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Created Jan 11, 2014 02:08AM PST • Updated May 16, 2014 12:20AM PST

The Great, Really Great & Perfect new movies I saw in `14: new movies I graded 4.0, 4.5 or 5 beams out of 5. Includes movies officially designated 2013 but not out wide till 2014.

Average

  • Really Great
  •  
  • 79 Points
Title Released Trust Weighted Summary Viewable
1st Lone Survivor
2013 Perfect 83 Points
_100

The greatest bromance movie of all time – charming, funny, deeply affecting – Lone Survivor is more importantly the Saving Private Ryan of our still young 21st Century. It viscerally depicts American heroes fighting my war against my enemy, the Good War, the necessary war per both Presidents Bush and Obama. It is quite simply a must-see movie.

Indeed, every American of voting age should see it. Every citizen of the world who’s of voting age should see it. The brutal parts are more tolerable than you may think, in no small part because of how respectfully the great Peter Berg depict…

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Added Jan 11, 2014 02:14AM PST • Updated Feb 28, 2014 12:01AM PST
2nd The Lego Movie
2014 Perfect 83 Points
_100

The Lego Movie pegs the meter, several of them actually: comedy, smarts, humanity, trendiness. Simply one of the most brilliant movies of recent years and a helluva lot of fun, it’s every bit the wonderful and transcendent movie that Toy Story was, albeit a bit more remote, notwithstanding a touch of real humanity. Perhaps because TLM is totally arch nearly the whole way through, while TS was equal parts tender-ironic.

It’s also the most buoyantly funny movie since Spielberg’s Adventures of Tintin

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Added Feb 23, 2014 11:37PM PST • Updated Feb 28, 2014 12:01AM PST
3rd The Grand Budape...
2014 Perfect 83 Points
_100

The Grand Budapest Hotel flaunts a garden of cinematic delights. Deliciously deadpan and deliriously fun for those of us who love the cinematic art form, Wes Anderson’s brilliant confection works high and low. Well, not too low, as even the physical comedy and silly surprises take a bit of smarts to appreciate.

A near continuous tickle and frequently LOL funny, The Grand Budapest had my Saturday night full-house in stitches. Nothing uproarious, mind you. Interestingly, many people laughed at different things. All together though, Anderson’s latest and perhaps greatest movie simpl…

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Added Mar 16, 2014 01:59AM PST • Updated Apr 26, 2014 01:48PM PST
4th Noah
2014 Great 83 Points
_100

Noah is a mashup of Old Testament and Global Warming theologies, one antediluvian, one anti-economic. Oh yeah, there’s also lots of Hollywood fantasy thrown in to make it a 21st Century basso profondo action epic. The bizarre result is often ridiculous, but ultimately worthwhile both theologically and entertainingly.

Ridiculousness aside, the movie is theologically interesting and challenging, full of grace notes and transcendent moments. These include a brilliant evocation of Creation and the kind of elemental family drama found throughout Genesis, with echoes of Abraham being as…

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Added Mar 30, 2014 12:50AM PST • Updated Apr 26, 2014 01:48PM PST
5th Captain America:...
2014 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Captain America: The Winter Solider proves that Marvel is not only continuing to deliver high quality movies, but that they are capable of delivering superlative movies, which is what this second dedicated outing of the First Avenger is. Stunningly assured, super-powered yet supremely human, touching on contemporary neuroses and yet reinforcing traditional American values, it is as good as major movies get.

Captain America 2 joins Iron Man 1 in the Marvel Perfect Universe, even if it’s nowhere near as funny as Downey’s ironic…

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Added Apr 07, 2014 12:42AM PST • Updated Apr 26, 2014 01:48PM PST
6th Under the Skin
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

Scarlett Johansson has never been more alluring or revealing than in Under the Skin, her second inhuman hottie role of the year. Her gave us her voice. Under the Skin gives us her body, extraordinary face and all. Serious ScoJo fans must see it, the adventurous ones anyway. It’s a super sexy, creepy & primo alien movie.

