Category Archives: Favorite Films of 2014

Best Movies of 2014

It has been quite a while since I posted anything on here. The last few months have been rather hectic. From school to work, I couldn’t find time to write reviews or continually post on this site. That doesn’t mean I didn’t see any movies since then. In fact I’ve seen most of the movies you could have seen, except the noticeably bad films released in the last few months.

A lot of movies that I really liked didn’t make my list and even with such a great summer with some impressive blockbuster, it was hard to keep some off my list.  The top three films where difficult because the could be interchangeable at any time.

There were some very welcome movies and also very disappointing movies that I was looking forward to. Making this list was rather difficult but I feel that it is a rather well constructed list.

10. Boyhood

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By the time I reached number 10, I realized that I didn’t include one of the best reviewed movies of the year. Everyone seems to be putting this at the top of their lists and I can’t deny that it is one of the best constructed movies of the year and a masterpiece, in my opinion. The story is timeless, the editing seamless, and the directing is top notch. The 12 years used to make this movie sets it apart from other movies of this caliber. Why is it at the bottom? When it comes to my list I put movies on it that I would rewatch in a heartbeat. After thinking about it, I haven’t really had the urge to watch Boyhood again. Now matter how impressive the movie may be, I never thought about watching it again.

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Early on in the year, I believed that no movie could top this movie. To my surprise this year has been a fantastic year for film. This movie combines everything I love about Wes Anderson. The aesthetic of the film is amazing, while Monsieur Gustave H. is by far the most fascinating character in Anderson’s filmography. The changing aspect ratios was another amazing addition to the movie. This isn’t my favorite of his film but it is certainly one of his greatest achievements.

8. Gone Girl

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David Fincher is one of my favorite directors working today. He always brings something new to an aged formula. That is one of the reasons that make Gone Girl so unique. Instead of having the major twists saved for the end, the movie decides to reveal it at the end of the first act. It is an intriguing factor that I give both Gillian Flynn and David Fincher for pulling it off so well. What makes this movie even more fascinating is the commentary on both marriage and the media. Everything about this movie is nearly perfect. Rosamund Pick proves her acting chops and even Tyler Perry was able to surprise me, for the first time in his career. Even if I like other of Fincher’s films more, I do think this is a great addition to his impressive filmography.

7. Locke

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No other movie this has done more with less. So much goes on during the course of the runtime, that it is surprising that it was only 80 minutes long. Tom Hardy has impressed me lately. He is a powerhouse of an actor and he really shines as Ivan Locke. Throughout the movie more and more is revealed and it makes you question both his choices and reasons behind them. For a movie that takes place solely in one location, I couldn’t believe how much and how well they were able to pull it off.

6. Under the Skin

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I always thought that Scarlett Johansson was all looks and not really a good actor. I was proven wrong when I saw her in Under the Skin. The movies unique approach is impressive and the minimalistic style makes for a haunting and exhilarating experience. It asks questions that movies typically don’t ask. It asks what it is meant to be human but it doesn’t give you all the answers. The visuals are impressive and the score creates a chilling yet unique.

5. Filth

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I don’t know why I loved this movie so much, it was just so damn fun. James McAvoy is like you’ve never seen him before. He plays the vile and disgusting character so well. The movie isn’t so much about plot but more about how insane his characters become over time. Often times the movie is hilarious but also very sad and depressing. You never truly sympathize with him, you mostly fell bad for him. The ending is so damn perfect for the movie and completely ends the film in a satisfying manner.

4. Interstellar 

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Christopher Nolan is one of the best blockbuster directors working today. He is able to make the movies that he wants and is able to create some impressive films. His visual eye is incredible. He may have some problems with female characters but this is the first time that I feel he has created some worthwhile female characters. This movie isn’t about space travel as much as it is about love, loss, and fatherhood. There are so many perfect scenes of action but it is the little scenes that Nolan was able to impress me. This is by far his most emotional film to date. You feel the stakes at hand and really sympathize with each character, except for one. Interstellar impressed me both visually and emotionally.

