Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Subjective List of My Favorite Films Of 2014

Here we are again, the end of the year. 2014 brought us a lot of great movies this year to the point were it is impossible to even do a Top 10 list for these movies. I was really having a hard time doing the list in the traditional Top 10 order and so i decided to break the rules and do a "Top 20".

I'd like to get one thing out of te way like "where is Birdman? Theory of Everything? And all those other 'Oscar worthy' movies?" Some didn't really stick to the schedule and never got a wide release here in the Philippines, they don't come out 'till the first quarter of 2015 (making a 2015 release) or never to be released at all. Also i missed some local festival movies as well that could count as 2014 releases (Norte, Ang Nawawala, the Thing Called Tadhana, to name a few), oh! And i missed Interstellar on theaters.

Secondly, This is MY list, a subjective list of favorites if you will; i am not proclaiming on top of a mountain that these are the greatest movies of this year because i declare them to be. If you disagree with my choices feel free to do a list of your own, with that said let's get to the list

 20. Begin Again (4.5/5)

I'm a sucker for a movie with great music and not only did this movie feature some it also got a great story about - well... Starting over or for the lack of a better phrase  "Beginning Again" (the first phrase is better but not doing that would be a missed opportunity). At first, I thought this was a romantic movie but it kinda-sorta wasn't in the long run, it is simply having the characters trying to move on from their pain in the past and become successful out of it.  I was quite fond of the movie's commentary towards the music industry and music itself these days and it does put a smile on my face when they do make a point about music's current predicament (feel free to call me a hipster). Both Knightley and Ruffallo were charming troughout the movie and it was A joy to see them succeed by the end of the movie. I was even surprised how Adam Levigne performed well in this movie (musicians turned actors Tend to be a gamble). The movie has all  the best ingredients for a feel good movie and it is definitely the feel-good movie of the year.

19. Chef (5/5)

I've always thought that Jon Favreu needed a break after his sub-par Iron Man sequel and the ever forgettable Cowboys and Aliens. Chef was definitely his best work yet; i came into this movie without an idea of what it is other than the fact that it is after all "a good movie". At first i thought it was just a redemption type of quest but it is more than that it is  about this man who was stripped of his pride and have him not only redeem himself as a chef but also reconnect with his family. It's the best family movie you can have out of a concept like this (if you ignore the f-bombs and the slurs). The story they set out for the movie is heartfelt and the way it was executed was brilliant. I came in the movie with an empty stomach, and i left the movie satisfied hungry for more movies from Jon Favreu (and a roas beef sandwich because this movie got mre really hungry for a good sandwich)

18. Snowpiercer (4.5/5)

Snowpiercer is another one of these movies where i gave it a blind watch after hearing good "word of mouth" from different people locally and boy i sure was surprised from te best things this movie has to offer. So what is this movie all about? This is like The Hunger Games-dystopian like future (minus the ridiculous get up the rich people are wearing) except it skips the games and moves on to the revolution. Only this movie is in a train (which is a well realized world by the way) and this film does make the Hunger Games look like a Disney movie due to its grit, badass action, and hard violence

The film deserves more than one watch; The movie does challenge its audience in a way that it gives you a chance to unravel the movie's subtle themes and hidden gems sprinkled in throughout the movie. This movie even establishes Chris Evans as an "actor" and less of the rom-com yuppy or the action hero people think that he is. He plays a protagonist in this movie that we have never seen him do before, and it doesn't involve him making jokes or even so waving flags (more on guns and torches). In fact every character in this movie is portrayed more as people you would question about their humanity than being walking stereotypes like most dystopian movies do these days. There's a trend of dystopian movies these days and Snowpiercer is definitely one of the best dystopian movies out there right now.

17. The Raid 2: Berandal (4/5) 

How can you top a movie like the first raid film? Gareth Evans did so by expanding everything outside that building in the previous film. The film takes place in the crime itself in different places of Indonesia, the action set pieces are bigger than ever, and the story focuses on more than one character. Although the story is great by focusing on a different character they try to push it  waaayyy too much to the point where the movie became convoluted (which is why the movie is low on my list) but other than that the movie is still successful and i was entertained by the movie especially in the action scenes (Iko Uwais is a superhuman) that looks like a work of art.

16. Big Hero 6 (4.5/5)

I know it is low on my list but hear me out. Big Hero 6 is definitely one of Disney's best and they are on a roll for the past 4 years as they return to form to the Disney we know in its renaissance. The film features a magnificent and well thought out world, some memorable characters but most of all a coming of age story with some really heavy stuff with a heartfelt and lighthearted tones. Truly this movie is handled with the best care and does set a promising future for Disney's future Marvel animation adaptation projects (make runaways please).

