of originality. Rosamund Pike had some intense depth to her character and I was blown away. This, easily, is my favorite movie of 2014.
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ – Released November 21, 2014 When Katniss destroys the games, she goes to District 13 after District 12 is destroyed. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol. Mockingjay was executed on such a giant scale, and it’s glorious. When we watched the first Hunger Games film, most of us were introduced to the soon-to-be superstar of Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a life imitating art moment where we see Katniss grow from a naive sister with balls of steel, while JLaw grows from her first starring role to take Hollywood by the balls. The star-heavy cast plays well together and it’s with sadness, we see one of the last performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman.
‘Divergent‘ – Released March 21, 2014 In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late. I confess, I haven’t read these books, yet and I should have. The story is a sci-fi take on the age-old feeling of trying to fit in. I watched Shailene Woodley in ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager‘ and her character did nothing but whine. When I saw that Woodley was entering the film-world I was less than supportive. ‘Divergent‘ changed my mind about her as an actress. I enjoyed this movie, especially Theo James’ involvement. James countered all the dreck that Jai Courtney brought to the project.
‘The Giver‘ – Released August 15, 2014 In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world. This is another book I haven’t read and should. When I read the synopsis, I was less than excited. I began watching and I could tell something big was going to happen, but it took a bit to get there for me. When the plot came into play, I was mesmerized. It really caught my attention and held it tight. Tight like a Journey song. It’s obvious the passion Jeff Bridges had for this project, he spent over 20 years pushing to get the film made. It’s a beautiful thing.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ – Released August 1, 2014 After stealing a mysterious orb in the far reaches of outer space, Peter Quill from Earth, is now the main target of a manhunt led by the villain known as Ronan the Accuser. To help fight Ronan and his team and save the galaxy from his power, Quill creates a team of space heroes known as the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ to save the world. Chris Pratt really stood out among the cast, he was cocky, self-sure and as sure of his sexual prowess as Barney Stinson was of his, he was kind of a Seth Rogen version of Han Solo. I’m a wordsmith, it’s what I do.
‘Jersey Boys‘ – Released June 20, 2014 Jersey Boys is a musical biography of the Four Seasons-the rise, the tough times and personal clashes, and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends whose music became symbolic of a generation. Far from a mere tribute concert (though it does include numbers from the popular Four Seasons songbook), Jersey Boys gets to the heart of the relationships at the center of the group-with a special focus on frontman Frankie Valli, the small kid with the big falsetto. In addition to following the quartet’s coming of age as performers, the core of the show is how an allegiance to a code of honor learned in the streets of their native New Jersey got them through a multitude of challenges: gambling debts, Mafia threats and family disasters. Jersey Boys is a glimpse at the people behind a sound that has managed to endure for over four decades in the hearts of the public. The actors in the film, are the same guys that made ‘Jersey Boys’ a success on Broadway, it’s always amazing when that happens for a film. A big bonus for watching ‘Jersey Boys’ is the songs from the Four Seasons will be embedded in your head for days. It’s a beautiful thing.
‘Lucy‘ – It was supposed to be a simple job. All Lucy had to do was deliver a mysterious briefcase to Mr. Jang. But immediately Lucy is caught up in a nightmarish deal where she is captured and turned into a drug mule for a new and powerful synthetic drug. When the bag she is carrying inside of her stomach leaks, Lucy’s body undergoes unimaginable changes that unlocks her mind’s full potential 100%. With her new-found powers, Lucy turns into a merciless warrior intent on getting back at her captors. She receives invaluable help from Professor Norman, the leading authority on the human mind, and French police captain Pierre Del Rio. Scarlett Johansson has been the poster girl for ass-kicking since she sauntered on the screen in ‘Iron Man 2‘. Scarjo seems just as made for the part of Natasha Romanoff as Robert Downey, Jr. is for Tony Stark. Seeing chicks kick ass is something I love. This is an easy watch and well worth the time.
