Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Top 10 Movies of 2014

2014 was such an incredible year for movies that I had a hard time limiting my list to just 10. But I've done my best. As in previous years, I'll start at number 10 and work my way to number one, giving some brief thoughts on each.

10. Birdman
  • A well made, ambitious movie made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Mirroring his own career, Michael Keaton gives an award worthy performance as Riggan Thomas, a washed up actor best known for playing a superhero 20 years ago. He's trying to make a comeback by directing, writing, and acting in a Broadway play. Made to look like it was entirely filmed in one long take.
9. Chef
  • A sweet, charming little movie starring Jon Favreau (who also directed) as a chef who is fired from his fancy restaurant job. At his ex wife's suggestion, he starts up a food truck and takes it around the country in an effort to regain his passion for cooking. Along the way he reconnects with his young son. Due to the massive amounts of food porn, I strongly suggest you don't watch this on an empty stomach.
8. Gone Girl
  • One of the best thrillers I've seen in years! Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunn, a husband whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike, who I hope will be nominated for Best Actress) disappears under mysterious circumstances. Is Nick guilty or innocent? Director David Fincher makes you think it could go either way, with an ending that you'll never see coming.
7. Interstellar
  • Being such a huge Christopher Nolan fan, it should come as no surprise that Interstellar is on my list. The movie is visually stunning yes, but what I loved the most is at the heart of it is this beautiful story about the relationship between a father and daughter.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Once again Marvel hits it out of the park with this really fun space opera. Who would've thought that a movie featuring a talking raccoon could actually work? Let alone be the highest grossing (domestic) movie of the year so far.
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Probably my favorite Marvel movie since The Avengers. Not only is there some great action sequences, but a well written story as well. I can't wait to see where they go next with this. The reason I'm ranking this higher than Guardians of the Galaxy is because I felt this movie had a much stronger villain.
4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Just give Andy Serkis a damn Oscar already! He as well as the other actors performing with the help of motion capture do an incredible job bringing the apes to life. Featuring some groundbreaking special effects as well as an emotional story, this movie has something for everyone.
3. Mockingjay: Part One
  •  While very different from the first two movies, Mockingjay: Part One is still a well made movie that gives you glimpses of the rebellion and a lot of political talk. Does a nice job of setting things up for Part Two. Featuring some emotional, realistic performances by the entire cast.
2. The Imitation Game
  • Another incredible movie that I saw at the film festival this year. Based on the true story of Alan Turning, a genius mathematician who in World War 2 was able to crack the German Enigma code. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a powerful performance as Turning. He really puts so much effort into his role, right down to his mannerisms. He's definitely my top pic for Best Actor this year. But that's a topic for another post.
1. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • It was a close call between this and The Imitation Game. Because I'm such a huge LOTR/Hobbit fan, I just had to put this final film in the trilogy (and sadly the last Middle Earth movie we'll probably ever see) at number one. Kept me on the edge of my seat with its jaw dropping battle sequences and also had me sobbing at times it was so emotional. Well done Peter Jackson!

Honorable Mentions:
Because there were so many great movies this year, here are a few that didn't quite make my list. Not because I didn't like them as much, I just simply ran out of room.
  • The Fault In Our Stars
  • Wild
  • Foxcatcher
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • The Lego Movie

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (IMAX 3D)

It's really no surprise that the final installment of The Hobbit Trilogy was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. It's so sad to see this movie come to an end, especially since it looks like this will be the last time we ever see Middle Earth. Despite what some critics are saying, I thought The Battle of the Five Armies was amazing.

The movie takes place minutes after the events of Desolation of Smaug. Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) has attacked Laketown and is eventually defeated. But problems for Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Thorin (Richard Armitage) and company are far from over as an army of Orcs and Wargs make their way towards Erebor. This leads to an all out war where Dwarfs, Humans, and Elves must work together to defeat them.

Director Peter Jackson once again does a great job here. But boy does he like to fuck with people's emotions. Luckily I remembered to bring tissues this time. Boy did I need them. I guess I just get too attached to fictional characters. I apologize to anyone who happened to be in the same theater as me and could hear me sobbing uncontrollably. I tried to be as quiet about it as I could.

Battle of the Five Armies is easily the best of the three. It's pretty much non stop action but there's also a lot of heart. The movie is nearly two and a half hours long (which is short for a Middle Earth movie) but the time seemed to fly by with some of the most jaw dropping battle sequences I've seen in years.

The cast that they put together was incredible. There's Martin Freeman of course. He makes a perfect Bilbo. There's scenes (one in particular) where his character just breaks down emotionally and boy does he pull it off. Some actors might've played this way over the top but he didn't. It was very genuine and heartfelt.

For me, the actor who stood out the most was Richard Armitage. For a good part of the movie you watch Thorin as he descends into madness due to the "dragon sickness". He's not a nice guy. In fact, he's an asshole at points. But at the same time you kind of feel sorry for him and can understand how he got to be this way.

I can't write this review without talking about one of my favorite characters- Kili (played by the very charming Aidan Turner). I know I'm probably in the minority, but I loved his subplot with Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Was it necessary? No. But I still thought it was sweet and the two of them had good chemistry.

If you do decide to go see this, I highly recommend the IMAX 3D version. You feel like you're right there on the battlefield. The 3D was actually decent. It wasn't the in your face, things flying out at you kind of 3D but instead it was more subtle. It was also nice to see them get the whole higher frame rate thing right this time. It didn't bother my eyes at all they way it did with the second movie. Maybe I'm just getting use to it.

I really, REALLY wanted to give this movie a perfect rating. The only thing that's stopping me is the fact that Peter Jackson decided to completely change a major scene towards the end. I had a feeling he would so I'm not surprised. I'm not saying I didn't like the scene. I'm far from being a book purist. I understand any time you turn a book into a movie there's going to be some changes. But this was one moment that I felt should've been left the way it was written.

Overall, there's something in this movie for everyone. Thank you Peter Jackson for making six incredible movies which I will watch and remember for years to come.

My Rating: 9.5/10