Movie Reviews

Paul’s Best Of 2014

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Another year of film has come to an end, and it was a year that continually impressed me. From the beginning, there were films that showed boundless creativity, to ones with stellar effects and dripping with atmosphere. Movies that touched on social issues in our world without over doing it, and ones that spoke to the simple aspects of life.

I would say that 2014 is comparable to 2013, with many of the same pros and cons, but that 2014 saw those aspects amplified. The good things in 2013 got even better, but the bad ones got even worse. But since I said that 2013 was still a good year for films, I firmly believe that 2014 was a great year for cinema.

As such, let’s take a look at the best (and worst) films of 2014 and give ourselves a little reminder to all the movies that made us laugh, cry, imagine and whimper in fear. However, unlike last year where I simply announced the best film, there were just too many great films this year to choose from, so at the end of this blog post, I’ll be counting my top five films of the year.

Let’s get started with…

Biggest Surprise – “Captain America: The Winter Solider”

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Going into this film, I did not expect a lot. I thought there would be espionage, some cool hand-to-hand fight sequences and lots of Scarlett Johansson. While all of that was there, what we also got was the smartest superhero film since “The Dark Knight.” A film where every character has shades of gray and by the end you are unsure what to make of both the heroes and villains. The terms “good” and “evil” are irrelevant, and only “right” and “wrong” remain.

Most Technologically Impressive “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”

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This category was a hard one, since there were so many films that looked amazing through their scope and use of camera techniques. “Interstellar,” “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” “The Lego Movie” and so many others blew me away with their visuals. But, if I had to pick one, it would be “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” one of the more overlooked films of 2014. In this film, every single ape has its own  movements. Then you remember there are over 200 different apes in this film. All done with CG. Combine this with another one-of-a-kind performance from Andy Serkis, and you’ve got a “Planet Of The Apes” film that almost reach the level of the original 1968 classic. Almost.

Most Fun In The Theaters – “Godzilla”

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Admit it. Everyone saw this coming.

Though there were plenty of entertaining and cool films this year, especially from Marvel, nothing can compete with my excitement and expectations of Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla.” I had waited ten years for this film, and it did not disappoint. The size and scope of Godzilla was bigger than ever before, the effects for the monsters destroying cities looked impressive and we finally got the Godzilla that fans have waited for a long time to see. My only disappointment is that the acting from Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olson could have been more convincing, which would have made their scenes even more heart-pounding than they already were.

Sleep Inducer – “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies”

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What was the point of this film anyway?

It is sad that a film as epic as a tale from Middle Earth could be so boring and uncaring. Part of this problem stems from the fact that all the character development and motivation was in the first two films of this trilogy, leaving “Battle Of The Five Armies” with nothing to go on. The film is practically running on fumes by the end of the first act. As such, there is no reason to give a damn about anything that happens. Characters are dying left and right, but I couldn’t care less, because I don’t even know half of their names, let alone their character traits.

Film I Need To Watch Again- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

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I’ll give Wes Andersen this, he knows how to make a film that needs to be watched multiple times, but you don’t mind watching multiple times. I have now watched “The Grand Budapest Hotel” twice, and I still do not feel like I fully understand it. To me, it is just another Wes Andersen film like all of his others. That is not a bad thing, but it didn’t do much to grab my attention. It could be that I just do not get it and need to see it again. We will see.

Funniest Film Of 2014- “Guardians Of The Galaxy”

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Like I’ve said many times over the last year, comedies nowadays suck. Even though 2014 did give us some decent comedies in “Top Five” and the previously mentioned “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” none of them were uproarious laughter. The film that consistently made me laugh this year was “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” From the witty and pop culture-fueled Star Lord, to Drax taking everything seriously, to Rocket and his general attitude of not caring about anything but himself, to Groot being…Groot. Lots to laugh and enjoy about this one. One of the better blockbusters of 2014.

