Best of 2014

Haven’t compiled a “Top 10″ list in a few years. So rather than a top 10 list, here’s a list of “Best of.”

Best Movie That No One In The USA Saw – Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Post-apocalyptic movie about survivors of a failed global warming experiment that are traveling around the world on a train. It was a smart movie that failed in the US because Harvey Weinstein thought it would be a movie that US audiences wouldn’t understand, so it wasn’t really advertised as much. Catch it on Netflix stream if you missed it. It’s action packed and it’s a movie that makes you think, in a good way. It would gross over 4.5 million in the states while overseas, it grossed over 82 million.

Best Straight To Internet Movie – Stretch

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A few weeks ago, I saw a video on the works of Joe Carnahan. One of the most underrated directors working today. In the video, I noticed that there was a couple movies of his I haven’t seen and found one was streaming on Netflix. In fact, it was a straight to internet release. Stretch turned into an unexpected, and wild ride. Was very pleasantly surprised.

Best Movie To Bring A Smile To Your Face – Begin Again

Begin Again

Such a heartwarming movie about the beauty of friendship, love, and redemption.

Honorable Mention: Chef

Best Auteur Film – Interstellar

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Christopher Nolan is easily one of the most powerful directors in Hollywood today. One who is able to do as he pleases and let’s no one stop him. Interstellar is dense piece about mankind’s future on Earth and the start above it. A movie that you appreciate more each time you see it.

Best Actor – The Theory Of Everything

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Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking is the best performance for an actor I’ve seen this year so far. He should at least get a nomination.

Other Best Actor Consideration: Jeremy Renner in Kill The Messenger

Best Thriller / Best Movie That Messed With My Mind / Best Actress – Gone Girl

Gone Girl

When I say it’s a film that messed with my head, I don’t mean it had a mind bending twist at the end. From a psychological standpoint, it made me afraid. It was a film I wanted to see again but felt I needed some time to decompress what I just saw. Also, I believe best performance from an actress this year easily goes to Rosamund Pike.

Best Thriller Honorable Mention: Kill The Messenger

Best Horror Movie: Dead Snow: Red vs Dead

Dead Snow

Horror is my least watched genre. By default, the only horror film I watched this year wins. It’s really more like an action movie, with lots of gore and dark humor. Nazi Zombies, Russian Zombies…what more do you need?!

Best Animated – The Tale of Princess Kaguya

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By default, the only animated film I saw this year wins (I didn’t see The Lego Movie, so sue me). Princess Kaguya is a film that stuck with me days after I saw it. In a subtle way, made me very reflective on my own life.

Best Comedy – They Came Together

They Came Together

A spoof comedy on romantic comedies. Basing on which films made me laugh the hardest, They Came Together was easily the best comedy I saw.

Best of Sundance (Literally) / Best Drama - WhipLash

Whiplash

There’s a reason why Whiplash won Best of Sundance because it really was the best film I saw at Sundance. Powerful performances by J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. It will stick with you after the final frame.

Honorable Mentions: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, The Skeleton Twins

Best Action Movie – The Raid 2: Berandal

The Raid 2

The most highly anticipated movie for me this year and it did not disappoint. Quite possibly one of the best action movies of all-time if not just this year. One of few sequels that exceeds the original.

Best Popcorn Flick / Best Science Fiction Movie / Best Comic Book Movie / Best Blockbuster / My Personal Favorite Of The Year – Guardians of the Galaxy

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Has become one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies of all-time. A perfect blend of action and humor, with a dash of heart.

Best Blockbuster Honorable Mention: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Best Comic Book Movie Honorable Mention: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Other Honorable Mentions: 

The Drop – Because of two words: Tom Hardy

Boyhood - Best movie that took years to make, haha

Birdman - Great acting and cinematography

Movies That Disappointed Me or Wanted To Enjoy But Just Didn’t

Men, Women and Children - A rather uncomfortable movie to sit through.

Under The Skin – No amount of Scarlett Johansson nudity could relieve my boredom

Movies That Sucked

Lucy - Just a bad year for Scarlett Johansson movies for me, I guess.

Transformers 4: Age of Extinction – Longest 3 hours of my movie watching life…well maybe except Alexander.