15. X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/5)

This is the movie that brought the X-Men franchise back on track since The franchise was in an 8-year long timeline clusterfuck due to creative differences in each movie. Director, Bryan Singer returns to start over the franchise with a clean slate. With a little help from his varsity team of mutants and Vaughn's team of freshed faced rookies (first class) they were able to make the best entry in the franchise by right-ing the wrongs of the past for a promising future. As the movie ended there was a sigh of relief from the fanbase knowing that it is in good hands once again, although i was too busy crying tears of joy because Cyclops is back from the dead.

14. The Lego Movie (5/5) and 22 Jumpstreet (5/5)

Phil Lord & Chris Miller are on a roll this year with 22 Jumpstreet and now The Lego Movie. It seems that they have the midas touch when it comes to bad ideas. I tied both movies because they follow the case of turning bad ideas into gold. 

take for example, the Lego Movie - I mean who would've thought that a movie about Legos would make a good movie? they did and this movie was as fun as playing with Legos. The film is so cleverly built with Lego-isms as you are watching this movie through the child's eyes on how he brought an adventure together with a story that is done to death in kids movies (this movie is the matrix for kids if you think about it). But what really set this movie apart was the twist in the end that caught me off guard that truly sets a very emotional ending in a movie about Legos. Truly Everything is Awesome about this movie. 

There wasn't one comedy like 22 Jumpstreet where i had a great theater experience; an experience where i was gut bustingly laughing every time a joke hits (and all of them do hit in that half an hour theater experience). The creative team of the first movie, Phil Lord & Chris Miller once again outdid themselves in this one; they continue to make fun of the buddy cop franchises but this time they take "sequels" as their subject matter on how they never seem to top the previous film because all they did is do the same thing the first one was successful for. The film has enough things to make a movie fail for doing so but instead they made bad ideas work like they did in the last movie. They really did do the same thing but with its own twists and does in fact make good jokes for it. After seeing this i wouldn't mind seeing 9 more installments along with a video game and some toys. Also can we get more stuff where Ice Cube is just flipping out for more than 5 minutes? That would be great!

13. Edge of Tomorrow (5/5)

I was one of those people who thought that this will be another Tom Cruise film that would be forgotten in Oblivion (pun intended) but it turns out to be better than that.   This is the movie that i didn't see Tom Cruise as himself but i see a schmuck who turned into an action hero, Emily Blunt wasn't a walking barbie doll instead she genuinely played a badass chick. They spared no expense when it comes to using the respawn tool, they really learn from it and they do show you how they got better in each repeat. This was the one movie of the year where i didn't mind having repeat viewings. I mean really, who would've thought that they would make such a badass action movie out of the plot device of Groundhog Day?

12. Rurouni Kenshin: The Great Kyoto Fire Arc (4/5) 

The first Rurouni Kenshin was proof that there would be great live action anime adaptations when given to the right hands. Director Keishi Ohtomo has  done it once again with two new back to back installments. I know i'm cheating again but the movie is better off looked at as a whole. The highlights of the two movies are what made the first one so iconic and it is the fight scenes, and goodness gracious! The fight scenes in this movie are amazing as they outstage each sequence to another. 

One can admire Ohtomo's dedication to delivering an adaptation that is true to the source material and the Shishio arc does have a lot of ground to cover. The movie does feel longer than it sets out to be  which isn't a bad thing because this movie does try its best to cram in large chunks of material for the movie. And with great chunks of material comes a lot of characters and we do get some great performances as always from the returning cast and new characters. Though with so much material to be explored bythe main characters the timing has to he sacrificed for the rest of the Juppongatana. It is a shame that we won't be getting anymore stuff. I understand that it had to end there but can we atleast get a prequel arc?

11. Enemy (5/5) & Under The Skin (5/5) - Another Tie

Both of these films does what it was set out to be and that they challenge their audiences (their audience be people who stumbled upon this movie or arthouse fanatics). In my experiences of watching both films i didn't know where the film will take me and that's probably because both directors of both films had their own unique style and didn't necessarily follow the traditional film structure which is a good thing because that's where the  challenging part come in. I found myself being glue to whatever is happening on screen because there is something going on tat is either intriguingly bizarre or simply waiting for te big reveal. There are details both big and small that deserves a second look, something to be analayzed. I think i should stop here since i can't really drop anymore details about this movie. Both films should be experienced through a blind watch, be surprised by the film's progression, and grasp for answers.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy (5/5) 

This is the movie that convinced me that Marvel can do anything at this point. In this movie they were able to make a comic book material that not a lot of people have heard about into a cultural phenomenon. This could even be the Star Wars of our generation if we didn't get a new trilogy next year.

