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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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‘The Strain’ renewed for season 2

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As a reader of the book I am glad to hear this news. Right now the show feels a little lacking but that because it hasn’t really set up what is going to happen in following seasons. I feel if they limit this series to only a few season it will be great but going farther than they should will really limit the success and the ultimate effect this show will have.

A plane lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport with the lights off and doors sealed. Epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his team are sent to investigate. On board they find 206 corpses and four survivors. The situation deteriorates when all the bodies disappear from the morgue. Goodweather and a small group of helpers find themselves battling to protect not only their own loved ones, but the entire city, from an ancient threat to humanity.

‘Fury’ director says audiences will be ‘shocked’ by Shia LaBeouf’s performance

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Fury is an interesting one for me. The trailer impressed me a lot but the rest of David Ayer’s filmography haven’t been that great. He has a track record of 1/4 but that doesn’t stop me from looking forward to it. I don’t hate Shia LeBeouf like other people do and I’d really like to see him give a great performance.

The film is set during the last month of World War II in April 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theater, a battle-hardened U.S. Army sergeant in the 2nd Armored Division named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank called “Fury” and its five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

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+

The Conjuring Review, A Terrifying Gothic Horror Film

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The Conjuring

Directed by: James Wan

Starring: Vera FarmigaPatrick WilsonRon Livingston, and Lili Taylor

James Wan has an incredible sense of horror. He is able to still scary you while following the typical tropes of a horror movie. With The Conjuring he has crafted a unique but not wholly original horror film.  He really wasn’t that well know until Insidious made him a house hold name, he may have directed the first Saw but it never shot him into stardom as Insidious did. Having just seen Deliver Us From Evil I realized that it follows a similar through line as this. I’m always surprised how predictable the genre has become and this is still no exception it was just executed on a higher level.

The movie begins with a scene that doesn’t really do much for the overall film, otherwise to set up the characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) a pair of paranormal investigators. The movie begins the haunting of a doll named Annebelle, a vessel for a demon that begins torturing a few college girls. The Warrens quickly step in a take care of the situation. That is really the only time Annebelle is even involved, I think it was only put in so they can eventually have a spin-off, which is happening by the way. It is a scene that I don’t think even needs to be in this film. I thought it was overall creepy but entire unnecessary.

The story truly begins when Carolyn and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) move their family into their new house in the middle of rural Rhode Island. Not long after they finish unpacking the family begins experiencing strange occurrences throughout their house. At first they aren’t fazed by any of the occurrences but as soon as they start to become more frequent and aggressive they officially seek the help of the Warrens in an effort to rid the house of the evil that it possesses.

The Conjuring is based on a “true” story but I feel that it takes liberties when it comes to the truth. The Warrens want people to believe that what is going on is true but it is really difficult to believe that any of this truly happened. It all relies on clichés that define the genre and that basing it on a “true” story sets it apart from other one by making the audience believe that these things actually happened. I always think that it is funny when people claim that a horror movie is based on something that actually happened. It never feels real and it only works to scary people and nothing else.

The movie is actually a well constructed horror movie that provides decent scares that don’t require jump scares or music cues to scares you. I remember one scene in particular that actually legitimately frightened me to the point of effecting me for a few days. It involves one of the daughters realizing that she was being taunted by a spirit instead of her sisters. It has a scene that pushes the camera into a dark space and her talking in tears as she is staring at something in the dark space behind the door. Not once does it use a jump scare or music to freak out me out just the thought of what was behind that door. It let me think up the scare rather than actually scaring me. I think those kinds of scares are brilliant because it leaves it all up to the views instead of just providing the scare itself, it uses the unseen rather than the seen.

James Wan has a way with creating tension. Every time that something creepy comes into play he is able to create the tension within the situation. Times at night when any character is wandering around you get the sense of dread that accompanies such an instance. The atmosphere is perfect for this type of movie. A lot of scene take place in minimum light and uses the shadows to its advantage making the scene much more tense. Like I stated earlier in my reviews this movie uses the unseen as a way to scare and that’s all in James Wan’s control.

The technical aspects of the movie are sheerly amazing. You can see where the budget went and the cinematography resembles movies of the 70s. It is a movie that embraces that era of filmmaking and you can see the movies that influenced it, mostly The Amityville Horror which is another case investigated by the Warrens. During the exorcism scene I felt a lot of influence from The Exorcist, but what hasn’t been influenced by that film. The performances are incredible for a horror movie and Lili Taylor gets her moment to shine when the exorcism comes around. I don’t think I’ve seen a better performance in recent films in this genre.

If this movie didn’t ride so much on clichés I think this would be one of the best horror movies to come out in a while. Sadly that does effect what is a rather well crafted movie.

Grade: B+