This is some seriously weird SciFi. Or is it fantasy? Hard to say. It’s kind of got a vampire vibe, what with a sexually alluring creature preying on humans while appearing to be human. That’s one hell of a recipe for a great movie, a benchmark that *Under t…

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Added Apr 21, 2014 05:43PM PST • Updated Apr 26, 2014 01:48PM PST
7th Only Lovers Left...
2013 Perfect 66 Points
_100

Brilliant vampire movie, thy name is Only Lovers Left Alive. Literate, laconic and full of lusciously languorous lassitude, it presents as ageless and au courant. Jim Jarmusch’s undead triumph introduces four vampires, though the V word is never used: Adam & Eve, Kit and Ava. Trust me, they are cooler than thou.

Tilda Swinton’s Eve is forevermore the gold standard in Vampire Brides, the ideal vampire wife.

Tom Hiddleston’s Adam is even more a rock-god than his Loki in Thor, only Adam is reluctant.

I’ve never b…

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Added Apr 26, 2014 01:11AM PST • Updated Apr 26, 2014 01:48PM PST
8th Locke
2013 Really Great 66 Points
_100

Locke is an extremely understated title for a totally gripping movie about an extremely understated guy. Ivan Locke spends the whole movie driving away from home and from his life. iDrive Away or Distracted Driving or iPhone Home would give a better sense of the tightly-wound existential journey it portrays.

Tom Hardy is the only person to appear in Locke, though everyone important in Locke’s successful adult life speaks to him – and us – on his BMW’s speakerphone during Steven Knight’s 85 minute film. The Bimmer is almost as much the star of Locke as is the estimable Hard…

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Added May 03, 2014 12:32AM PST • Updated May 16, 2014 12:19AM PST
9th The Railway Man
2013 Great 83 Points
_100

Adult date night movies get no more surefire than The Railway Man. It starts with Nicole Kidman falling in love with Colin Firth on a train. He is – after all – the Railway Man. The pathos comes later, when we encounter the hell that Eric Lomax underwent as a POW, slave laborer for the infamous Japanese warcrime known as the Burma Railroad, literally Bridge on the River Kwai territory. Movie is sad & sweet – surefire.

The life of Eric Lomax is movie worthy and Jeremy I…

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Added May 14, 2014 08:25PM PST • Updated May 16, 2014 12:19AM PST
10th Chef
2014 Great 83 Points
_100

Jon Favreau clocks a home run with Chef, a flat-out fantastic little movie. Funny and feel-good, yet not fatuous, Favreau downshifts from Iron Man into an almost equally impressive result. The guy wrote the story and stars as a likable dad, dude and boss. That must make him the Most Admired Filmmaker in Hollywood this year.

Chef should be on every Date Night itinerary from here to the Fourth of July. Literally, if you go on more than say two dates this month – June ‘14 – and don’t see Chef, something is wrong with your rela…

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Added Jun 02, 2014 11:56PM PST • Updated Jun 02, 2014 11:56PM PST
11th X-Men: Days of F...
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Count it, X-Men deliver again. Does Marvel ever fail? Notwithstanding several major cooks in the kitchen of this particular production and the ugly problems surrounding one of them, X-Men: Days of Future Past is yet another first rate blockbuster originating from the X-Men solar system within the Marvel Universe.

The title refers to dual time settings: now and back in the early 70s, complete with several scenes involving President Richard Nixon. The story hangs together because, well, because Marvel worked out all these stories a long time ago in comic books that held to a particula…

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Added Jun 05, 2014 10:27AM PST • Updated Jun 05, 2014 10:27AM PST
12th 22 Jump Street
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

“Sequels Suck” doesn’t seem operative given how terrific 22 Jump Street is. This one literally jumps off from where its great origin movie ended. Ignore it? Hell, no. #22JumpSt cheekily imagines itself the next episode of the Jump Street series. Credit that to directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, the geniuses who made the comically sublime Lego Movie after directing 21 Jump Street. This ain’t Lego, but it ain’t …

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Added Jun 14, 2014 01:39AM PST • Updated Jun 14, 2014 01:39AM PST
13th Edge of Tomorrow
2014 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Terrifically well-conceived SciFi Fantasy is rare. Add an ageless superstar in a role ideal for his particular set of skills, opposite a beautiful screen-queen making her buffed-up action debut, in a 3D production up to the challenge of visualizing time travel and interplanetary war, and you’re in especially rare air territory.1

Perfect? Close enough. With its antecedents, it should be.