3. Whiplash

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I wasn’t expecting much from this movie. I never really liked Miles Teller and a movie about a jazz drummer didn’t make me want to see it. Once I saw the trailer, that changed. The final product is so intense and awe inspiring that I loved it the minute I walked out. J.K. Simmons gives one of the best performances of the year, he is volatile and intense but somehow relatable. Even Miles Teller impressed me. The final ten minutes had me at the edge of my seat and is incredibly satisfying after all that happens in the movie.

2. Nightcrawler

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This was one movie that surprised the hell out of me. The movie created a character that is both psychotic and wise. He is a man who know what he wants and takes it, no matter what. Jake Gyllenhaal gives the performance of his life. The story is always surprising and you don’t know where it is going to go in the end. The commentary behind this movie is strong and very out there but it works so well. The directing is perfect and the cinematography is breathtaking. More than anything this is a character study and it showcases a character that is completely original and is also a work of genius.

1. Birman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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The most surprising and delightful movie of the year goes to Birdman. Alejandro González Iñárritu created such a fascinating experience. He one of the best dramatic directors working today. He is able to get the best performances out of some of the most unexpected actors. Every actor in this movie are going the extra mile. Michael Keaton is revolutionary. He essentially playing a warped version of himself and he convinces everyone that he still does matter. What sets this movie apart from any other film this year is the fact that it is manipulated to look like one take. It is a technical revolution and is impressive in it’s cinematography. A lot had to go into this movie to achieve this feat and boy does it achieve it. There is also a lot of commentary involving the state of hollywood today, critics, and the will to matter. I loved this movie and think it is the best made movie this year.

Honorable Mentions

Edge of TomorrowAn original and fun blockbuster. Not your typical blockbuster but it breaks the model and makes something unique.

EnemyAn interesting and intelligent thriller that leaves you asking question long after it’s over.

Guardians of the GalaxyA very different Marvel movie and really shows that they can make an interesting movie out of unknown characters.

The RoverFueled by amazing performances and a simplistic story. This movie creates a landscape fully developed and tension that is equally fascinating and grim.

Blue RuinA movie that came out of nowhere and managed to create a fascinating and personal portrayal of revenge.

 

 

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The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Review, An Emotionally Intense Love Story

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The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Directed by: Ned Benson

Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, William Hurt, Viola Davis, and Bill Hader

Claimed to be the “One of the Most Romantic Love Story Ever”, based on the quote from the poster. The movie is the farthest thing from romantic, that’s like saying Blue Valentine is “romantic”. What makes it so good is that it skips the idea of romantic movie, the two characters meet and develop a relationship only to be tested down the road and eventually resolving their conflict, and goest straight to the destruction of their relationship and the ramification of their marriage. The marketing for this movie was terrible, showing us a movie that was completely different from the product but it  subverts your expectations and delivers one of the most compelling character study of two damaged souls trying to rekindle a dead relationship.

Beginning at one of the only happy point in their relationship, as shown in the movies timeline. We open up on Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) and Connor Ludlow (James McAvoy) enjoying their meal at a local restaurant. Connor asks Eleanor what she would do if he didn’t have the money to pay for the bill. The two decide to dine and dash. After being chased out of the restaurant, Eleanor and Connor run towards Central Park and enjoy the rest of the night in the park.

 We cut to Eleanor riding her bike to the Brooklyn Bridge where she attempts to take her life. We learn that their marriage has fallen apart due to the death of their child which has hurt Eleanor and Connor in different ways. Eleanor believes that her life is no long worth living and Connor has resorted to withdrawing himself from their relationship. After the attempt on her life, Eleanor moves back in with her family and then goes back to finish school. Connor on the other hand has let his bar go into shambles and is on the brick of closing. Both of their lives have taken a turn for the worse and they are lost without each other.

Originally conceived as two separate movies focusing on each others experience. After the premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival the movie was eventually edited into one version called Them. Watching the movie you can tell that each other had a completely different style for their stories. Eleanor’s story was a bit more vibrant with brighter colors and Connor’s story was a little more muted and featured a more grey color scheme. I like this because it shows a lot about their emotions. Eleanor was learning to move on from her wrecked marriage and the cinematography represented her changing view of life. The muted style of Connor’s story showed his emotions towards their situation and how he can’t move on from the turmoil that has befallen them.