They have enough bad ideas for this movie to not work but they ended up doing the opposite. This movie has so many obvious plot holes but i was sitting there not minding it. This is Marvel "not giving a f**k" and it still made out to be an entertaining superhero team movie out of it. Truly This movie is an awesome mix of comedy, adventure, and a space opera.

9. The Babadook (10/5)

I was staying away from all of the horror movies this year not because i'm scared of them but because they never seem to intrigue me anymore. I mean really who would want to see another found footage film with cheap scares? But it was Aussie director, Jennifer Kent's debut horror film "The Babadook" that genuinely terrified me and i haven't beenthis terriefied since The Ring or The Grudge. The film deals with a rare case where i actually care for both of the human characters involved in this horrible haunting, even if the main kid of the movie is a little s**t. The performances of Essie Davis and Noah Whiteman really does help the movie in this psychological thriller.

8. How To Train Your Dragon 2 (10/5)

I love Big Hero 6 as much as the next guy but i still think that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the superior coming of age animated film this year. The first film surprised me and i was ready to tear that movie apart of how cliche it looked from the trailers. It has been a long time since we have seen Hiccup and Toothless on the big screen (reminder the last movie came out 4 years ago), and Dreamworks really took their time with this movie. You can tell by the quality of the animation in this film and I just adored the animation in this movie alone. it is the best animation i've seen Dreamworks do, making the action exhilirating (the 4DX ticket was worth it) and everything look like a piece of art.

How is this better than BH6 when they are both following the same concept? Well here's the thing, BH6 did have some heavy parts but they didn't execute it like this one. This new installment pits Hiccup and Toothless against maturity's heavy hitters with those hitters being taking great responsibility and facing a terrible loss. I was surprised on how dark the movie got towards the film's latter half. I dubbed this movie as "Dreamworks' Lion King" just by how they explored the film's heaviest themes in coming of age films effectively. Dan Deblois took the franchise to a more mature direction and i cannot wait for future installments.

7. Nightcrawler (5/5)

Leave it to Dan Gilroy to give us a dark and riveting social commentary about our media and have Jake Gyllenhaal to star as a creep have him be in the darkest places of L.A..
Though it is a quite disturbing once you really get into this movie, and Jake Gyllenhaal's haunting transformation does get under your skin as his performance captures the film's dark undertones. Gyllenhaal has been on a role lately with last year's "Prisoners" and the recently released "Enemy".  This is definitely one of his best performances yet and brilliant debut by Director, Dan Gilroy. 

6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (5/5)

This is the year where Marvel Studios was thinking out of the box for their movies. You would think that Marvel would only make movies with superheroes doing superhero-y things but Marvel took a superhero movie to te next level with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

They did so by baton switching genres from a WW2 superhero film to a political thriller in its newest entry. The film explores our modern society through Cap's eyes who is dubbed to be "The Man out of Time" played once again by the charismatic Chris Evans, as he unravels the vicious secerets behind our government and SHIELD itself with no one left to trust but himself, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow (who continues to prove that she is one of the best female superhero of the franchise), and newcomer, Anthony Mackie as Falcon. Of course i wouldn't forget about Sebastian Stan's menacing performance as the Winter Soldier and Robert Redford. Who would've thought that you would make such an intriguing spy movie with a superhero like Captain America? With action scenes that really packs a punch! (The fight scenes are almost Raid level choreography) The Russo Brothers did and they only made episodes of Community from the past. It was a joy to see one of Brubaker's story arc come to life with an even better plot in mind. This is not only Marvel's best film but also a game-changer as it opens more doors of possibilities in Marvel's ever expanding cinematic universe.

5. Boyhood (10/5)

A movie about growing up that is ultimately driven by emotion an honesty is quite a difficult chore to do on-screen. And that's why it took 12 years for director, Richard Linklater to pull one off flawlessly with his passion project, "Boyhood". 

this is the kind of vision i imagined that someone will see as they draw their last breath in the world. Their lives flashing right before their eyes as it highlights the biggest and smallest moments of one's life. Moments that could count as the essential events that helps them in their growth and development. It sounds sappy by te way i put it but  Linklater directed the movie that way and does capture that very well as he filmed this family for the past 12 years. 

