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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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Guardians of the Galaxy tops another slow weekend

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It’s official Guardians of the Galaxy is now the highest grossing film of the year but considering just how slow the year has been it’s not surprising. Last year three movie made more the Guardians did at this point. So far the box office has been the worst in almost 20 years. Not a single film has grossed more than $300 hundred million and it looks as if Guardians is the only one going to do so until November comes around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is continuing to impress and is currently well above expectations but even then $166.4 million isn’t anything to special when it comes to blockbusters. It is doing much better than the first G.I. Joe, which was released at the same time, but not as great as Transformers, another Bay production.

In third place is Let’s Be Cops, which is still over performing considering to horrid reception. With $10.6 million and nearly $60 million total, Let’s Be Cops managed to make back much more than the limited budget and can be considered a success even if it didn’t receive good reviews.

Even this weekends new releases didn’t make a dent. The November Man seemed to be riding off the goodwill of the Taken franchise but didn’t make nearly the money that both of those movies received. As Above, So Below failed to to gross anything of note and even for a horror movie in a summer deprived of horror movies this movie didn’t register well with it’s intended audience.

With Intersteller, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies coming out the box office should make a comeback in a way but this just might be one the worst years for movie, box office wise, that I have seen in a while.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Returns to the Top of the Box Office

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This weekend was a down weekend for the box-office. Each weekend so far provide some much needed business but not this weekend. Guardians of the Galaxy managed to return to the number one spot at the box office with 17.1 million, after two weeks of losing to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The new releases this weekend didn’t do anything to lend to the already bad summer. If I Stay opened at number 3 with 16.3 million. The biggest failure this weekend was Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (read my review here). It opened at 6.3 million, nearly 13 million under tracking. I don’t see a third film anytime soon consider the budget was anywhere between 50 and 70 million.

The biggest surprise this weekend was the impressive hold of Let’s Be Cops (read my review here). It dropped only 38% to a good 11 million. Considering the horrible reviews I was expecting something much steeper but then again it shows that critical dismissal doesn’t always translate to terrible box office returns.

This officially ends the summer box office. This year has been the worst at the box office in a long time. No film surpassed the 300 million dollar mark domestically and the highest grossing domestic release sits at 251 million. Hopefully the rest of the year can improve but if not than it should be noted that big budget films are slowly becoming irrelevant.

Outcast Trailer: Another Nicolas Cage travesty

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Another year, another Nicolas Cage film. You know it’s going to be a bad movie when it co-stars Hayden Christensen as Nic Cage’s former brother-in-arms. It’s is upset to see Nicolas Cage’s career fall to such terrible depths but he does bring it on himself accepting such horrible roles. Thankfully we have to wait until February to see this atrocity but Chinese audiences are quite as lucky since it is debuting there before ever coming to the states.

When the heir of the Imperial throne becomes the target of assassination by his despised older brother, the young prince’s only hope is the protection of his sister, and the reluctant aid of war-weary Crusader, Arken (Hayden Christensen), who must overcome his own personal demons and rally the assistance of the legendary Crusader-turned-bandit, Gallain (Nicolas Cage), to return the prince to his rightful place on the throne

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Review, A Visually Striking Misstep

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller

Starring: Mickey RourkeJessica AlbaJosh BrolinJoseph Gordon-LevittRosario DawsonBruce WillisEva Green, and Powers Boothe

Lightning doesn’t always strike twice and neither do movie sequels. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is trying to something it’s not, a worthy sequel to a very well crafted original. It is so desperately trying to mimic the visual style and ingenuity that Sin City was so easily able to capture. For it’s time Sin City was a cultural and filmmaking success. It revolutionized the was you were able to make movies and inspired so many movies to use the same style. The biggest problem this movie faces is the fact that it is at least 7 years too late. In my eyes this really hurt the film and it’s need to remind us how stylistic and relevant we still are.

The movie begins with a short segment dedicated to Marv (Mickey Rourke), don’t worry he pops back up in each segment as the Sin City’s equivalent of Gandalf the Grey in the Hobbit. Marv is the brute of the movie and the “main” character. He helps out the other character out with their predicament and then he is off on his own once he is done. The characters mostly “use” him for their own benefits but without him the story just wouldn’t work. Sadly his segment is the most forgettable. Like “The Customer is Always Right” in the first one, “Just Another Saturday Night” leads us into the movie and shows us what we are getting into.