In the end each other are still drawn to one another and still feel that the can rekindle their relationship but eventually the move even farther apart. The story telling of this movie is simply amazing. It takes the time to view each others emotion and how they both decide to handle everything. We switch between their perspective and shows what they are going through. Throughout the movie you can tell that it was originally two movie but as one it succeeds at showing pure emotion.

Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy both create characters that are fully realized and are able to make you care for these characters and their struggles. Jessica Chastain shows her range as an actress and proves that she is a powerhouse performer and deserves the recognition from her peers. James McAvoy also shows that he has the capability to be an amazing actor. This is by far his best performance of his career. He brings you in and lets you live the character that he has brought to screen. This movie is much more an actors film that a story driven film but with these two performances it completely works.

 I loved the way that this movie was done and I am complete invested in the characters as well as the story. I highly recommend everyone seeing this movie but beware it is a hard experience.

Grade: A

Enemy Review A Mesmerizing Psychological Thriller

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Enemy

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Jake GyllenhaalMélanie LaurentSarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini

Enemy asks the question “What would you do if you meet a person who looked exactly like you?” While it asks the question it doesn’t exactly answer it. It lets you think for yourself and answer the question yourself. I’ll admit that it is a little too vague sometimes but I found myself trying to answer all the mysterious elements that this film contains. Another movie came out this year that dealt with a similar concept, The Double, but never really asked the questions one would think a film like this would. I find the movie to be utterly fascinating but a little alienating towards it’s audience.

The film opens up with a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) sitting in a dimly lit club with men all around him. The man is watching an erotic dance, of sorts. Naked woman dance on stage which ends with one dancer crushing a spider with her heel. We cut to a pregnant woman laying alone in bed.

We are then introduced to Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) teaching a group of students about dictatorships and how they have come to be. He then goes back to his apartment, makes dinner, grades papers, and then has sex with his girlfriend before going to bed and repeating this routine day in and day out.

One day at lunch, Adam is talking to one of his coworkers and he recommends Adam check out a movie called ‘Where There’s a Will There’s a Way’. That night Adam can’t sleep, so out of curiosity he pops the movie into his computer and begins watching it. After finishing it he notices that one of the actors looks exactly like him. From this point out he becomes obsessed with finding out his identity and why they look alike. This leads Adam down a path that he will not be able to come back from.

The true power of this film is that it doesn’t reveal to much. It gives you the perfect amount of information and lets you decide what it means. A common motif of this movie is the use of spiders. There are plenty of scenes within Adam’s dreams and every time there is some sort of reference to spiders, whether it is a giant arachnid walking across the city scape or a woman with the head of a spider walking upside down. There have been many interpretations of this film so far. An interpretation that I read earlier states the movie is about something more sinister than anything I could have come up with. Some believe that the movie is about a dictatorship that is secretly run alien arachnids. Now that seems a little out there.

I can understand the idea that the movie is about a dictatorship and that no one really realizes that they are living in a fascist regime. It is completely plausible given the lectures that Adam gives during the movie. What I feel the movie was about was an identity crisis with this man Adam. One of the things that spider signify in dreams is a want to distance yourself from alluring and tempting situations. Throughout the movie Adam is having a relationship with Mary (Mélanie Laurent). In my opinion Adam and Anthony are the same exact person and, as a coping mechanism, Adam created an entire different personality so that he doesn’t feel guilty about cheating on his wife. This movie is completely complex and it knows that. You can dig deep and look into the film that you can’t for most movies and that what I like about the film. It takes a concept that is rather simply and easy but makes it much more than that.

All around it is a solid movie with subtly intense performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. The entire movie rests on his shoulders and he hits it out of the park. He plays both characters differently and makes them their own but also gives the movie its life. Sadly the other two main actors don’t do much but then again they aren’t given much to do. With what Sarah Gadon is given she does a great job as the pregnant wife of Anthony but in the end she isn’t that well developed.

Mind you the story isn’t that great. It is just about a man in search for answer and that’s all it is meant to be. There isn’t a big story arch or distinct acts but that is the power of the film. It lets the story evolve with the character instead of the other way around. Meanwhile the style of the film is one of the strengths. It makes the city of Toronto feel like this alien place.