Biggest Disappointment- “The Boxtrolls”

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For a film made by the same people as “Coraline” and “Paranorman,” this one was unnecessarily mean-spirited and hateful. It certainly had some neat animations when it came to the Boxtrolls, but the characters were either unimaginative, poorly written and so strange that seemed out-of-place. By the end of it, I was more disappointed at myself for falling for all that than I was at the movie.

Most Forgettable- “The Judge”

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Did this movie even happen? I forgot.

Perhaps it was because I saw it on the same day as “Gone Girl,” but “The Judge” had nothing going for it. The story was predictable, the characters were cliché and bland, and there was nothing to grab my attention. The conflict between Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall is so forced and hammered in that you just roll your eyes at every scene. And of course, it began my least favorite part of 2014 – keeping character motivation and backgrounds hidden until the last ten minutes of the film. This trend needs to go away, or else we are bound to get some terrible stories.

Most Overrated- “Interstellar”

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It was a tough choice between “Interstellar” and “Selma” for this one, but in the end, Christopher Nolan’s ego-trip won against the Civil Rights story that we’ve all heard many times. As I’ve mentioned before, “Interstellar” does have some breath-taking visuals and make it worth watching, but the story is unnecessarily convoluted, forced and pretentious.

Believe me, I hate to use the word “pretentious” on anything, since it has air of smug and know-it-all. But that word and “Interstellar” seem to go together. It thinks way too highly of itself, like it is telling the most epic story ever created, when it is just like any other science-fiction movie. Christopher Nolan’s finger prints are all over this film and that takes something away from it.

Most Underrated- “Big Eyes”

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Early on in 2014, I talked about Hayao Miyazaki’s last film “The Wind Rises” and how it not only encapsulates the feelings of its main character, but Miyazaki’s dreams as well. Of a man who had no limitations on his creativity and imagination, no boundaries to speak of and always tried his best to make something that he could be proud of.

I bring this up because “Big Eyes” and its’ director Tim Burton work in a similar way. The film depicts a woman who, despite all odds, saw the need to paint in the eyes of people and brought those paintings to the masses. She sees the inner beauty of people, or some cases the ugliness. Burton does the same with his work, as he makes his adaptations into his own ideas. They may not always work, but that is the beauty of being an artist – sometimes you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. No one knows that better than Tim Burton.

Best Performances Of 2014- *TIE* Anything by Jennifer Lawrence and Christoph Waltz

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I am now convinced that both of these wonderful people can do no wrong. Both of these actors were in two movies that I saw this year, “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” for Lawrence, and “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Big Eyes” for Waltz. In all cases, Lawrence and Waltz were the highlight of all four films. The charisma of Waltz and the intensity of Lawrence have become eye-popping and worth the price of admission. It is impossible for me to choose between these two, so it is only fair that they share this spot.

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Best Rediscovery Of 2014- “Fargo”

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Like last year with “The Lady Eve,” there were a few films this year that I had watched before, but gained an all new respect for all of a sudden. In 2014, that film was “Fargo,” which I am now convinced is the best Coen Brothers film. After watching the unnecessarily depressing “Inside Llewyn Davis,” I realized that the Coens are at their best when they have an overly optimistic and positive outlook on life in their dark worlds. No one does that better than Margie Gunderson in “Fargo.” If it weren’t for her, there would be very few redeeming qualities to that film. She makes the struggle of our pathetic and stupid characters worth following, as we see her have this happy and content life with a loving husband and a baby on the way. One of my favorite films today and a good one to pop in at any time.

Most Anticipated Film Of 2015- “Inside Out”

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2015 promises to be a big year for the blockbuster. The second entry for the Avengers, the return of the Terminator, Mad Max and Jurassic Park, the end of Katniss, and of course, “Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens.” So, since there is no new Godzilla film coming out, what is the movie that I’m looking forward to above all others? I have to go with Pixar’s most imaginative film since “WALL-E.”

