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 : Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

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IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Directed By – Jim Jarmusch
Starring – Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright, and John Hurt

A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of uncontrollable younger sister.

This is not a vampire film. This is a Jim Jarmusch film. These are the words spoken by one of the theater employees at the Landmark Sunshine. He was absolutely correct. It took me a couple weeks to finally get to see this, not because of a distaste of Jarmusch films, but rather a reluctance to see anything vampire related. Once again, I was wrong. The film ended up being about vampires, but only in the way that the two characters just so happened to be vampires. The rest of the film was a slow burning lesson in how to make and immersing hang out film. I loved it.

The film centers around the aptly named Adam and Eve, two vampires who have lived on the earth longer than most countries have around. The adhere to typical vampire myth/lore in which they can’t go out during the day, they are immortal, and they need blood to survive. The problem they face is getting the blood. This is not the same world that they used to live in. There is facebook, youtube, cameras, and police forces that can and will catch them in the act if they used their old way. They have to find their blood in more creative ways and this usually involves a lot of money, money acquired through means I’m not aware of. This seems like a very urgent conflict that would drive the film but it was really only a secondary plot line. The film ended up being a two how Jim Jarmusch dance of style, music, conversation, and light. It’s a complete atmosphere film that relies heavily on the soundtrack to help the painted scenery come alive. The film take place solely at night so every single shot is backed by dark and faded light sources. It perfectly fit the setting of an abandoned and desolate Detroit. I can’t explain enough how much I loved the aesthetic of this film. Jarmusch has always been a talent behind the camera but this may be his finest work yet.

The music, as I said, plays a huge role. Adam is an other worldly musician who has collected priceless items over the years of advancing his craft. He does so however by way of remaining completely recluse in his house so that nobody will catch on to the fact that he’s been alive so long. Anton Yelchin plays Adam’s close friend Ian and person whom he pays to fetch these instruments and whatever else he desires. He doesn’t know who Adam is but admires his genius. Tom Hiddleston was the first of two absolutely perfect casting choices for the leads. He may come off a bit like a hipsters dream of “fuck the system” cynicism but he also is wise beyond any human counterpart and just leaks the kind of coolness only a depressed vampire can give. Usually I frown upon seeing these kind of characters but the way Hiddleston portrayed Adam hooked me in line and sinker just like Adam did with Ian. Tilda Swinton plays Eve, the wife of Adam who travels from her home in Tangier to see her lover. I don’t quite remember why they were apart. They may not have explained it. It may just be the fact that they were lovers for thousands of years and needed some time apart, just like human relationships. Swinton may just be the perfect female vampire. She has that accent to go along with the white face and long hair. I was just amazed by her performance as the older and wiser vampire that understands what her man is going through. John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska also play vampires although their roles are less prominent. Both played their roles beautifully even though I couldn’t stand Wasikowska’s character of Eva, the little sister to Eve.

I’m trying not to go into too many plot details but honestly, there aren’t many details to talk about. It’s a total slow burn that is both captivating in terms of writing and mesmerizing in terms of aesthetics. It’s a film that may be boring to some but for people who love Jim Jarmusch’s films, it’s a pleasure film all the way. I can’t recommend it enough and while I’m not giving it a perfect rating, mostly due to my dislike of one of the characters, it’s probably Jarmusch’s best film to date and probably my favorite film of the year so far. Try to see it in theaters if you can.

4.5/5

Related – Anything Jim Jarmusch…anything