The movie does a lot right but it may alienate the audience with it’s mystery and lack of answers. It is a difficult watch but absolutely worth the ride if it is the kind of movies you enjoy.

Grade: A-

Snowpiercer Review, A Science Fiction tale of Revolution

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Snowpiercer

Directed by: Bong Joon-ho

Starring: Chris EvansSong Kang-hoGo Ah-sungJamie BellAlison PillJohn HurtTilda SwintonOctavia Spencer, and Ed Harris

Tales of oppression have been told many times and the poor rising up against the rich is a common theme. Last year Elysium and the year before The Dark Knight Rises both told interesting variations of this tale but neither did it in a way that Snowpiercer did it. Snowpiercer is a visually stunning and philosophically intriguing, in the end it is hard not to find something for everyone in it. Each single act has a different purpose and thrives when doing so. Blockbusters now a days fail to live up to anything interesting while at the same time delivering the action and excitement that fuels Snowpiercer’s every scene.

Based on the French comic book Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer tells the story of an experiment gone wrong causing the world to freeze over and the only survivors are housed in a train that runs across the world. The train never stops and keeps everyone safe from the freezing cold outside. The year is 2031 and the state of the society on the train is in shambles. After many failed revolutions, the men and women of the tail end of the train decide that revolution is the way to go. Lead by Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), the tail end members begin making plans to overthrow the rest of the train.

Everett has devised a plan to get to the front of the train and take control of the all-powerful engine. With the help of fellow tail end members, Edgar (Jaime Bell), Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho), Tanya (Octavia Spencer), and others, storm the preceding cars and overthrow the evil ruler Wilford (Ed Harris) and Mason (Tilda Swinton). Their plan is to rid the train of any prejudice and make the remaining crew members live together in harmony.

Snowpiercer is a movie attempting to be two different movie and succeeds, for the most part. It is trying to be an action movie as well as a commentary and the oppression of society. It shows just how badly the rich oppress the poor in an attempt to use them for their own benefit. Each train car is a different parts of society and different places in our society, it’s most shown that the tail end is for the poor and the rich get the front of the train. In the middle are places derived for each social classes. The tail end has to work in certain cars providing for everyone while the rich get cars with sushi and a school. The commentary is bluntly obvious and really shows just how badly the poor do have it in society. It succeeds with showing us the struggle to gain freedom that certain parts of society have to go through.

Snowpiercer is a technical marvel. Shot on a very limited budget but the effects are more convincing that some movies with bloated budgets. The cinematography is dark and seedy but gives you a look into the live of those in poverty but at the same time shows the luxurious side of the rich but never really changes the grittiness of it. The action is well shot and brutal. One scene that baffles me is the scene where the revolutionist are fighting a bunch of masked men. It is weird simply because the masks are covering everything on their faces except their mouths. It is weird but also very enjoyable. I don’t quite understand the logic behind it but the way that it was handled was great.

 The acting is also great. Chris Evans yet again, after Sunshine, proves that he is more than Captain America. He gives Curtis a sympathetic edge to his character while also showing that he can bring emotions to a performance. The scene between Song Kang-ho and Chris Evans is by far the greatest achievement in his acting career. The stand out of the movie is Tilda Swinton. She takes on some of the ugliest roles and just makes it her own. It is clear that she is having a hell of a time playing the evil and crazy spokesperson for Wilford. Every scene with her contains so much energy and enthusiasm from her that it is simply astonishing that she hasn’t received more recognition for her work.

What I didn’t like about the movie was that it felt 20 minutes too long. 30 Minutes is devoted to setting up the conflict, an hour is devoted to solving this conflict, and the last 30 minutes dealing with the fallout of said conflict. I liked the way the movie was set up but when the action slowed down and dealt with the moral nature behind their actions it takes away from the momentum of the movie. I liked what the issues brought up but I felt like they were spending too much time on it. The one scene that I felt was way too long was when the Teacher (Alison Pill) is telling everyone about how Wilford and the train came to be. I know it is needed exposition but it was dragged out way to an unbearable length and could have used some trimming.

Despite some flaws with the runtime, Snowpiercer is a hell of a ride and shows just how well you can balance action and story.

