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Tuesday, December 16, 2014
As we enter into the Christmas and holiday season when people are looking for good gift ideas, as well as movies to rent or see in the theater, I've once again put together my own personal top movies list for films I watched in 2014. Hopefully some of you can benefit from this list.  This year, rather than doing different award categories, like Drama, Comedy, etc., I've decided rather to highlight some of the films most (or least) worthy of your viewing, scoring them on a five star scale. I will particularly try to highlight the ones that have had less commercial "buzz".

As always, some of these have various "mature content". If you want to know the content of any of these films, go to IMDB.com, movieguide.org or pluggedin.com.

So here we go...
The Hunt
Five-Star Films (worth the price of admission)

Lone Survivor (genre: war/action)
  • This heart-wrenching true story never averts its eyes from the harrowing survival of (you guessed it) one man while the rest of his military comrades perish. The title seems to be a major spoiler, but the movie is able to overcome the anti-climatic temptation and really was a great movie. One of the best of the year.
Lego Movie (animated/family)
  • "Everything is awesome!" about this movie. Such a fun movie for the whole family!
The Hunt (foreign/drama)
  • This Danish film blew me away with its powerful depiction of the terrible consequences that follow behind false accusations of sexual abuse and how hard it is to gain one's reputation back. A simply superb and very important film at a time where baseless charges are running rampant in Western society with little concern for the lives of good people.
Philomena (drama)
  • This sweet little tale tells the true story of a woman (played by the incomparable Judi Dench) searching for the son who was taken from her many years ago. 
X-Men: Days of Future Past (action/superhero)
  • The follow-up to the superb X-Men: First Class doesn't disappoint. Superb.
Kapringen ("A Hijacking") (foreign/drama)
  • "Captain Phillips" got all the publicity (and not undeservedly, more on that later), but this little 2012 Danish film was actually the better one on the subject of hijacking on the high seas. Intense, realistic drama makes this a great current Netflix option.
Captain Phillips (drama)
  • Another film inspired by a true story... as mentioned above, it deserved much of the acclaim it received. Tom Hanks is pitch perfect as the captain of a cargo ship hijacked by Somalis off the coast of Africa.
Edge of Tomorrow (action)
  • The ending is weak, but otherwise this was one of my favorite action movies of the year. And surprisingly funny as well. Tom Cruise, for all his personal issues, still brings his A-game to the silver screen.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (animated/family)
  • How does one live up to the perfection that was the first HTTYD? Impossible, right? Well, HTTYD 2 nearly pulled it off. Fun for the whole family.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (action/drama)
  • "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was a surprisingly good movie three years ago, so I went into Dawn of the Apes with cautious optimism. And boy, was I not disappointed. Dawn ups the ante with a powerful, touching post-apocalyptic tale of loyalty, family, and mercy.
The Equalizer (action)
  • Denzel Washington. Enough said. 
Fury (war/action)
  • "Ideals are peaceful. History is violent." Thus the main character sums up what is to follow. War is pointless and ugly. But war serves a purpose. Men are heroes. Men are villains. Many times both. This powerful war movie takes on the paradoxes of war with an abrasively honest touch. One of the best war movies in the last 20 years.
Interstellar (drama/sci-fi)
  • Not much needs to be said about this spell-binding, thought-provoking film that hasn't already been said. If you're going to see something in the theater, make it this one. It's not the best Christopher Nolan movie ever, but it's still a Nolan movie.
Blue Ruin (drama)
  • Okay, so I'm sure almost no one has heard of this film. In fact, it was made based on a Kickstarter campaign!  But man, it's so well done. A great story of revenge, it reminds us that vengeance almost always involves collateral damage, as well as taking on a life of its own. After all, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. This movie is currently on Netflix. Highly recommended.
Guardians of the Galaxy (superhero/action)
  • Okay, so you've probably seen 617 commercials for this superhero movie. But if you somehow were able to resist those ads and not see it... well, I think Gob says it best: 

Four-Star Flicks (rent it)


Nebraska (drama/comedy)
  • Such a fun little film, well-deserving of its numerous award nominations. 
American Hustle (crime/drama)
  • A slick movie that reminded me of the old Newman-Redford classic "The Sting."
Mr. Peabody and Sherman (animated/family)
  • This smart kids flick is a blast for both adults and children alike, mixing in many great puns and other jokes that go over the kids' heads. 
Locke (drama)
  • This film, starring Tom Hardy (and only Tom Hardy) takes place entirely in a car as Ivan Locke fatefully drives toward (and deals with) the unexpected consequence of a past sinful indiscretion. Hardy is superb, and the movie thoughtfully makes the viewer consider several different themes, including how sins are passed from father to son and the collateral damage that results from bad choices.
Saving Mr. Banks (drama/family)
  • While the ending is not historically accurate, this otherwise touching film about the genesis of the movie version of Mary Poppins is a fun watch.
The Book of Life (animated/family)
  • This fun kids movie has some dark-ish material involving ghosts and the Day of the Dead, but overall a fun film with some good opportunities to discuss with your kids a more Biblical understanding of death and the afterlife.
John Wick (action)
  • Okay, so this is pure action for entertainment's sake alone. But it is really good, fun action and puts Keanu Reeves in a role where he can thrive. 
The Suspect (foreign/spy thriller)
  • This South Korean film is quite good and very touching in spots as it follows the story of a former North Korean special ops agent now turned defector, on the lam from both Korean governments, searching for the truth behind the murder for which he has been framed.
St. Vincent (comedy/drama)
  • Bill Murray is finally back in comedy (not counting Wes Anderson films). And he hasn't lost his touch as he plays an aging, seemingly self-centered war vet. But as we quickly discover, there is much more beneath the surface. 
Snowpiercer (action/thriller)
  • This 2013 film by a South Korean director is a surprisingly well-done film I found on Netflix a few weeks ago. Using mostly Western actors (like Chris Evans, Ed Harris, and John Hurt) and filmed mostly in English, it's a unique film which is worth watching despite its rather transparent attack on capitalism and several pretty obvious plot holes. 
The Giver (drama/dystopian thriller)
  • This movie is good, but I get the feeling it should have done more with the source material, a well-known post-apocalyptic book from the 80's of the same name.  More of a back story would have helped. But it does ask some good questions about society and is one of the more anti-abortion films I've seen, albeit in a more subtle fashion.
Earth to Echo (family/coming of age)
  • I read that the director intended this film as this generation's "Goonies" and while I haven't seen that film, this one certainly stands on its own.
Chef (comedy)
  • This is a fun little movie about food and fatherhood. 
Three-Star Fails (if only North Korea had found these offensive)

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
  • As a movie, it was fairly entertaining. As a faithful representation of the book, terrible.
Anchorman 2
  • As hilarious as the first one was, this was bound to fall short of expectations. But still, it should have been better than this.
Ender's Game
  • Boring, lifeless, confusing
The Master
  • Not what I expected, and not worth the time, despite having Philip Seymour Hoffman
Hunger Games: Mockingjay #1
  • Mostly a waste of a movie just to set up the finale.

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables


Darius Teichroew's favorite books »