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 : Godzilla (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Gareth Edwards
Starring – Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, and Bryan Cranston

The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

Finally.

I finally got around to seeing this film. It was my umber one most anticipated movie until I found out about “The Rover” and I decided to wait until the crowd died down to see it. Leaving the theater, I felt both satisfied and a bit underwhelmed, but overly glad I saw it. The film was given mostly good reviews but the bad ones seriously bashed the film for being poorly written, slow, and seriously lacking a gigantic creature from which the title gets it name. While all three are true in their own right, there are a lot of good things that happened in this film that left me wanting to see it again one day, and from hating the shit out of it.

Let me get this out of the way first. Bryan Cranston is amazing. He was easily the best part of the entire film and I’m including all the action, all the monsters, all the everything. The fact that he wasn’t in the film for all that much just goes to show how well he did because his character was the only one that I cared about and it wasn’t because of the writing. It was because of him. He gave a heart wrenching and intense performance. We all know how well he played Walter White. Hell, that character may go down as the greatest television character of all time when all said and done, but the man can flat out kill it in other roles. I hope this run of spotlight roles are an open window to him being used in more films because he alone is worth the price of admission. He was the best part of the film.

Besides him, the cast did what they needed to do. Juliette Binoche was in this for three minutes. “Happy Birthday! Okay, bye.” Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen were acceptable in their roles as a young husband and wife and Johnson did well in carrying the action. They needed a Japanese guy in this film and they got the most Japanese guy who we can almost understand in Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins just kind of followed him around. Cranston shined while the others just sort of glistened every once and a while.

The action! The action was pretty fucking awesome. I think I may have been one of the small minority of people to have actually seen (and own) Gareth Edwards first film aptly named “Monsters”, a low budget sci-fi flick with minimal action but gorgeous scenes of destruction. Well, they did a great job in hiring Edwards because I thought he directed the shit out of this. The film looked great. The pivotal scenes of monster on monster action were incredible and while they were few and far in between, delivered when present. I wish we saw a bit more Godzilla but the end justified the mean because the big fucking lizard out on a show for the last 20 minutes or so. I was almost cheering for ol’ lizard brain to crush more things. The evil monsters also had their own cool moments. They kind of reminded me of the bugs from “Starship Troopers” meets the thing from “Cloverfield”. That’s a good thing. They were both awesome. The reason why I was so excited for the film, the Halo jump, exceeded my expectations in being fucking gorgeous, intense, and creepy as shit. I mean, they used the goddamn music from 2001 when the monkeys discovered the monolith. I believe Wendy Carlos did that score but I’m not sure. It was dark and unnerving and a perfect compliment to the jump sequence. It was my favorite action set piece of the film.

There are faults though. The writing was pretty lazy and all over the place. I’ve always hated bringing in children during an action film for a couple reasons. The biggest reason is that you have to find a way for the damn kid to get saved. You think people wouldn’t get scared when a child is about to get killed because they rarely ever do on screen but no, everybody goes “OH NO. SAVE HIM.” It’s unnecessary and just distracting from the actual plot of the film. Unless you’re going to kill the kid and be original for once, leave that scene on the cutting floor. It’s a cheap way to create tension in a film with HUGE FUCKING MONSTERS THAT COULD CREATE TENSION.

There was also a complete lack of logic and results of a monster destroying an entire city. Everybody just kind of gets up afterwards and was like, “shit, a building just fell on me. That sucks.” This was more towards the end of the film but it still ticked me off.

Overall I enjoyed the film. I was into it any time there were monsters or Bryan Cranston on the screen and meh’d by it when there wasn’t. It still was a great sophomore film by Gareth Edwards and I hope he tackles more action movies in the future.

3/5

Suggested Viewing – The Host, Monsters, Pacific Rim