4. Gone Girl (10/5)

David Fincher is on a roll following after his greatist hits such as "The Social Network" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". It's another homerun with his newest work, "Gone Girl" as he adapts Gillian Flynn's highly-acclaimed novel into a dark, twisted, and oddly enough funny thriller that focuses on a pair of newly weds that didn't end happily ever after for the both of them.

The film is packed with brilliant performances and Ben Affleck is no stranger to that. But the film's greatest performer is Rosamund Pike, withought giving anything away i could just say that with her playing the role of a lifetime. The big prize wouldn't be far from her reach with a performance that great.

The reason why i couldn't give anything away is because i experienced this movie by a blind watch. I didn't bother reading the book, watch any clips or trailers, or even listen or read the raves for the film. I only went into this movie by Fincher's name alone, it sounded like a dumb view to watch a movie but it's not like Fincher could do wrong with his films (i understand that he did Aliens 3 but he didn't even want to put his name there in the first place due to "corporate problems"). And of course he did prove that he can dk no wrong yet again with Gone Girl.

You could just imagine my reactions to the biggest twist the film had to offer. In te end, it's another thing to add to your must-see movie list that deserves your money.

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (10/5)

Wes Anderson returns with a big cast of recurring Anderson-ian actors and new actors to the family for another quirky adventure in a small, colorful and, lively countryside of Europe. The Grand Budapest Hotel, is a caper that doesn't leave its (metaphorical) four walls despite the big things happening in the outside world as it is in the brink of the second world war. It ignores those events and instead the movie celebrates a story of friendship and loyalty between its two characters, Gustave H and Zero. With Ralph Fiennes doing the best comedic performance as te charming and charismatic Gustave H

The film has Wes Anderson's style sprinkled through the movie whether it is the film's attention to detail, the upbeat performances, or the rainbow color pallets. Wes Anderson made an exciting and hilarious tribute to vintage cinema and he is the star of the film.

2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the prime example of what a remake should be all thanks to Rupert Wyatt's direction. But when it was announced that he left the film, i was afraid of what will happen to the sequel without the man who started it all. And Matt Reeves stepped up with a pitch for the sequel that brings the Apes front and center, with a lot of excellent material to work with.

He made a riveting tale about the struggles of obtaining peace when you have factors such as pride, and prejudice between the two factions. It was great to see characters that are more in the grey area than they are going by the numbers. The film yet again features the best motion capture performance not only by the great Andy Serkis as Caesar but also from Toby Kebbell as Koba. Will they be nominated for it? It's a longshot but one can hope that they will get the recognition they deserve just based on their performances.

Big budget blockbusters these days rely more on building their own failed cinematic universes but secluding a movie with setups for future films. This does setup future films but it didn't come in until the last half of te film instead it has this beginning-middle-end structure that progresses perfectly. Matt Reeves is definitely the best choice to direct this film and he did wind up surprising me. I cannot wait for the third film, in fact if they are making more than 3 more films then i wouldn't mind seeing more of these movies.

- now for the best film of the year -

- drum roll please -

*there's a reason why i'm drum rollig here*

1. Whiplash

This is the best movie of the year for me because it is a perfectly orchestrated film that does hit the right notes. It has engaging characters played by actors with electrifying performances mainly by JK Simmons and Miles Teller.

The concept of this movie is very much so follows a teacher-student relationship trope that you may have seen in movies before such as Dangerous Minds or Dead Poets Society, but in the case of Damien Chazelle's masterwork he pits the student with a teacher that acts like Ronald Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket. The film is ultimately about working hard to achieve your dreams and how far you will go to achieve it. You can see the serious dedication in Teller's performance as he deals with his angry teacher with bloody knuckles at the end of the day. I am glad to see Miles Teller in another serious role outside of the party animal identity he honed in his early career. Here he continues to prove that he is a rising star that can play serious roles like this flawlessly. Simmons on the other hand is the best part of the movie as he goes full metal on his similar performance in his past role as JJ Jameson in the oriinal Spider-Man movies. I can totally see academy nominations for both actors but i believe JK Simmons will be the one taking home the Best Supporting Actor award.

It was enjoyable to see the back and forth between Teller and Simmons, as Simmons pushes Teller's character in his breaking point physically and emotionally. The film's final scene was astounding, and i was awestrucked. I left the film just thinking about the film's finale alone and to be honest i even applaused. It is a shame that this film's release got
Minimized due to te fact that not a lot  of people are noticing the film. the film definitely deserves the praises it gets and of course a standing ovation. 

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