John’s top 10 movies of 2014

These were my 10 favorite movies of 2014:

1. “Dumb and Dumber To” – Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels effortlessly slip back into Lloyd and Harry’s born-of-stupidity mistreatment of animals and their fellow man, but this isn’t merely a reunion tour. The sequel has lots of great new hits, like Harry getting into Arizona State and being mistaken for an eccentric genius and Lloyd being attracted to Harry’s daughter. (It’s not like he’s going to go out with someone his own age — “Gross!”) (Full review.)

2. “Veronica Mars” – Kristen Bell smoothly returns to her breakthrough role in a movie that shows the flexibility of Rob Thomas’ franchise. It’s timeless — an old-fashioned potboiler doesn’t have an expiration date – but also timely — “Veronica” always reflects modern times. In one notable scene, Keith steps in with a video camera to break up a cop-on-citizen shakedown. (Full review.)

3. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” – Normally, “style over substance” is a bad thing. But I love getting lost in this comic-book-come-to-life franchise, which unabashedly soaks itself in broken-down people (notably Mickey Rourke’s Marv), impossible violence and noir staples like voiceovers and rain. (Full review.)

4. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” – 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” introduced the intelligent ape Caesar (Andy Serkis plus modern special-effects brilliance); now the sequel brings us into his society, replete with dozens of CG apes with distinct personalities. In addition to lots of action, “Dawn” explores the tug-and-pull of war and civilization in clever ways. (Full review.)

5. “The Fault in Our Stars” – Everything seems like life and death for teenagers. This calculated (but brilliantly so) book adaptation literally is a tale of mortality, as lovebirds Hazel and Gus (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) have cancer. With a resume that includes “(500) Days of Summer” and “The Spectacular Now,” screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are the masters of capturing emotions on film. (Full review.)

6. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” – As he did with the talking-teddy-bear flick “Ted,” Seth MacFarlane takes a ridiculous yet kinda brilliant premise – in this case, the idea that an Old West resident (MacFarlane himself) is fully aware of how horrible the Old West is – and runs with it. Plus, “Million Ways” features the most expertly staged poop joke of 2014. (Full review.)

7. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” – Just as “First Class” sent the franchise back to the Sixties, “Future Past” wonderfully captures the Seventies in everything from the wardrobe to Hank McCoy recording the TV news on a reel-to-reel tape recorder of his own creation. Favorites like Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine are on board (more Rogue would’ve been nice, though) for this entry that smartly bridges the prequel and original eras. (Full review.)

8. “22 Jump Street” – The running gag of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s sequel being “exactly” the same as the original has a remarkable amount of mileage, right through the closing-credits sequence of possible future sequels. Despite this, it peppers in a few surprises such as the identity of the girl Schmidt is dating and the breakthrough performance of Jillian Bell, who shines in the fight/kiss scene with Hill. (Full review.)

9. “Divergent” – Veronica Roth’s young-adult book comes to bleak life. Then it gets livened up by the delightful Shailene Woodley and a thematically rich dystopian future/modern parable where people are brutally punished for not fitting into a government-approved skill set. (Full review.)

10. “Wish I Was Here” “Garden State” was director Zach Braff’s A-game, and this is his B-game, which is still good enough to sneak into my top 10. While signs of a formula are starting to show, this spiritual sequel to “Garden State” features touchingly damaged family relationships and a soundtrack that got more play in my vehicle this year than anything except Jenny Lewis’ new disc. (Full review.)

What were your favorite movies of 2014?