‘The Lego Movie‘ – Released February 7, 2014 The LEGO Movie is a 3D animated film which follows lead character, Emmet a completely ordinary LEGO mini-figure who is identified as the most “extraordinary person” and the key to saving the Lego universe. Emmet and his friends go on an epic journey to stop the evil tyrant, Lord Business. This movie had the most amazing cast and characters. Not only is this story about Emmet, but it brings us up close and personal with Lego-versions of some of our favorite fictional characters, Batman, Green Lantern, Gandalf, Han Solo and C3po among others. It’s definitely a great ride!
‘The Babadook‘ – Released November 28, 2014 A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her. I loved ‘The Babadook‘, It didn’t have the gore-heavy effects that are all too common in a good creepy movie. It’s a trip straight into hell as far as how slow the film builds. Once you realize it’s mind-numbingly boring, the pace begins to quicken, it’s disconnected at times, but always moving forward. I promise, if you watch this you will hear a voice echo in your mind “Babadook” at the most inopportune times, like when you’re in a dark room trying to sleep. It’s got some serious staying power.
I anticipate adding to the list of best movies a few that haven’t released yet. ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies’, the musical to film adaptation of ‘Into The Woods‘, and even though it’s not due until January 16 of 2015, ‘American Sniper‘ was completed in 2014 and is being put on my list, anyway. These are movies that simply can not fail. Do I expect the last Hobbit movie to be as grand as it’s ‘Lord of the Rings‘ counterpart? Not really, I’m very excited for the action surrounding Smaug, and while I’m not thinking it will change what adventure films look like the way LOTR films did, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed in it. It should be a solid movie I know I’ll rewatch.
‘Into The Woods‘ is a musical I already know I love and the big screen version is full of such wonderful actors I really love, even if it’s less than stellar, no, wait, I take that back. I have no reason to think ‘Into the Woods’ could be remotely close to “less than stellar”. Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt are all part of the project and I know it will be a new favorite. Not to mention that it’s coming from Rob Marshall, the same mind that produced ‘Chicago‘, sadly that same mind brought us ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides‘. ‘American Sniper‘ tells the story of United States Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s look back over his career.
Bradley Cooper accepted the challenge of bringing Kyle back to life, after his sudden death. Cooper worked relentlessly to keep the memory of Kyle true and even Kyle’s friends that trained Cooper said they could feel Chris’ presence whenever Cooper was around. This bodes incredibly well for the film. With superhero films taking over the box office, sometimes we need reminded that real heroes wear dog tags, not capes. Plus, it’s directed by Clint Eastwood, this will be a difficult film to watch, but it will be powerful.
Worst Films of 2014
‘Peter Pan Live!‘ – Released December 4, 2014 Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, right? A boy that never grows up whisks Wendy and her brothers away to Neverland where they meet the nefarious Captain Hook. This is one of my favorite childhood stories, just about my favorite Disney cartoon and my absolute favorite Disney villain in Hook. I’ve seen every incarnation imaginable for Hook and was looking forward to Christopher Walken’s rendition. It took me 2 minutes once Walken was introduced to turn the channel and shake my head, sadly, at what could have been. I love Hook for his murderous rage and Walken just gave us Walken in an uninspired way. So disappointing.
‘Maleficient‘ – Released May 30, 2014 A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land. Angelina Jolie has never been my favorite actress, but I didn’t let that prejudice cloud my judgment. She has the look. She looked almost exactly how I expected a real-life version of Maleficient to appear. High, angular cheekbone, the horns and that killer cold-eyed smile. If I was judging on the character, alone, this would be an easy choice. I’m taking the storyline and execution of that into consideration, as well, and that’s where the wheels fall off this project. The fear a villain can strike in us is truly compelling and leads to characters sticking with us years after we were introduced. I didn’t want to see a humanized Maleficient. I wanted the wicked, evil, balls out vile character from Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty‘. This makes my two favorite villains from Disney cartoons that were destroyed in 2014.