Throw Super Troopers, Groundhog Day, Iron Man

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Added Jun 16, 2014 12:23AM PST • Updated Jun 16, 2014 12:23AM PST
14th Coherence
2013 Really Great 66 Points
_100

“God doesn’t play dice” said Einstein, but James Ward Byrkit does, entertainingly so in Coherence, one of the better low-budget SciFi movies in cinematic history. Heck, are any more more low budget than this?

I didn’t realize how geeky the whole thing was till saying the word Coherence at the box office, but then wasn’t surprised to join a mostly male audience who were joking about the movie’s geek appeal. IOW, we were fated to be together. In a way, that presaged the movie, which takes place at a dinner party in Willow Glen, which was where I’d come from before heading to "Camera…

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Added Jul 06, 2014 11:52PM PST • Updated Jul 06, 2014 11:52PM PST
15th Dawn of the Plan...
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a superior successor to 2011’s Great Ape Movie, the terrific Planet of the Apes reboot. An upgraded human cast rectifies the origin movie’s one significant flaw, while the ape acting – previously Bogart quality – has become downright Brando-esque. #DawnOfApes misses perfection only by being the middle cog in what is shaping up as a cinematically significant trilogy.

This is the summer of upgraded casts in blockbuster sequels. Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz upgraded Transformers

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Added Jul 11, 2014 01:11AM PST • Updated Jul 11, 2014 01:11AM PST
16th Hercules
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Brett Ratner’s Hercules is the first great Hercules movie, or at least the first great one of the past 50 years, which is long enough to be worthy of mythical status. Dwayne Johnson cuts a fine figure as the big man, backed by a platoon of British thespians and presented amid stunning vistas and ancient Grecian grandeur.

Most importantly, Steve Moore’s Radical comic Hercules: the Thracian Wars proves an inspired source, its story playing out after the Son of Zeus’s legendary labors. This allows Ratner’s movie to toy with the le…

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Added Jul 26, 2014 11:51PM PST • Updated Jul 26, 2014 11:51PM PST
17th Get on Up
2014 Really Great 66 Points
_100

Get on Up joins the pantheon of great rock biopics, memorializing James Brown as a seminal rockstar whose power, pomp and circumstances paved the way for the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sly & the Family Stone, hip-hop and every other form of funkable & funkadelic music. Get on Up gets on down.

Chadwick Boseman inhabits James Brown – the Godfather of Soul & the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. First he was Jackie Robinson in 42, now James Brown. That’s half the black Mount Rushmore. As a white guy, I wouldn’t presume to name all 4,…

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Added Aug 02, 2014 12:54AM PST • Updated Aug 02, 2014 12:54AM PST
18th Guardians of the...
2014 Really Great 88 Points
_100

Guardians of the Galaxy is an overstuffed taco of a superhero movie, chockfull of countless characters, considerable whimsy and confounding story lines. The crazy-ass result approaches blockbuster perfection.

Star Trek for a New Generation? Absolutely, complete with a basso-profundo destroyer of worlds, warring alliances and freakshow aliens, plus a brand new moviestar – sort of a Harrison Ford redux, only funnier.

Fully five stars get featured. They originate characters in a new franchise that may rival The Avengers before…

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Added Aug 04, 2014 01:50AM PST • Updated Aug 04, 2014 01:50AM PST
19th Boyhood
2014 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Boyhood is the first Great American Movie of 2014. It profiles the emergence of a slacker, delivered as the insightful backstory of an aimless guy who ends up haunting the streets of Austin. Through that Texan lens, the great Richard Linklater has created a transcendent portrait of 21st century America – Obama’s America.