Just Another Saturday Night” begins with Marv forgetting how he got the scene of a crime. Cars are piled up and two dead bodies are shown by the wreckage, the cause of death isn’t so much the accident as it is Marv and his brutal sense of vengeance. He starts taking his medicine so that he can make sense of the situation. He beings remembering and what he remembers will set him on a course to Oldtown to finish off what he started.

The Long Bad Night“, after the opening credit scene we are introduced to Johnny (Joseph Gorden Levitt), a new character to this universe. He is a cocky gambler setting his eyes on Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) and his high stake poker game. After beating and winning all of Roark’s money, Johnny takes the waitress Marcy (Julia Garner) out on the town and blows throw his winnings. Meanwhile Senator Roark decides to teach Johnny a lesson about power and he hunts him down. After being beaten and bruised Johnny devises a plan to show Roark who’s the real “winner” and prove that he is the better player.

A Dame to Kill For” is the main focus of the movie and uses the time allotted wisely. Dwight (Josh Brolin) is a man with a dark past, which isn’t really explored that much. He is a private eye working on a case with an adulterating husband and his wife. After finishing the job he receives a phone call from Ava (Eva Green), a former lover and damsel in distress, about meeting up with him at the local bar. She begins to spew the truth about her husband and her love for Dwight. Dwight begins to investigate the suspicious Ava and the life that she is currently living. This lead him down a path that he never expected and will learn more about the mysterious Ava than he ever expected.

Nancy’s Last Dance” is the final and the most uninteresting storyline. After the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Nancy (Jessica Alba) has lost control of her life. She is constantly drinking on the job, wallowing in self pity, and hell bent on revenge. Every night she is practicing at the gun range, prepping to kill Senator Roark. Her self loathing continues every night she is on stage. One night she cuts up her face in an attempt to use Marv for her own benefits. The two end up attacking the Senators house in an attempt to get revenge on him for the death of Hartigan.

The movie suffers from over confidence. It’s trying to be something that it’s not. It wants to be a noir thriller and do it a different way than before. Sadly it is far behind the movie that actually achieved that, Sin City. The original felt fresh and something that we’ve never seen before but now it just feels as if they are trying to survive off the good will from the first one. Sequels are meant to build off the universe that the first one created but this feels as if it is just trying to copy what the first did without actually building on it. The movie feels vapid and the actors seem uninterested. The beautifully rendered environments can’t save itself from an emotionless execution.

Mickey Rourke essentially carbon copied his performance from the first one. His segment is narrated in the same way that  ” The Hard Goodbye“. It had the same exact lines and reason behind the lines. The amount of times he says “I have a condition” in this series is insane. This might be my personal opinion but I know he has a condition because they told me in the first one and it fell redundant to have him repeat himself. Maybe it is for the new audience but even so he isn’t given anything in his own segment that it really doesn’t matter. The same goes for Jessica Alba. She was energetic in the first and in this movie she seems as if she if just collecting the paycheck and half assing a performance. As she is on stage her looks is so vacant that it feels like she is a robot. Her role in this movie really doesn’t matter either. Her story is the most disposable and could have been removed entirely and the film would be a much tighter and worthwhile effort.

However Eva Green killed it as the villainous Ava. She brings a vibe that is both electric and cunning. She was perfect cast as Ava and deserves any praise she gets. With 300: Rise of an Empire and now Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, it is clear that Eva Green could have a good career as strong female character that is both villainous but sympathetic.

The stories are some what dull. I liked “A Dame to Kill For” but it felt too long and could have been cut down. A lot of it had unnecessary moments that really take away from the film. Like I stated before both Marv’s and Nancy’s stories are useless and really didn’t add much to the film. On the other hand I felt “A Long Bad Night” was the best story overall. Each of the stories have a great deal of violence dealt onto expendable characters and are also ridiculous to the extreme but Johnny’s story is completely different. It deals with the character and his luck with gambling. It is a story that had a more toned down and felt like it was the closest to being an actual noir film. The ending is much more depressing than the other ones but it is also the most sincere.

Now the big thing this movie does is use it’s style. It’s overly stylistic and it is completely ridiculous. It is what made the movie so popular when it was released and it works just as well in this film. The use of color mixed with black and white makes for a completely interesting viewing experience. The visual style makes it all it’s own. The environments are like nothing I’ve seen before. Where this movie lacks in story it makes up for it in it’s visual brilliance.

Though it fails with it’s stories and acting, it excels in it’s visual style and some rather interesting moments that it’s a worth while theater experience.

Grade: C+