‘The Expendables 3‘ – Released August 15, 2014 Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates. I am a huge fan of the first two Expendables movies. I get a heavy dose of nostalgia watching my favorite action stars from the 80’s and 90’s while feeling that my ‘Lethal Weapon‘ jokes are still relevant. Kudos to Stallone for giving Mel Gibson a major role after most of Hollywood has black-balled him and for bringing in ex-con and 80’s action star, Wesley Snipes. The film just didn’t give me the same awesome feeling the first two did. The second wasn’t even the best, but Chuck Norris was in it, so no negative attributes can apply. The third installment just missed the mark and I’m less than excited about the planned 4th effort at The Expendables or, and this is almost painful to say, ‘The Expendabelles‘. Things that are dead should stay dead. Seriously, lie down Stallone.
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ – Released August 8, 2014 When a kingpin threatens New York City, a group of mutated turtle warriors must emerge from the shadows to protect their home. I admit, I can get downright vicious when someone messes with series or movies from my childhood. I can handle change, but not when it comes to things I watched as a kid. Upon hearing Michael Bay was to be a part of this re-boot, I got angry. So did millions of fans world-wide. Ultimately, the whole thing was a decent story, but I kept comparing the two. If you’re going to bastardize one of my favorite franchises, you better knock that thing out of the ballpark.
‘The Maze Runner‘ – Released September 19, 2014 Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape. Runner’s presence on my “worst of” list will lead to a lot of criticism, I’m sure, I just could not get into this one. I was fully involved in the film, wasn’t playing a game or checking my email that may have distracted me from the movie, I just didn’t care for it. It felt incredibly dry compared to other films of the same genre. In a year that saw ‘Divergent‘ and Mockingjay hit the big screen, you have to bring your A-game to compete. This is a movie that I know I will never willingly watch again. It’s really rotten for the young stars of the film who will, undoubtedly, move onto bigger and better things. I just hope their next projects are more watchable.
‘Neighbors‘ – Released May 9, 2014 After they are forced to live next to a fraternity house, a couple with a newborn baby do whatever they can to take them down. Comedies have to be a hard nut to crack for filmmakers. There is a finite line between laughable and eye-roll, between a handful of inappropriate jokes and raunchy. I was unimpressed with Zac Efron’s character. I’m sure he played the role of “world-class jerk” well enough, I just didn’t enjoy it. For the few jokes I actually laughed at, there were dozens that drifted by in silence. Seeing Seth Rogen fight himself between wanting to be a responsible adult and the herb and alcohol filled days he comprised his pre-baby days of was a moment where the struggle was all too real. Efron, sing your butt off in musicals, go back to dramas we know you’re amazing in, like ‘The Paperboy‘. Let me love you again, you’re better than this schlock.
Best TV Series of 2014
‘Penny Dreadful‘ – Showtime’s supernatural series has hit the ground running and isn’t slowing down. Hitting the trends of black magic, monsters, demons – all things that were found in the sensational, and dreadful, stories that were printed on very cheap paper, making them Penny Dreadfuls. It’s a macabre combination of all the things that pop culture are saturated with. Dreadful is an inventive, explorative look at the duality of man. Eva Green, Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett make this one of the best series of the year.
‘Sons of Anarchy‘ – Sadly, this season was the last chapter for SOA. Fans joined together to discuss the bullets Kurt Sutter carefully placed in each episode. We cussed him when he killed off beloved characters and we gave a collective air-punch when we saw the end certain characters met with after seasons of their deserving that death. There are a few characters whose death I vividly recall being the high-point of my week. Sutter has teased the idea of a spin-off, but there isn’t anything in the works, just yet. If you’re needing your Sam Crow fix, check out the novel ‘Sons of Anarchy: Bratva‘ or the graphic novel series.
‘The Walking Dead‘ – After 4 seasons a lot of series begin showing signs of wear, if they even make it to a season 4 to begin with. TWD sped right past season 4 and has been racking up huge numbers for season 5, so far. With new characters being introduced and losing some well beloved characters, TWD is still water cooler discussion every week. If you need any further confirmation of that fact, look up comments from the mid-season finale on November 30, people are pissed. I’m right there with them, too. I actually cried during that ep and trust me, I don’t cry easily. This was heart-wrenching, painful TV. It’s still going strong and will, no doubt, lead us to intense emotional places once again.