Grade: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy Review, A Space Opera though the eyes of Marvel

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn

Starring: Chris PrattZoe SaldanaDave BautistaVin DieselBradley CooperLee PaceMichael RookerKaren GillanDjimon HounsouJohn C. ReillyGlenn CloseBenicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin

Recently Marvel’s track record has been less than enjoyable for me. Ever since Iron Man they’ve turned into a production company that reuses the same format that worked the first time but not so much with their other movies. Since The Avengers, Marvel has become the leading studio for successful movies. Even if it is considered to be a risk for the studio it is anything short of a risk. Marvel is such a hot property right now that it is unlikely that they will fail. Guardians of the Galaxy is technically a risk since they are stepping away from the main four heroes and focused on a group of renegades in space. The tropes that do follow their movies are there but it is so vastly different from anything else that they have done. Weirdly enough I enjoyed the studio stepping away from what they are used to and making something truly entertaining and unique.

The movie starts us off at Earth and Peter Quill is witnessing the death of his mother. Not long after he encounters a space ship outside of the hospital that eventually takes him aboard. Since then he become partners in crime with the ship’s captain Yondu (Michael Rooker). Flash forward 20 years, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is now an outlaw going by the name of Star Lord and he is on a mission to acquire an orb that holds great power. Soon he learns that he isn’t the only on looking for it. After failing to sell the orb on the Nova Corps home world Xandar, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), adopted daughter of Thanos the Mad Titan (Josh Brolin), attacks Star Lord in an attempt to steal the orb for her self. Also at the same time Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), receive a bounty on Quill. After a street brawl between the four, they are captured and imprisoned in the Kyln.

Meanwhile Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) is plotting to destroy Xandar, with the help of Thanos. To do so he needs to get a hold of the orb that Star Lord possesses. In prison, Star Lord and his would be assassins decide to team up and escape the prison with the help of Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a maniac with a vendetta against Ronan and Thanos. After escaping prison the five unlikely heroes team up to stop Ronan from getting his hands on the orb and stopping his plans to destroy the galaxy.

To say that this movie is completely different than any Marvel movie is an understatement. Instead this movie feels like a standalone movie, only with slight hints at the other movies. The characters are interesting and play well off of one another. It’s completely odd to see the star of a movie be a raccoon who talks like a gangster and is tough for his size. The best character is by far Groot. He speaks very little and when he does it’s all just “I am Groot” but it seems Rocket can understand everything he is trying to say. These two characters have an interesting chemistry and it is weird to find sympathy with characters that are trees and raccoons. That’s where the risk really comes from. You don’t ever have characters as such as these nor having them headline a big blockbuster. The rest of the characters are also fascinating and really work well with the story. Driven by rage, Drax will stop at nothing to take vengeance on Ronan even if it screws the others over. These characters are much different than what other Marvel characters because they are superheroes but rather renegades just trying to make it by.

The acting is pretty great all around. Chris Pratt makes for a great leading man and really uses his comedic timing to provide laughs just as much as Robert Downey Jr. did in the first Iron Man. Zoe Saldana is great as the assassin who starts coming around to working as a group. She has really become the go to actress for science fiction space operas and she has excelled at playing the tough yet fragile female lead. Dave Bautista does a good job with his character but he is the weakest lead by far. He provides a lot of laughs with his characters inept understanding of metaphors but he always feels wooden.

Lee Pace does a good job as Ronan but considering that the villain is the weakest part of any Marvel movie. All of Marvels movies fail to even make an interesting villain and they always have the same motivations, they wanna destroy some kind of planet but they are never convincing in their motivations. They take more time focusing inaction than making a good villain and that’s the movies biggest downfall. He could have been an interesting character if he stayed true to his intentions in the first place. He is essentially Nero (Eric Bana) from 2009s Star Trek. Nebula (Karen Gillian) is interesting only in the fact that she had a little more character development and a backstory that makes her intentions a little bit more plausible.

I found the movie extremely entertaining and well done. The special effects are well done and so is the action. I found the comedy to hit the mark each time and really made it more enjoyable. I also like that the final fight didn’t involve to super powered people beating the hell out of each other.

Though it had some problems it ended up being one of the most enjoyable film of the summer and it comes high recommended.

Grade: A