First Half Review : The Best of 2014 So Far

So it’s just about the half way point in our year so it’s time to review what I have seen so far. I’ll do a ranked top five list with some honorable mentions and then I’ll do a couple categories that are not ranked such as best performances, biggest disappointments, and favorite scenes. Here’s to a better second half of the year!

TOP FIVE IN DESCENDING ORDER

Honorable Mentions

Edge of Tomorrow – Perfectly fun and exciting sci fi film. Emily Blunt kicked major ass and it was fun to see Tom Cruise be a human being before he turned into his typical badass action hero. The film was also pretty tight for a film that had such a high concept. I would have liked a less Hollywood ending but I left very satisfied.

The Wind Rises – I know this hit the festivals in 2013 but it had a limited release in 2014 so I included it. It was certainly the least fantastical Miyazaki film I’ve ever seen but the love and heart that went into it is unmistakable. Miyazaki wrote a poem about himself and it came out beautifully. I didn’t care for the American voice acting and it ran a tad long but if the genius is truly done directing films I’m satisfied with his last.

Godzilla – Sometimes you just need a cool monster movie and this was it for me. I enjoyed the havoc and the set pieces, especially the halo drop, were cool as shit. I just needed more Bryan Cranston and Godzilla but overall it was an enjoyable film.

NUMBER FIVE – ENEMY

Denis Villenuvue is one of my favorite new film makers right now so naturally I would have a high regard of his doppleganger film staring Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a bit slow but when it picked up it turned into a psychotic piece of mystery with amazing visuals and a key performance from Gyllenhaal. Also, the ending is batshit insane yet so thought provoking. I love good mysteries. I love mysteries even more when I still haven’t figured it out.

NUMBER FOUR – THE LEGO MOVIE

SPACESHIP!!! There isn’t much to say other than that. It’s a fun as hell ride into many a childhoods with a strong message to be yourself. The voice cast was hilarious and the film implied a joke a minute strategy that had me in stitches the whole time. Oh, and SPACESHIP!!!

NUMBER THREE – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

The only film this year I have seen multiple times in the theater. I can’t express how much I loved this film. It is up there with the Wes Anderson greats, Tennenbaums and Rushmore, while still being unique and delightfully surprising. The design and story were clever and crafted with such detail and care and the cast was just amazing. We’ll get into Ralph Fiennes later on. It’s just a completely joyous film.

NUMBER TWO – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

I love Jim Jarmusch. I’ve been binge watching his films ever seeing Only Lovers in the theater and I firmly believe he makes films just for me know. I love slow movies. I love movies where the clever dialogue is basically another character. I love committed and subtly powerful performances. Only Lovers had all of that. Swinton and Hiddleston were two of the most perfect casting choices I’ve ever seen. They were magnificent. The soundtrack was as dark and brooding as the camera work. It’s just the perfect chill out movie. It was my number one until only recently which brings me too…

NUMBER ONE – THE ROVER

What can I say? I’m obsessed with David Michod. Jim Jarmusch may make films for me, but Michod makes films I want to make. They are unflinching and unapologetic, brutal and beautiful, deep and symbolic, and just as shocking the second time you see it as the first. I may like Animal Kingdom slightly better than this but never has a film grown on me the longer I thought about it than The Rover. I forget what rating I gave it originally but now it’s a firm five out of five. The ending received groans from the audience I was in but it left me speechless. Everything came together for me during the last shot and the significance of it lingered for days. Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson gave career performances and the gorgeous cinematography was the icing on the cake. It’s my number one film of the year so far and will be hard to top.

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Biggest Disappointments

Robocop – One of the worst films I’ve seen in years. Nothing happened. I didn’t care. Not even Michael K. Williams was good in it. Abbie Cornish should stop trying. The only redeeming factor was Gary Oldman. I just hated it.

Monuments Men – What a snoozefest. Did I even write about this one? I can’t remember if I did or not. I may have clocked out halfway and thought a review was wrong which tells you how boring this movie was.

The Raid 2 – I left halfway because I just couldn’t sit in the theater any longer. The fight scenes were great and I’m going to give it another try but I just didn’t care for the story at all. I was pissed all night after this one.

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Best Performances

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel – There has not been a more perfectly cast role in comedy in the last ten years that lives up to this role. Hysterical, serious, and outlandishly bizarre, Fiennes brought it all. He’s the reason I had no problem at all seeing this is theaters the same week as when I saw it first. He was amazing.

Guy Pearce/Robert Pattinson in The Rover – This was the performance of Pearce’s career and even though he won’t get it, he deserves recognition for it. His face was heartbreaking and his actions were brutal. He has perfected the thousand yard stare. I combined the two because they complimented each other so well. Pearce was a menace and Pattinson was unpredictable and seemed lost in whatever he was doing. They were a treat to watch.

