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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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Rebranding Edge of Tomorrow to Live. Die. Repeat.

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Edge of Tomorrow was received with unanimous praise yet not so encouraging box office numbers. Some believed it to be the title and others believed it to be the marketing in general. It looks like Warner Brothers is fully embracing the name change, which they also started during it’s theatrical run but not soon enough, by completely changing it on the Blu Ray release.

On the cover the words “Live. Die. Repeat” are shown taking up the entirety of the cover while at the bottom it reads “Cruise/Blunt/EdgeofTomorrow”. iTunes seems to be embracing it just as much by releasing it as Live. Die. Repeat./Edge of Tomorrow.

To me it seems completely weird to all of the sudden change the name to something completely different. It didn’t have the best of titles originally but instead of naming it that they should have called Live. Die. Repeat. the entire time because it works well with the movie and describing whats going on without giving anything away. I liked this movie better than other movies this summer, simply for it originality and not some boring sequel that doesn’t impress. The new title is interesting but the time and place that it changed is much more interesting than the announcement of the Blu Ray.

Under the Skin Review, A Mesmerizing Look at Human Existence

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Under the Skin

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

Starring: Scarlett Johansson

When you look at science fiction you always end up with two different kinds of executions. On the one hand you have the ones that rely on action and on the other hand you have the slow burning think pieces. Under the Skin is the perfect example of the second one. The movie is vague and purposely so. The director made it this way so that the audience can think and figure out the purpose of the film on their own instead of being explicitly told what the movie means. It works to the movie advantage because it leaves this sense of mystery. The actions of the main character are never spelled out for you, it’s left to you to figure it out. A TV trailer compared the director to Stanley Kubrick. I wouldn’t agree with that entirely. I feel like the movie feels like a Kubrick movie. Kubrick’s films have the same level of mystery to them. He liked to challenge his viewer and make them think. He has made films that no one else can duplicate but Under the Skin accomplishes the mystery that Stanley Kubrick’s movies were able to portray.

In Scotland, an unnamed motorcyclist (Jeremy McWilliams) retrieves the body of a dead woman on the side of the road. At an undisclosed location, a naked woman (Scarlett Johansson) strips the dead body of it’s clothes and taking up the position that she held. She rebrands herself and starts on her quest to lure men into a trap and harvest their skin for her alien race. Along the way she begins to feel the emotions that plague the human race. She abandons her quest and makes her way into the foothills of Scotland.

This movie says a lot about how fragile we are the human race. The men in this movie want to feel affection from a more attractive individual. It makes us feel special when someone notices us and finds something interesting about us. Our lives depend on the affection of other, especially the opposite gender. The male characters in this movie all essentially let themselves go for woman. The main female is played by Scarlett Johansson and I don’t think anyone else could have played her. She is cold and beautiful yet at the same time very vulnerable and curious. In the beginning, she is the killing machine, on the prowl, for lonely men and does’t care about them only for their skin, a necessity for the alien race to blend in. As time goes by she begins to evolve and learn about the emotional state of human kind. Due to encounter with a young man, who suffers from the disease neurofibromatosis, and after their encounter she begins to see the beauty in the world and the curiosity about the live of humans. You see life through the eyes of another being. She is like a newborn baby, always discovering new things and learning about the world around them. You get an interesting look at a character that has fresh eyes towards the human race. The development of her character is done so well without to much exposition or dialogue, they are given the ability to develop along with the story.

Like The Rover, Under the Skin is minimalism at its best. Unlike other movies this year, Under the Skin uses the idea of less is more. Nothing is spelled out in this movie and it adds to the mystery of the film. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is by far the best work she has done and it shows that she is much more than a pretty face. Many people know this movie as “the movie in which Scarlett Johansson gets naked”. For whoever plans on seeing it for that fact alone than you should probably watch a different movie. She is never overtly sexualized but it is used for the character and he curiosity with human life.

The production values of the movie are spectacular. For such a low budget you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it was so cheap. The cinematography is something of note. It uses long takes to linger on the world around her. The shots linger a little longer than most but I feel that is a strength of the movie. The look of the film is bleak and beautiful. The soundtrack is also breathtaking. It gives it a haunting and foreign feel to it.

Mind you the movie is a lot more fun to think about that it is to watch but I feel the need to watch this movie. It is simply amazing and that’s what I can take away from it. I loved every minute of it and I know that I will be returning to it in the future.

Grade: A+

Sunshine Review, An Intriguing Premise Never Fully Realized

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Sunshine

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Starring: Rose ByrneCliff CurtisChris EvansTroy GarityCillian MurphyHiroyuki SanadaBenedict Wong, and Michelle Yeoh

Science Fiction is a genre full of ideas. They tend to be the most thoughtful and interesting films that could use philosophy to its benefit. As of late science fiction has become something of a genre filled with action and superheros but they’ve lost the touch that made films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey a classic. Sunshine is an existential science fiction film filled with philosophy and an interesting idea. I mean for the first two acts anyways. Some where during the writing process they thought it would be a good idea to completely shift gears and turn it into a standard Alien rip-off. The movie had so much going for it until it fell into a clichéd ridden mess.

In 2057, the sun is dying and Earth is on the brink of extinction. Sent up into space to reignite the sun, a group of space travelers load a massive bomb on to the Icarus II. It is the final time that mankind can achieve such a mission. Once out of range of Earth’s communications  a distress signal is recovered from Icarus I. In an attempt to make contact with the space ship, it is decided that the crew is going to make their way to Icarus I so that they can get their hands on a second bomb and have more than one chance to reignite the sun. Once on the Icarus I they meet someone who will interfere with their mission.

The movie begins with a solid concept, the last remaining crew members must deal with the harsh reality of space, but as soon as the villain of the movie comes aboard everything goes wrong. An hour in it is all about the survival of the crew within space mixed with the philosophy of their journey. It bares influence from 2001: A Space Odyssey and usually succeeds until the third act. The majority of the problems come from the complete shift of tone of the movie. Before you have this think piece that is interesting and then after the one hour mark it turns into Alien. The villain, Pinbaker (Mark Strong), essentially stalks his prey on board the ship and is intent on killing them. He is an interesting character in a whole. It feels disingenuous to the rest of the film. It makes me feel that the writers didn’t know where to take the movie and just decided that the best thing to do was create a villain that wanted to thwart their plan. It’s slightly lazy considering the rest of the film is incredibly thought provoking and one of the best things that the genre has to offer.

The movie is still relatively well made. Danny Boyle is one of the most competent directors working today. His vision wis this movie is incredible and the end thirty minutes is one kinetic thrill ride with insane editing but it conflicted with the slow and mellow hour before. The performances are intense and really showcase the actors abilities within the source material. Chris Evans seems to be best in situations like theses. Snowpiercer is another movie that really shows just what he is made of. The music is really well known now and it is amazing how well it works with the movie.

If it wasn’t for the terrible third act of this film and I would label this as one of the best science fiction films in a long time. It’s concept is unbelievable and the execution is spot on. It is an interesting experimental but a flawed one.

Grade: C+