Tag Archives: Under the Skin

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

image2resize

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

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL_426.jpg

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

GONE-GIRL-Movie-HD-Trailer-Captures00004_1_1

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

ct-cth-locke-l-fp-r4-050613-un-jpg-20140501

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

Under_the_Skin_23

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

Filth-James-McAvoy

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 

Interstellar astronauts explore new planet

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

tumblr_n9fdfk11dt1ts6gi0o3_1280-new-york-film-festival-2014-whiplash-movie-review

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

nightcrawler review

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)

_AF_6405.CR2

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Nightcrawler Trailer

jake-gyllenhaal-nightcrawler

Here is another film that is set to make it’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t a stranger of the festival as of late, both Prisoners and Enemy premiered there last year to praise for both of his performances and the vision of the director Denis Villeneuve. Nightcrawler seems to be banking on the very weird style and interesting storyline. I don’t expect this to be an award contender but it is certainly one of my most anticipated films of the year.

Lou Bloom, a driven young man who discovers the nocturnal world of L.A. crime journalism. Joining a group of freelance camera crews who film marketable mayhem, Lou makes his own place at the table, aided by Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news. Blurring the line between observer and perpetrator, Lou finds his calling in a murderous world reduced to transactions.

Directed by Dan Gilroy. Starring Jake GyllenhaalBill PaxtonRene RussoRiz AhmedEric Lange, and Jonny Coyne. Produced by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tony Gilroy and distributed by Open Roads Production.

Lucy Review, A Dumb Movie that Attempts to be Smart

lucy-scarlett-johansson-poster

Lucy

Directed by: Luc Beeson

Starring: Scarlett JohanssonMorgan FreemanAmr Waked, and Choi Min-sik

Luc Besson is a man of interesting taste. He likes to include stylish action while also trying to make his different and interesting. Lucy follows this model perfectly. At its core it simply is a dumb action movie that attempts to be smart as well. It succeeds as a dumb action movie but completely fails to be anywhere smart. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is being claimed as the smartest movie of the summer, while it isn’t the smartest movie ever, but Lucy makes it look like Citizen Kane. Now I like the concept of someone getting incredible powers from an experimental drug but including the plot line of the capacity of the brain and what we could do with access to your entire brain.

After agreeing to bringing a mysterious package to a crime load, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced into a life of crime. The crime lord Jang (Choi Min-sik) implants a package of illegal drugs into her lower intestine and sends her on her way. She is then taken captive by Jang’s men and locked away in a cellar. After one tries to rape her, she fights back and then is repeatedly kicked in the stomach, bursting the bag of drugs. The drugs then leak into her blood stream causing her to have a strange reaction.

The drugs causes her brain to expand the typical 10% that we use. She begins to exhibit strange powers that begin to take over her whole body. She gets in contact with Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), the leading expert in the brains capacity and how it works. She begins to work with him to solves her crisis and take vengeance on the ones who started it all.

Lets get this out-of-the-way first, the plot is  completely illogical and doesn’t really make sense when you think about it. The movie tries to take this scientific approach to the story that really doesn’t need to be done. I like the idea of less is more and having an explanation for what the drug is meant to do really bogs down the story that is trying to be told. To say that Besson’s filmography takes interesting concepts and never fully realizes them. The Fifth Element is another offender of this but it pulls it off perfectly. Lucy takes a philosophical approach to what we can do with unlimited access to our brain but never fully convinces me that it would even be possible to achieve. There was some points in the movie where he uses stock footage to show off the metaphors going on. It makes it more interesting to see how her powers would affect the real world and the theories of what is achievable when our brain reaches full capacity. There isn’t a dull moment and Besson at least makes the venture fun and never really takes his focus off of Lucy and her powers.

The performance from Scarlett Johansson is incredible but emotionless. At one point during the movie Lucy is talking to Professor Norman about how opening her mind has removed all emotions and feelings from her. So Scarlett’s robotic and lifeless performance actually makes sense in the context of the movie. She is good at coming off wooden and it makes her character more interesting and brings life to the movie. She embraces this and makes the character her own. Morgan Freeman is completely wasted though. He is only used as exposition and nothing else. To me it seems that he was written into the story just to tell the audience what is going on. His talents are wasted and his character is useless. If he was removed from the movie entirely I think the movie would actually be better. Instead of telling us what is going on just show us, Besson achieves that well with the stock footage but the explanation just kills the movie.

The movie excels when she is seeking vengeance towards her kidnappers. It would have been interesting to see a super powered female take on her captors in the typical revenge film format it would have been at least different. Instead it brings the idea of technological singularity into the picture. I like the idea and the end really fits with what they were going for but when the two are mixed together it feels off. In one hand you have a science fiction along the lines of Transcendence, in which artificial intelligence  takes center stage, and the other is closer to Leon: The Professional. The major problem faced here is that it can’t decide which it wants to embrace.

Even though I enjoyed the movie I never felt that it was fully realized and could have been better if they didn’t attempt to be smarter than it was.

Grade: C+

Under the Skin Review, A Mesmerizing Look at Human Existence

under-the-skin-poster

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+