Bryan Cranston in Godzilla – My favorite part of the film that included gigantic monsters kicking the shit out of each other. I cared so much for his character in such a little time. He broke my heart in half on multiple occasions and may I remind you he did it in a film that is about MONSTERS KICKING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER. Cranston is just amazing.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy – The guy can act. The guy can also act with himself. The two Jakes (movie reference) were nearly complete opposites yet Gyllenhaal was able to get it done almost effortlessly. He’s turning into a ridiculously good actor.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Only Lovers Left Alive – Another two that have to be together because they complimented each other so well. I want to hang out with these two and talk about the world so bad. Hiddleston was dark and Swinton was his light. They were a perfect team.

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Favorite scenes/moments (Spoiler free)

The Lego Movie – SPACESHIP!!!!!!!

Godzilla – The Halo Drop. So unnerving with the music and the camera angle.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – The mountain chase in the snow. Just delightful and also hysterical.

Only Lovers Left Alive – Swinton, Hiddleston, and Hurt all drinking their blood. Also, the opening scene was incredible. Perfect song choice with Wendy Jackson.

X-Men : First Class – The Escape. You know what scene I’m talking about. Time Stuck in a Bottle. One of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen.

The Rover/Enemy – The endings.

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Films I saw that didn’t make a list – Night Moves, The Double, Chef, Willow Creek
Film I haven’t seen yet that may have made a list – The Immigrant, Under the Skin, How to Train Your Dragon 2, 22 Jump Street

Film Review : Enemy (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 71%

Directed By – Denis Villeneuve
Starring РJake Gyllenhaal, M̩lanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini

A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

Lately I have been thinking of what up underrated directors do I think are going to be the next big thing in film. Obviously guys like Paul Thomas Anderson and Spike Jonze have been receiving recognition for their work due to their originality and dedication to their work They aren’t pumping out films left and right and what we are ultimately left with is engaging cinema that is going to be talked about for years to come. Denis Villeneuve should be added to that list. He is seriously growing into one of my favorite directors working today. This film just etched it into stone that he is the real deal. While I still haven’t seen his first film “Maelstrom”(I just added to the top of my Netflix queue), I enjoyed “Prisoners” immensely and “Incendies” is one of my favorite films ever. I ended up driving over a half hour to see this is a little indie theater in south eastern New York and it was worth the time and gas mileage. Denis Villeneuve decided that when he was making this film, adapted from the novel “The Double” by Jose Saramago, he decided to make the best David Lynch film since David Lynch’s last film. Look at my profile picture. Do you think I loved the film? Sure did guys. Sure did.

“Enemy” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam, a history professor who gets a movie recommendation one day and after watching it, finds a completely identical person to himself in the film. With some research, Adam finds the man and works up the courage to confront him. That’s all you’re getting guys. The film twists and turns so much while staying eerily still and creepy that any other information about the plot will ruin things Plus, if you’ve read my ramblings you will have learned that I hate giving away plot. Hell, I don’t even like watching trailers anymore due to my interest in holding complete surprise when I enter a theater. This is why you read who made the film ladies and gentlemen and also why you remember their names. I didn’t see the trailer to this but as soon as I heard that Villeneuve had a film out I made time to see it. I ended up being the only person in the theater. The box office attendant told me that everybody has been ripping on the film and that nobody liked it. I told him that those people expected a more polished and cookie cutter film. That is not what you will end up getting. What the film is is a puzzle that only serious pondering will solve. I’m not even bragging. I had to look up the damn meaning of the film after driving a half hour and not getting really anywhere besides a few more obvious mysteries. This is where the David Lynch in this film flourishes. There are a lot of scenes that make little to no sense up front but when you start putting pieces together, those pieces start t look like something recognizable. Even then it can be so abstract that the finished product still will turn people away. That;s okay. The film is definitely not for everybody but I applaud Villeneuve for trying something different and pleasing the shit out of me.

If I were to find some more general appreciation that more people would like, I’d have to go with both color scheme and the acting of Jake Gyllenhaal. I always knew Gyllenhaal was a great actor but he’s really been coming into his own as of late. His role and the last two Villeneuve films have been fantastic and even his work in more mainstream films such as “Source Code” has been good. Playing two characters, Gyllenhaal plays with subtly brilliantly as we really aren’t given any other clues as to who is who besides body language and voice tics. He played both versions of himself great. The other standout is the color scheme. The very bleak and hazy colors that bled into the film were very comforting but also melted with each scene so well. The films score, an eerie and haunting storm of violins and cellos blended with the colors flashing on the screen. The camera work was amazing just as every one of his films has been amazing. I just can’t wait to see another one of his films.

I wish I could discuss more without going into the plot of the film but that would be a disservice as this is really a film to be experience with no prior knowledge. It’s in a very limited release right now and may be hard to find but if you can find one under an hour drive and are fans of films that don’t make a lot of sense but invite the viewing in for serious thought process, then take the drive and see it. The film will certainly give you a one of a kind experience even if you end up not liking it. Shit, the ending alone was one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen and I still have no idea what happened. You won’t be disappointed.

4.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Fight Club, Moon, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, Another Earth