‘Vikings‘ – The adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok: the greatest hero of his age. The series tells the saga of Ragnar’s band of Viking brothers and his family as he rises to become King of the Viking tribes. As well as being a fearless warrior, Ragnar embodies the Norse traditions of devotion to the gods: legend has it that he was a direct descendant of Odin, the god of war and warriors. Between Ragnar, his brother, Rollo, wife Lagertha and the whimsical, but highly intuitive Floki we get a glimpse of what the historic Viking tribes may have been like. It’s gritty and sometimes ugly, but there’s a very real quality to the show that keeps me coming back. You need to be able to handle more than just a little bloodshed to enjoy this show, but it’s beyond worth it. Even when Ragnar performs a Blood Eagle, it’s worth it.
‘Peaky Blinders‘ – A gangster family epic set in 1919 Birmingham, England and centered on a gang who sew razor blades in the peaks of their caps, and their fierce boss Tommy Shelby, who means to move up in the world. Cillian Murphy leads a stellar cast, as Tommy Shelby, in this action-packed drama surrounding your typical, everyday aspiring gang. It’s in your face, fierce and totally unflinching. I discovered it when Netflix began airing it and have been hooked since. Tommy is realistic and delivers smart, simple explanations, when he chooses, for his actions, “Everyone’s a whore, Grace. We just sell different parts of ourselves.” Tom Hardy has popped up in the cast with Sam Neill, Helen McRory and Paul Anderson.
‘Black Sails‘ – This series follows Captain Flint and his pirates twenty years before Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic ‘Treasure Island‘. Starz has given us this pointed look at life as a pirate, particularly focusing on the hunt of the Spanish treasure galleon Urca de Lima. Season 2 begins in January of 2015, but response to the first season has been so well received that a 3rd season has already been announced. I’m truly smitten with period dramas.
‘Face Off‘ – Face Off is a competition/elimination series exploring the world of special-effects make-up artists and the unlimited imagination which allows them to create amazing works of living art. Not only will the show incorporate effects make-up, it will include a wide range of skill sets including prosthetics, 3-D design, animatronics, sculpting, eye enhancers, puppeteering, casting and molding. Each episode involves reveals of the competitors’ finished work, and it all culminates in one winner and one grand prize that will launch a career. This show is one of the things Syfy did right. Sure, it’s a reality show, but this isn’t about clashing personalities or being naked, hungry or stupid. Sure, sometimes those qualities are a part of the show, but the main feature of the show is the art, the pure skill that is present with each artist’s transformed piece. I could watch these all day long.
‘True Detective‘ – Part 1 of the anthology treatment ‘True Detective‘ is being given, started it’s journey back in January of 2014. Two Louisiana State Police Detectives are brought in during the year 2012 to revisit a homicide they worked and supposedly solved in 1995. During the separate interrogations, each detective tells us his side of the investigation, as with anything this serious, old wounds get scratched open, along with their case. Forced to look at their work from a fresh vantage point brings up a lot of questions. The more they learn about the killer and each other, it’s safe to say there was foul play on both sides of the thin blue line. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey were perfectly cast and a practiced working relationship put the pair in sync with the audience. Season two will be coming out sometime in the following year.
‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon‘ – In the rotating door of hosts for the Tonight Show, Fallon has stayed put and thrived. His show feels much closer to ‘The Graham Norton‘ show and I couldn’t be any happier about that. The updated games, hilarious skits (especially camping with Justin Timberlake!) and the funny. Jimmy Fallon simply brings the funny. I can’t get enough of the lip-sync competitions and re-watch Joseph Gordon Leavitt’s performance quite often. He’s given one hell of a boon to late night stats before his move, but now, it looks and feels like Jimmy’s home. This is where I want him to stay. The clip is of Robert Plant’s appearance on The Tonight Show, I adore Plant and love Fallon so this makes me crazy – happy. Crazy-happy is just short of Pharrell’s Happy. Now you know.