Interstellar

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

interstellar

My rating: 5 reels out of 5

I’m a Nolan fanboy, so I’m going to be bias when it comes to a Christopher Nolan film, and the funny thing is, I admit before even watching a Nolan movie that I’m not going to be initially blown away. His movies are so dense with information from beginning to end, you don’t quite catch it all. Last night, I was entranced for 169 minutes and forgot all my worries. There are thrilling moments and moments of strong emotion. By the time it was all over, I just sat there thinking, with not much to actually say.  I thought I’m going to let this one marinate overnight, and wait to see it again (in film projection) before I write about it. Then when I woke up this morning, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

What I like about Nolan’s films is that he conveys his message in a subtle way. It resonates with me how a certain line of dialogue in the movie could initially be passed off as humorous but later turns out to be the premise for a character’s journey. It’s a journey to the far reaches of space, testing mankind’s endurance and spirit to survive. Exploring themes of hope and despair.

When explorers discover a wormhole, they use it to go beyond the limits of human space travel to try find a new world for humankind. Filled with an all-star cast including Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine, and a mesmerizing score from Hans Zimmer. Interstellar is a movie that demands your attention. Executed flawlessly. An epic movie with outstanding visual effects and subject matters that everyone can understand. Interstellar is a visual masterpiece that embodies what experiencing a movie in a theater should be like.

My expectations: Because it’s a Christopher Nolan film, I can’t help but set my expectations very high. I expect a grand epic movie, and that’s what I got. Expectations Exceeded.

Recommendation: Nolan fanboys are going to love the film. Cinema lovers will love the film. It’s the kind of movie that NEEDS to be experienced in a theater.

Re-watch value: It’s a long one to watch but so worth it. May even have to take a 4 and a half hour drive to see it in a 70mm IMAX film projector.

Memorable: Definitely a memorable film.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

My rating: 4 1/2 reels out of 5

With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

Gone Girl, comes from director David Fincher, director of such films as Fight Club and The Social Network. His films are always captivating and moving, and Gone Girl is no different.  I usually don’t leave a David Fincher film feeling afraid, but this film is still resonating its hold on me. Fear was among the many emotions I was feeling while watching this movie. The film carried an air of mystery and puzzlement. You experience sympathy, anger, and then empathy for the characters. It was a movie that kept you guessing and it will haunt you after the final shot.

As much crap as Ben Affleck gets as an actor for some of his roles, this was a good role for him. From the trailers, we get a sense that his character, Nick Dunne, is hiding something. Affleck played his role perfectly. He was charming and mysterious. There was something off about his character that kept you wondering.  David Fincher has turned some unknowns into dynamic leading ladies, most recently Rooney Mara in the remake of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. The leading lady in Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike, is first on my list of actresses this year that deserve an oscar nomination for their role. Amy Dunne is a character that is smart and captivating, a character that you just can’t ignore. If Rosamund Pike is going to be remembered for a role, it would be this one. Overall, the entire cast was fantastic. Tyler Perry even plays a likable lawyer.

I went blind into this film, only knowing that David Fincher directed and Ben Affleck starred in it. With David Fincher, I expect at least a decent film, and I got more than that. I don’t think he can do any wrong. With re-watch value, aside from one really uncomfortable scene, I could watch this again but not in any hurry to. Recommending this film, David Fincher fans will enjoy it. General audiences may enjoy it. My favorite part of the night was some of the immediate reactions of some of the people around me after the movie. The film is memorable, I won’t forget it.

David Fincher creates a very somber mood through the lighting of the film and the score. The movie takes twists and turns you would not expect. All gets revealed at the right moments. The writer of the book also pens the screenplay. To keep readers interested in the movie and to avoid spoilers, she writes a different ending from the book. I feel compelled to read the book now. The heart of the movie is the characters. I felt a roller coaster of emotions from anger to sympathy and then to hate, and most of all, fear. I haven’t felt so disturbed by a film for a while.

10/5/14 Update: apparently there is no difference between the book and movie ending. I have been misinformed.

Begin Again

Delightfully charming

Begin Again

My rating: 4 1/2 reels out of 5

 A chance encounter between a disgraced music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan turns into a promising collaboration between the two talents.

