2014’s Biggest Surprises On Screen


Cole Clay & Preston Barta // Film Critic

In a year that has produced dozens of good films there have been more surprises than one would have expected. We go to the movies to be surprised and tricked, but today’s culture is so saturated with movie news, spoilers, reviews, and blogs that it’s hard to slip anything past the all-knowing movie nerd. But doesn’t it kind of spoil the excitement if your year in front of the silver screen is void of any real shocks?

Now, keep in mind, a surprise isn’t always a good thing – just ask Mark Wahlberg’s credibility following the release of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION. Well, honestly, he got the last laugh with over a billion dollars earned world-wide. But here at Fresh Fiction we want to highlight a few moments that either moved us to tears of excitement, or in Mr. Walhberg’s case, a fit of rage.

the_purge_anarchy_official_wallpaperTHE PURGE: ANARCHY

For all intents and purposes this should be an underwhelming theater-going experience. The original film posed an interesting concept with poor execution, but this sequel ups-the-ante and shows “Purging” on a larger scale. Not to mention we get a full-on bad ass version of a brooding Frank Grillo. If you haven’t had the chance to catch-up with this thrilling flick it’s now available on video and On Demand.

BeginAGAIN_STILL_2970512bKiera Knightley’s singing chops

Yes, she is absolutely stunning, and a hell of an actress, but Kiera Knightley doesn’t provide audiences with characters who are relatable. She’s typically distant on-screen, but with BEGIN AGAIN, she really connected emotionally to the audience.

Yeah, the film is flawed, but her performance has flashes of rawness that warrants watching this film again and again – especially with a loved one. I dare you not to melt as she painfully sings a ballad into her iPhone microphone.

Edge-Of-Tomorrow-Tom-Cruise-ShootsLIVE. DIE. REPEAT. / EDGE OF TOMORROW

Whatever the movie is called, on paper, it looked like an uninspired hack job of a movie with Tom Cruise leading the show. Cruise has been a severe disappointment as of late, maybe because his larger than life persona hinders his performances, but who knows, really. But Cruise casts an astounding performance as an everyman forced to save the world.

Fantastic stylized action, director Doug Limon (THE BOURNE IDENTITY), and a truly original premise make this time travel feature quite the flick. No bones about it, this is not only one of the best surprises of the year, but one of the most satisfying films.

bayfinger_size3How bad TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION actually was

You may be asking, “Wasn’t there three terrible TRANSFORMERS films released over the past decade? Shouldn’t we have learned our lesson by now?” Well, the sad fact of the matter is no, we haven’t.

It has become a staple within the film community to see these abominations every time they are released. Nobody, not even Michael Bay, could have prepared us for the terribly offensive and incredibly bloated action spectacle.

Clocking in at a whopping two hours and 45 minutes, this was hands down the most painful experience of 2014. Yeah, it’s an easy film to take shots at, but when you put millions of citizens of the world through an escapade like that, sympathies tend to wear thin. Even though this is a black mark for Mr. Wahlberg, I think we can still forgive him one of these days. Maybe his annual January movie might actually stick this year.

chris-pratt-reinvented-as-superstar-hunkChris Pratt

Chris “freaking” Pratt. What a guy. What a presence he has quickly become: the most qualified action/comedic/lovable actor of 2014.

First off, we saw him charm plastic-pants off in THE LEGO MOVIE as the leading voice-actor. You can always count on him to bring his signature puppy-dog like charm to his roles, which seemingly has grabbed the attention of nearly every demographic. And then on top of that, there’s… [sigh] GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, an epic space adventure that was something incredibly special for all parties involved.

I can guarantee Pratt will make waves in 2015 with JURASSIC WORLD, and let’s not forget about everybody’s favorite simpleton – Andy Dwyer will be doing a victory lap come January during the 7th and final season of PARKS & RECREATION.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Ansel Elgort in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
  • How no one saw THE GUEST
  • Zac Efron and Seth Rogen’s Bromance in NEIGHBORS
  • How much the trailer for I ORIGINS spoils the whole movie. Seriously, don’t watch it! Watch the movie
  • And HERCULES, you know, the one with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Well, it was actually kinda good
About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.