First, the facts: Boyhood is a fictional drama featuring the same core actors all the way through – 12 years. Patricia Arquette & Ethan Hawke clearly aged over the dozen years they took to shoot it, but Ellar Coltrane literally grew up while playing their son, in 1st…

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Added Aug 11, 2014 01:23AM PST • Updated Aug 11, 2014 01:23AM PST
20th When the Game St...
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

When the Game Stands Tall pegs several meters: Football Movies – Coach Movies – Bay Area Movies. Arguably the greatest Football Movie ever, it is surely the first great Bay Area Football Movie. It profiles an all-time great football coach: Coach Bob Ladouceur of Concord’s legendary De La Salle Spartans.

Is it predictable? Ya think. The story is well known to anyone who followed Bay Area sports the past two decades. A small Catholic High School in Contra Costa County ran up the longest winning streak in sports history and sent scads of players through D1 and on to the NFL. Get this: Th…

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Added Aug 23, 2014 11:13AM PST • Updated Aug 23, 2014 11:13AM PST
21st The Skeleton Twins
2014 Great 66 Points
_100

Modern Family-style gender and role confusion provides ample grist for 90 minutes of scintillating cinematic fare in The Skeleton Twins. More sisters than brother & sister, said twins are played by Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig, confirming they’re the most talented SNL alumni on the scene today.

They inhabit emotionally sub-adult, self-absorbed, sexually-driven misanthropes. He’s a complete loser, prone to sabotaging himself & others. She holds it together by a thread, convinced she should be married when it doesn’t suit her. He defines himself by his sexuality, with the rest of his life…

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Added Sep 26, 2014 09:29PM PST • Updated Sep 26, 2014 09:29PM PST
22nd Gone Girl
2014 Great 66 Points
_100

Gone Girl stirs the pot, no doubt about that. Premiering amidst the NFL-stoked domestic violence uproar, this sordid thriller about a wife’s murder is akin to throwing gas on a fire. But never mind all that societal stuff, is it a good movie? Yes, a great one, albeit far from perfect.

The estimable David Fincher directing star novelist Gillian Flynn’s screenplay guarantees greatness, with a strong cast carrying it home. Ben Affleck and especially Rosamund Pike are tremendously appealing and then horribly repellent as two deeply flawed people in a bizarre marriage. OK, only one is horri…

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Added Oct 16, 2014 11:48PM PST • Updated Oct 16, 2014 11:48PM PST
23rd Fury
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

The pantheon of essential WWII movies has a new entrant. David Ayer’s Fury stars Brad Pitt as an American Staff Sergeant who must lead a platoon of Sherman tanks against the Germans’ superior Panzers. Think Chevies vs. Benzes, with Brad and his battle-hardened crew in an outgunned Sherman named Fury.

Set in the last month of the war, just before VE Day, fighting Germans in Germany, it was beyond ugly.

Ayer & Pitt’s Fury is an old-school war movie with new fangled realism. Even the music is old-fashioned, understated most of the time, making it a war movie with lots of quiet passag…

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Added Oct 19, 2014 10:29PM PST • Updated Oct 19, 2014 10:29PM PST
24th Nightcrawler
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Nightcrawler is L.A.′s Taxi Driver, with Jake Gyllenhaal’s morally vacuous street prowler supplanting Robert DeNiro’s demented urban loner. Dan Gilroy’s movie delivers a freakish amount of cinematic energy, exposing the nightmares of Los Angeles in particular, and our Eyewitness News society in general.

It’s actually a crowd-pleaser. That may say as much about us as it does the movie, but my crowd ate it up.

Gyllenhaal plays a denizen of the night named Louis Bloom, instantly one of his Known For performances.

Dan Gilroy, who wrote and directed Nightcrawler, has been married …

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Added Nov 04, 2014 10:51PM PST • Updated Nov 04, 2014 10:51PM PST
25th Birdman (or The ...
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Birdman touches many cinematic erogenous zones, making it a guilty treat – a smart one – for cinephiles. Alejandro Iñárritu’s showbiz takedown is also the best theatrically-set movie since, well, maybe forever. OK, not forever, but probably since All About Eve in 1950. Like Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s perfect picture, Iñárritu’s triumph reflects on Hollywood through a Broadway mirror, darkly.