Worst TV Series of 2014
It wasn’t surprising I had a huge number of shows I could plug into this category. Reality shows have produced a lot of crap and it’s everywhere. Instead of just saying it’s reality shows in general, I picked out some of the worst offenders. Luckily my Magic 8 Ball was very responsive to listing or ditching these shows.
‘True Blood‘ – Before someone jumps all over me accusing me of not loving Eric or Bill and how could that be? I’ll start by saying it’s not the cast. I love the cast. In fact, Alexander Skarsgard plays a prominent role in one of my picks for best movie of the year, ‘The Giver‘. It’s the story lines and how things ended. I’m as frustrated with the author of the books about the ending as I am with the directors and producers for their deviation away from the books. If I had seen the series first and not read it previously, I could have judged it differently. But I knew how good it could be and instead I’m being disappointed by what it was. The books ended in a crap way, the series ended in a crap way. It’s barely a step above ‘Twilight‘ for it’s uninspired story-telling. That’s my final opinion, it’s a turd of a show.
‘How I Met Your Mother‘ – After 9 seasons of watching HIMYM, I didn’t even care that we hadn’t gotten to the elusive Mother. I enjoyed the show for all it’s quirks, ridiculousness, hilarity and the blatant Barney-ness of it all. This was the set of ‘Friends‘ I moved onto once the first set went off the air. I could empathize with them and understand their crazy. I wished I had friends that would demand I go on some kind of random, fun adventure with them. My most crazy adventure, lately? Riding with a friend to the airport so we could ship a dog. I need the grounded Ted, the artistic support of Lily, the gun-toting, mall-loving Robin, the all-around good guy, Marshall and the serial womanizer Barney. I sound like I love the show, right? I do, but the final few episodes turned me to the dark side. This will be right up there with ‘Dawson’s Creek‘, ‘Home Improvement‘ and ‘MASH‘, finales I will never watch again. I love these shows and everything about them until the last few shows. Welcome to the club, HIMYM, find a place to stash that finale because we won’t be needing it where you’re going.
‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo‘ – TLC has taken their former moniker of “The Learning Channel” and created a stable of shows that are basically a freak show of American families. I remember watching ‘Jon and Kate Plus 8‘ before the meltdown and ‘Trading Spaces‘. They were human stories that you could maybe relate to. ‘A Baby Story‘ and ‘A Wedding Story‘ were full of sweet moments, then overnight it seemed we were inundated with series after series that pointedly spoke to the decline of American dreamers. We no longer, wanted to get married and have babies, we wanted to watch moms and teenage daughters that are pregnant at the same time, the dysfunctional ‘American Chopper‘, which I loved. Someone even thought ‘Buying Naked‘ was a good idea. TLC has picked up the most extreme fringe of any subject and wrapped it up with a bow for our weekly consumption. ‘Toddlers and Tiaras‘ gave us an initial introduction to the world of Honey Boo Boo and it exploded from there. Now with the child molestation allegations and a lot of questionable parenting, I can say I’m glad this series stopped short of the total mind-fuck it would have no doubt left the girls with, if it hasn’t already.
‘The Real Housewives‘ – While this is an extreme case of housewives, this isn’t from TLC, Bravo brings us these gems about bitchy socialites that continuously want nothing more than tons of cash, clothes, bling and the people in their lives to stay out of their way. The New Jersey arm of the reality series saw Joe Giudice and his wife, Teresa sentenced to prison time for several charges, among them tax evasion. To add more salt to their wounds, Joe is not a US Citizen and will possibly be facing deportation after he serves his sentence. ‘Seinfeld‘ prided itself on being a show about nothing, but I think these shows pull that off better. A lot of reality TV is just crap, and this is an example of that excrement.