One of my disappointments with 2014 was that there was no new Pixar movies. Luckily, we’ll be getting two new ones in 2015, including one about the emotions of a girl and conflict going on inside of her head. Simple premise, but it could lead to so many creative and thought-provoking scenarios in a long time. You can bet that I’ll be in the theater opening night to see “Inside Out.”

Worst Film Of 2014- “St. Vincent”

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If this film was not making me roll my eyes at the cliché and predictable story, it was making me groan in frustration at how poorly written these characters were. “St. Vincent” is unfunny, mean-spirited, poorly paced and subscribes to the idea that you should save character development until the audience is getting ready to leave. Even Bill Murray couldn’t save this film, because he is not given any room to do his improv or add his own spice to the role. “St. Vincent” is an ugly movie only makes me feel dirty for watching it.

And now, we arrive at my top five films of 2014. Even though I still given five spots, it was still and difficult process to narrow it down to just five films. I’d like to give some honorable mentions to “Wild,” “American Sniper,” “Big Eyes” and “Life Itself” for being so close to making it on this list and still be wonderfully thought-provoking and entertaining films.

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5. “Boyhood”

It took me a while to decide if “Boyhood” would make this list or not. I was unsure of how I really felt about the film and whether I actually liked Mason as a character. But in the end, I decided that I love Mason as a character, but I do not like him as a person. Since we see Mason become his own man over the course of twelve years, we can safely say that we know the inner workings of this guy. As such, I can at least respect Mason, but that he is still unlikable and boring at times.

Much like “Gravity” and “12 Years A Slave” last year, I respect “Boyhood” more than anything else. And because of that respect, it certainly earns a spot on my list of the best films of the year. No other film has done what “Boyhood” did and will probably never be attempted again.

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4. “The Lego Movie”

I’ve probably talked more about this movie than any other one this year, but this needs to be stated – I have never seen a movie like “The Lego Movie.”

I don’t mean just a movie where everything is made out of Legos, but how each world of Legos operates, how the pieces of each construction can be broken down and recreated into something else, how it able to combine the aspects of some of the greatest stories ever made and still be its own unique story from the mind of a child. Throw in a wonderful sense of humor, some good voice acting and surprisingly adult twist and you have one of the most imaginative and fun movies that I have seen in a long time.

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3. “Gone Girl”

Aside from this being an effective mystery that can be watched multiple times without getting tiresome, “Gone Girl” works at being an emotional rollercoaster, where your feelings on the main characters can change on a whim. Sometimes you’ll be sympathetic to Ben Affleck, but other times you’ll hate him for being a scumbag and then there are times where you’re convinced that he killed his wife. For a film to be able to pull that off, and for to do it without even realizing it, is a massive achievement in dramatic storytelling and pacing.

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2. “Birdman”

For a while, I had “Gone Girl” ahead of “Birdman,” but the more that I thought about the dialogue, the camera movement and the tragically optimistic character of Riggin Thomson, the more I realized just how amazing and profound “Birdman” is. The visual style is unique and fits the theatre theme, each character is like-abley pathetic and it leaves you wanting more. Out of the many smart movies in 2014, this one was the prodigy of the group.

And The Best Movie Of 2014 is…

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“Nightcrawler”

Certainly the creepiest movie of the year, but the creepiness works in perfectly to Jack Gyllenhaal’s performance and the unnerving business of breaking news. It goes beyond dog-eat-dog and becomes a dark place where the lowest scumbags will film your death to sell to the highest bidding news station. On top of that, you have a character like Louis Bloom, who lives in his own little world where people are expendable products and only the dominant and work-driven survive. In a world where the media consistently goes by the “If it bleeds, it leads” slogan, “Nightcrawler” is the most relevant movie of the year.

And this brings us to the end of 2014. I have to admit this has been one of the better years for film in some time and it has been a joy to share all these wonderful movies with you. I hope you have enjoyed my experience and thoughts throughout and I hope that 2015 will bring us even more great work.

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