Going into this movie, I knew who directed and starred in it and that was enough for me to want to see it. Begin Again was directed by John Carney, who directed the modern day musical Once, a movie which contains one of my all-time favorite scenes in movie history. Begin Again has Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, one of my favorite actresses and actors. I wanted to watch it earlier but my friend thought it sounded like a romantic comedy (would’ve taken our bro-date to another level I suppose, haha). We went to another movie instead and I saw Begin Again later in the week. My friend’s suspicions were true, it was a romantic comedy but it’s not the conventional kind. Between Carney’s Once and Begin Again, the two movies contain themes of second chances, romance, and the bond of friendship. Begin Again is a wonderfully delightful movie that brought nothing but a smile to my face.

Just like Once, Carney incorporates music into Begin Again. Unlike Once though, it doesn’t play like a musical, it’s more like a regular film with music in it. To prepare for her role, Keira Knightley learned to play guitar and sing. Playing the rockstar that dumps her is Maroon 5 singer, Adam Levine. I honestly didn’t who Levine was until this movie. He has a high singing voice which I’m not a fan of but he played his role well. To round out the musical cast, we also have Mos Def, playing a music executive, and CeeLo Green, playing a musician named Troublegum. Playing the disgraced music-business executive is Mark Ruffalo. As daughter and wife of Mark Ruffalo’s character, we have oscar nominees, Hailee Steinfeld and Catherine Keener. Even though the music doesn’t quite stick with you, it is great. Aesthetically pleasing and fits the overall mood of the movie superbly. Great moments that you’ve never seen before. Music is a character itself in this movie but the soul of this movie is the relationship between the main characters, Gretta (Knightley) and Dan (Ruffalo).

Playing around with flashbacks, the first act of our story is admirably edited, it builds the backstory of Gretta and Dan before they first meet. Lost souls who manage to find each other.  You may reach a point in your life where everything seems hopeless. You may reach a point in your life where you have no idea what direction to go. The people around you can help you through the darkest of times. Sometimes it’s a person you’ve known your whole life or it could be a complete stranger. Begin Again is about second chances. It’s about the passions that can bring us together, such as music. It’s about a friendship that can change your life. You can probably guess how the story will go in this movie but it just may surprise you. I hope Begin Again can make you smile like it did for me.

My expectations: I was expecting a funny and an inspiring film. It’s what I got and more. Expectations exceeded.

Re-watch value: I can easily watch this movie again.

Recommendation: I can recommend this film to most anyone.

Memorable: Great memories created with this movie.

Get On Up


Get On Up

My rating: 3 reels out of 5

A chronicle of James Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.

Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of James Brown is phenomenal, really bringing the funk and the soul of James Brown. When you have a movie about a musician, you have to have musical performances of their songs. When songs were performed, they were really well done. Good costume designing, cinematography, and sound design. The filmmakers really did their research and emulated James Brown wonderfully. The parts between those performances, were dull at times.

Why I didn’t enjoy the film? I’m not a huge music buff. I hear James Brown’s music more in passing than I do listening to it on my own accord. Perhaps it just felt like a story that I’ve seen before, musicians just seem to have trouble with money, drugs, or love. I can’t help but think of previous biographical movies such as Ray and Walk The Line. It seemed like the filmmakers tried to vary from those films as much as possible. One of the ways they attempted to do this was through editing. We jump through times in James’ life, it is highlighted by the year and some phrase to describe the chapter in that life. However, the part that would annoy me is that they would grab my attention with something but then they wouldn’t come back to it until later in the film. Attention grabbers is an effective strategy when starting a movie but when it happens a couple times in the middle of a movie, then it gets distracting.

There’s no way a movie can fully cover the life of anyone, especially James Brown. Some aspects of his life were not mentioned or were barely touched upon. Nevertheless, the movie will give you a new way to look at the Godfather of Soul. Get On Up is a well made film but it’s just not the kind of film that appealed to me. Don’t let my opinion stop you from going though because the two friends I went with enjoyed it.

My expectations: Low expectations. I wasn’t too excited to begin with. And the movie was pretty much what I expected. I found myself wondering when the film was going to end and I even had to check what time it was.