Michael Keaton heads a raggedly great cast that includes Edward Norton as the best actor on Broadway and Emma Stone as a Hollywood daughter …

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Added Nov 09, 2014 05:09PM PST • Updated Nov 09, 2014 05:09PM PST
26th Interstellar
2014 Great 83 Points
_100

Interstellar is stellar: long yet engaging, showy yet substantial. Most of all it’s conceptually creative and consummately mounted, the former because of its theoretical physics underpinnings and deep humanity, the latter because of Christopher Nolan’s visual derring-do and Mathew McConaughey’s consummate space cowboy performance. Equal in ambition to the Perfect Inception, it ranks just below it in the Nolan canon.

McConaughey builds on Sam Shepherd’s Chuck Yeager from The Right Stuff

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Added Nov 12, 2014 11:28PM PST • Updated Nov 12, 2014 11:28PM PST
27th The Hunger Games...
2014 Great 83 Points
_100

This time it’s war, talky-war but war indeed. The Games themselves are in the past when Part 1 of The Hunger Games finale opens. War aside, it’s as if this richly imagined and action-packed series pauses to catch its breath in its penultimate installment.

Mockingjay – Part 1 features the scales dropping from Katniss Everdeen’s eyes, and therefore from ours. Revealing the full evil of the dictatorship and the unveiling of the previously cloaked rebels who seek to bring it down provides almost enough material to sustain two hours of running time, with some well-mounted battle scenes fi…

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Added Dec 01, 2014 09:39AM PST • Updated Dec 01, 2014 09:39AM PST
28th Foxcatcher
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Channing Tatum’s tortured performance as Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz anchors Foxcatcher. Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell orbit above him as Dave Schultz, his older brother and fellow Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler, and John du Pont, the crazy rich guy who murdered one of them.

Foxcatcher has particular resonance for me, since it’s based on a true-crime story with Silicon Valley roots. The legendary Schultz brothers are from Palo Alto, so the news that an heir to the Du Pont fortune killed one had quite an impact in 1996. Utterly senseless then, the movie now p…

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Added Dec 13, 2014 12:00AM PST • Updated Dec 13, 2014 12:00AM PST
29th Exodus: Gods and...
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Why did Exodus – the ultimate big-screen Passover story – premiere right before the start of Hanukkah? Obtuse timing aside, Ridley Scott has wrought a magnificent Biblical epic in Gods and Kings, the best of the year, if not the Millennium, and as thoughtful an action movie as you’ll ever experience. Holy Moses!

This bravura recounting of the most bravura conflict between monotheism and polytheism is sociologically important. Why? We live in an effectively polytheistic age. The Bible competes for primary cultural influence with The Hobbit

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Added Dec 17, 2014 11:26PM PST • Updated Dec 17, 2014 11:26PM PST
30th The Hobbit: The ...
2014 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Middle-earth makes its final cinematic appearance in the richly satisfying conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy, putting paid to Peter Jackson’s once controversial decision to turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s slim novel into a three movie series. Nothing sparse about this finale, that’s for sure.

In fact, it’s almost as overwhelming as Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug, mostly due to being somewhat of a forced march, what with the assembling of the five armies and all. OTOH, it’s a rich benediction for the Hobbit series,…

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Added Dec 26, 2014 06:03PM PST • Updated Dec 26, 2014 06:03PM PST
31st American Sniper
2014 Perfect 66 Points
_100

Saving Private Ryan has a new neighbor atop the pantheon of Great American War movies. Chris Kyle, Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper illuminates the reality of America’s 21st century war as never before, just as Steven Spielberg’s classic did about the Greatest Generation’s war.

Like Spielberg’s WWII movie, Eastwood’s instant classic makes vivid what we’d previously seen only in filtered images. However, American Sniper hits closer to home because it is set recently, about an ongoing war, and is a biopic…

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Added Jan 23, 2015 05:34PM PST • Updated Jan 23, 2015 05:34PM PST

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Jan 11, 2014 2:21AM
Wick

Marc Wahlberg starred in the first great movie of 2012 and does so again in the first great movie of 2014. Contraband then, Lone Survivor now.