‘Dating Naked‘ – I don’t even think I need to explain this choice.
Actors/Actresses That Owned 2014
Shailene Woodley – Standing out in the film world as the daughter of a cheated-on George Clooney in ‘The Descendants‘, Woodley’s star keeps burning brighter and brighter. She took on not one, but two young adult novel adaptations and owned them. First, as a headstrong Tris in ‘Divergent‘ and then in the John Green sensation, ‘The Fault In Our Stars‘ as Hazel. She’s signed on to the next films in the ‘Divergent‘ universe and an Oliver Stone project. No matter how you look at it, this chick was the “It” girl of the year.
Chris Pratt – While Pratt has been in the industry since the early 2000’s he was mainly recognized as one of the faces of ‘Everwood‘, he never really seemed to take off on his own. He was always part of an ensemble cast that killed it collectively, like in ‘Parks and Recreation‘. Solid funny. 2014 Saw Pratt climb to the top of the heap with his leading voice role in ‘The Lego Movie‘ and his leading man role in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘. Now we can look forward to his lead in next year’s ‘Jurassic World‘. If Woodley was the clear winner for best actress of 2014, Pratt takes the flip side of that coin for actor of the year. One thing is for sure, now, Pratt is here and he’s here to stay.
Benedict Cumberbatch – Everywhere we looked this year, we saw Bennie. He showed us as the voice of Smaug in ‘The Hobbit‘ films that he always was and still is a force to be reckoned with. He particularly took the breath away from millions of girls world-wide when he went old-school and posted his engagement in The Times. Very classy, sir, classy indeed.
Martin Freeman – As one half of the dynamic detective team of Sherlock and Watson, Freeman hasn’t left our sight for too long. His popularity has skyrocketed him into one of the most beloved heroes of the literary, and now film, worlds – Bilbo Baggins. Freeman is showing up everywhere and shows no signs of slowing his roll.
Eva Green – I remember her as Sibylla from the Orlando Bloom epic, ‘Kingdom of Heaven‘, but now that I’ve seen her in ‘Penny Dreadful‘, that’s all I can see. If you’ve read this far, I applaud your sheer will to make it through this, but you also know of my love for the supernatural series. She was in the failure that was ‘Dark Shadows‘ but redeemed herself with ‘300: Rise of an Empire‘. This chick is everywhere right now and I love it.
Ben Affleck – I’ll admit I was one of the throng that voiced their utter hatred of Affleck being cast for Batman. I’m still not sure of him playing the Bat, but I’ll reserve judgment for after I’ve seen it. He gets a nod for his absolutely brilliant turn as Nick Dunne. He pulls off grieving, tortured, confused, angry and horny effortlessly. He tapped into some raw emotion for this character and it’s one of those performances that is staying with me. I’ve loved Affleck since ‘Dazed and Confused‘ and I’m not stopping anytime soon. I hope his rendition of Batman is just as deep as Dunne was. One of the top performances of the year.
Rosamund Pike – She first came to my attention in 2012’s reboot of ‘Clash of the Titans‘ as Andromeda. Then she cropped up in ‘Jack Reacher‘ and ‘The World’s End‘ before she made her presence incredibly well-known as the opposite half of the Dunne couple in ‘Gone Girl’. I firmly believe that a film is only as good as it’s worst actor. No matter the stellar performances by a few key actors, if the ensemble doesn’t bring it, the show can tread water, but it will inevitably sink. This is a case where great acting begets great acting. I was incredibly blown away by Pike’s portrayal of Amy Dunne. There were depths and slippery currents to the character that were just astonishing to watch unfold. Affleck’s heartfelt performance no doubt influenced Pike and vice versa.