Recommendation: Recommended to those who love music, especially the funk. If you’re not interested, you may or not be surprised about it.

Re-watch value: None

Memorable: Forgettable for me.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Ooga ooga ooga chaka…ooga ooga ooga chaka

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My rating: 5 reels out of 5

In the far reaches of space, a human from Earth, Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

Out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comes Guardians of the Galaxy. A movie that is as advertised, a fun and enjoyable ride. Most everyone is familiar with the bigger super heroes of the Marvel world: Ironman, Thor, the Hulk, etc. If there is anyone that is like me, then they are not too familiar with this comic book story. I felt the movie does well in explaining our characters for a general audience and I could not help but love every single one of our heroes. They each have their quirks and insecurities, and the relationship between them all is volatile and at times, highly amusing. The movie is very different from what you might expect from a comic book movie. They aren’t the traditional super heroes. They don’t have super powers. They are misfits. They are outlaws.

One of the aspects that makes Guardians fun is the awesome soundtrack, part of Peter Quill’s awesome mix, a keepsake and a reminder he has of Earth. If you’re wondering how this human is in the middle of deep space, it’s  explained a little in the beginning of the movie with a rather emotional opening scene. Guardians is a formulaic movie but I loved every second of this movie. Great chemistry between everyone. Loved Chris Pratt’s performance as Peter Quill aka Starlord (who?!), also really enjoyed Dave Bautista’s portrayal of Drax the Destroyer. Arguably the best movie that will come out of the summer season. There’s not much else to say, so I’ll just say it, go check out this movie! Ok, one more thing, I AM GROOT!

My expectations: Expecting another puzzle piece in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, did not expect to get such an amusing movie. One of my favorite space opera type movies now. Expectations exceeded.

Recommendation: Most everyone will enjoy this one.

Re-watch value: High, I can’t wait to see it again.

Memorable: Lots of great lines this movie. Missed some lines in this movie because the audience was laughing so hard.

Bonus, movie going experience: If you have read some of my previous posts, you’d know I’m not a huge fan of 3D movies. I didn’t know my screening would be 3D until my ticket was torn and I was handed glasses but I’m not going to argue when I’m seeing the movie in advance. I have found another reason to hate 3D movies. Earlier in the day I was suffering from a headache. I had taken some ibuprofen. By the time the movie rolled around, my headache was gone. However it slowly crept back during the movie and it was back by the end. So I do believe 3D can do bad stuff to your brain.

Update, August 6th: I’ve upgraded my rating to a perfect rating. I can’t get enough of this movie. Seen it 3 times so far.

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Lucy

Lucy…you got some ‘splaining to do…

Lucy

My rating: 2 reels out of 5

A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

In the first five minutes of Lucy, I knew in my mind, this is going to be a rough ride. Flashback scenes were used to try to explain who our characters were but ended up just raising further questions. The editing was jarring and disruptive. A couple scenes later, the use of animal stock footage was thrown in as a metaphor for a prey being stalked by a predator. It was very redundant and very distracting from the scene. The story starts to smooth out and gets a little bit more coherent after this point but you’re just holding onto a glimmer of hope that the movie is going to get slightly better. It’s advertised that Lucy is learning to access the full capacity of the brain. That’s really the only thing that kept me going because I wanted to know what happens when she reaches a 100%.

When I wasn’t sitting mindlessly through uninspiring action sequences, I kept thinking of other movies or shows that Lucy reminded me of. Amusingly, I thought of Scarlett Johansson’s previous sci-fi movies, Her and Under The Skin. An episode of Futurama popped in my head. And finally Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life popped into my mind. For a movie about accessing the depths of the human brain, it doesn’t offer any eye-opening ideas. It’s an interesting premise but it is lost in a thoughtless summer action flick. The bright side of Lucy is the short run time, I didn’t have the desire to look at my watch. Once it’s all over though, you have to wonder, could I have spent my time and money on something else?

Expectations: Not sure what I was expecting on this one, went in with an open mind but was obviously disappointed.

Recommendation: I can’t recommend this to anyone. Avoid this one.

Re-watch value: None

Memorable: No, I can easily forget this one.