Meryl Streep – Floating on a current of good buzz from her Oscar nominated role in ‘August: Osage County‘ Streep was superb in ‘The Giver‘ as the Chief Elder. I mentioned earlier that the film was a pleasant surprise to me, but not Streep’s performance. She’s flawless and style personified. If she is involved, it’s golden and I’m going to lap it up like a fat kid with a birthday cake. I mean, she’s bloody Meryl Streep! Her next stop was bringing The Witch to creepy heights in the film adaptation of the stage musical, ‘Into The Woods‘. She moves on to ‘Ricki and the Flash‘ as an aging rocker, she’s making waves as one of the women on the front lines of the feminist movement in ‘Suffragette‘.
Broadway Highlights of 2014
This year did not bring us striking performances only from film and TV, The Great White Way has hosted many fantastic points throughout the year, I just wish I could have seen them!
Cabaret – 2014 Saw Broadway debuts by two incredibly talented actresses that anchored the leading role, at separate times. Michelle Williams and Emma Stone put their best Sally Bowles on and the crowds loved it. These two are a few of my favorite actresses overall, and I would give anything if they would travel with a touring production! Alas, this will not happen, but I can dream, right?
‘A Delicate Balance‘ – Glenn Close and John Lithgow play a married couple who struggle to maintain their status quo amidst their household turning upside down as they open their home to family in need. A daughter (Martha Plimpton) whose 4th marriage has hit the skids is among the guests.
‘Disgraced‘ – The play follows the story of a Muslim-American lawyer and his artist wife, who invite a co-worker and her husband over for dinner at their Upper East Side apartment. The meal quickly turns from polite table conversation into an explosive dialogue about beliefs, race, and identity. Josh Radnor, Gretchen Mol, Karen Pittman and Hari Dhillon feature in the production.
‘The Elephant Man‘ – Bradley Cooper puts himself in Joseph Merrick’s shoes for a story that is based on a real story of a man who was deformed so badly he became the star of a traveling freak show circuit. A doctor’s miracle gives Merrick a chance for a normal life, but can someone with his painful history ever have a normal life?
‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch‘ – A raucous musical comedy that tells the story of a fictional rock ‘n’ roll band, fronted by Hedwig, a transgender woman and “internationally ignored song stylist” from East Berlin. Neil Patrick Harris debuted Hedwig for the first time on Broadway, then Michael C. Hall took the reins of the irreverent musical.
‘It’s Only A Play‘ -A new show might have some trouble finding it’s place among the behemoth’s that anchor Broadway. If you ply the cast with enough star power to be seen from the moon, that can help. Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally and Stockard Channing are kicking off the premiere run. Set on the opening night of Peter Austin’s new play, he anxiously awaits to find out if the show is a hit. For the biggest night in his life, Austin’s surrounds himself with those important in his life, and a few others. Martin Short will be replacing Nathan Lane in the leading role in January.
‘The Last Ship‘ – Music and Lyrics by Sting, and as Jackie White in the production. Inspired by Sting’s own childhood, ‘The Last Ship‘ is set in an English seafaring town that operates around the local shipyard and follows Gideon Fletcher, a man who left home to see the world and returns fourteen years later to find that the future of the shipyard is in danger. The shipyard’s workers decide to take their fate into their own hands and build a towering representation of the shared dream that has defined their existence. Funny fact, the WWE wrestler, Sting, trademarked his name. The musician Sting pays a royalty to the wrestler each year to continue using the name. The going rate is $1 per year.
‘The River‘ – A remote fishing cabin, a man and a woman, and a moonless night. ‘The River’ asks: when we find each other, are we trying to recapture someone we once lost? Now think about Hugh Jackman in the leading role, tell me this doesn’t sound like a high point from 2014!
‘Chicago‘ – Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland is making her stage debut as the murderous Roxie Hart. Lawyer Billy Flynn puts together an amazing defense blaming the action on liquor and jazz. The unmatched Bob Fosse’s style is all over the production and it’s a glorious show.
The year on Broadway saw one spectacular record get broken. ‘Chicago‘ surpassed ‘Cats‘ as the 2nd longest running musical in Broadway history, ‘Phantom of the Opera‘ still retains top position. To celebrate the distinction, four of the original leads hit the boards once again.
Best Record Releases of 2014
The Black Keys
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers