My Best/Favorite Movies of the Year 2014

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!!

 

There were some good movies and films that came out this year, and then there were movies and films that I highly enjoyed that made the list too. The list really ranges all over the place, so you’ll see a wide array of titles. But, of course, this is my list and my opinion so your list might be different and obviously it is okay.

 

The list will have the movies in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because it would be really tough.

 

Movies That I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

Wild

The Theory of Everything

Inherent Vice & American Sniper (although it was only a limited release around here)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Joe

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Bad Words

Under the Skin

Cold in July

Life Itself

Wish I Was Here

Magic in the Moonlight

Frank

Starred Up

The Skeleton Twins

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Tusk

Kill the Messenger

The Judge

Laggies

Horns

Rosewater

The Babadook

Stretch

Unbroken

 

(To watch a video form of the list, you can go here: )

 

Just Missed The List:

A Most Wanted Man: I love movies that keep me thinking until the end. A Most Wanted Man had elements of that but it was also of the great performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, and Willem Dafoe. It was odd to hear all of them put on German accents but that’s just being nitpicky right?

 

Boyhood: Don’t get me wrong, Richard Linklater’s twelve-year film following a boy from childhood to adulthood was a great experiment to see unfold. The movie had some great things in it but at the end of year, against some of the other movies that I’ve seen; I had to barely leave it off the list.

 

Nightcrawler: While Jake Gyllenhaal gave one of the best performance’s I’ve ever seen him do and his character is so complex in a compelling and frightening way, Nightcrawler was a mixed bag and while there are gaps of great scenes and what seems like unnecessary filler.

 

The Drop: While the film was filled with strong performances all around (Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Matthis Schoenaerts, and the late James Gandolfini in his last finished role), the film compared to the others is just a tad bit under the others.

 

The Rover: David Michod’s not really apocalyptic story has Guy Pearce playing a loner gets his car stolen and is eventually left with one of the thieves’ brother (Robert Pattinson) and goes after them. That’s about it for the movie. After that there really isn’t a plot and you’ll mostly catch things on second watch, but performances by Pearce and surprisingly Pattinson makes the movie watchable the first time around.

 

Whiplash: Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons gave great performances in the drama where a young man tries to become a great jazz drummer and meets his match with a well known instructor that pushes him to his limits. Again, the performances make the film worthwhile and the last performance of the movie is what the film really builds up to, but Whiplash does have some moments and decisions that made me question it.

 

Honorable Mentions

300: Rise of an Empire

Birdman

Edge of Tomorrow

Foxcatcher

Her

John Wick

Lone Survivor

The Book of Life

The Guest

The Purge: Anarchy

This Is Where I Leave You

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 

Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Begin Again

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I hardly knew anything, if at all, about Begin Again before I saw the trailer and final film. I was completely surprised and floored by how good the film was and the original soundtrack they made for it was fantastic.

 

Big Hero 6

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Disney’s first Marvel animated property came in the form of a group that no one really knew about and they turned it into their own thing. Disney followed their formula and created a movie that tons of fun and full of heart. It also doesn’t hurt that they created a loveable character of Baymax.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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I think we all would be lying to ourselves if we thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was going to be that great. Marvel and the Russo Brothers turned Captain America into a spy thriller with just some comic book elements and made – and dare I say this – the best Marvel film to date.

 

Chef

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2014 has been slightly dubbed the year of comedian actors trying to the public take them seriously. Chris Rock did it with Top Five but the best example for me would be Jon Favreau’s Chef. Favreau wrote, directed, and starred in this uplifting dramedy about a chef and father trying to find his passion again and trying to reconnect with his son. Favreau showed that he handle every aspect of filmmaking and you can tell that he has also found his passion for filmmaking doing an independent film.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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There is something to be said that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes turned out better than Rise of the Planet of the Apes since Rise was a very well done film that probably shouldn’t have been as good as it was. Dawn continued and elevated what made Rise good and expanded on them. Andy Serkis also continues to prove that he is the master of motion capture and can probably out act a real actor, but now has some competition with Toby Kebbell who played Koba and gave Serkis a run for his money. Finally, that siege scene was a work of art and fantastic to watch.

 

Godzilla

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Godzilla didn’t get a lot love, and I’ll even admit there were parts that made it uneven but the whole movie was an adventure and seeing “The King of the Monsters” back on screen was a sight to see.

 

Gone Girl

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Talk about a total mind-twisting film. Gone Girl had me guessing throughout the whole thing and if you knew what was going on, 1) I’d say you read the book or 2) you’re covering it up. Rosamund Pike was fantastic in this and I’m glad more people got to see how good of an actress she is.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Much to everyone’s surprise, Marvel pulled this off. Dubbed “Marvel’s Biggest Risk to Date” Guardians of the Galaxy had it all: humor, action, heart, and a great soundtrack. The whole cast held their own and this showed us that Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista are going to be bonafide movie stars.

 

Interstellar

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I like Christopher Nolan and there are some people that don’t like for whatever reasons they have. Which is fine since that’s the way the world works, but I do know some people out there don’t like him for the hell of it. Anyway, Interstellar probably isn’t the best Nolan film but it’s still a good one and visually it’s Nolan’s best. Even if you didn’t like the premise you have to at least appreciate the acting from Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi and the youngest and probably best actor of the film Mackenzie Foy.

 

Locke

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If you wanted to stare at Tom Hardy for eighty-five minutes as he drives a car, then Locke was the movie for you. Seriously, the whole movie takes places in a car on one night with Hardy talking to various characters over his phone. Hardy is compelling and gives one of his best performances of his career and one of the best his year. I know it doesn’t so like much but believe me, check this out when you get the chance.

 

Snowpiercer

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Most post-apocalyptic movies (good ones anyway) are usually bleak, dark and somewhat morbid. Joon-ho Bong first American film was all of those and with a great cast behind him of Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Tilda Swinton, Ah-sung Ko, and Jamie Bell, the film was great from start to finish.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson is one of those directors not everyone gets, and I’ll admit I was one of them early on. However, I have quickly become a fan of his and his films, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those films. I don’t think I laughed as hard as I did in theaters this year when watching this. It’s a great quirky film with laughs, mystery and romance.

 

The Imitation Game

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Based on the real life and accomplishment of English mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma code during WWII, The Imitation Game is a great drama with great performances by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Rory Kinnear. But all of them are lead by Benedict Cumberbatch, who gives one of the best performances of the year and completely embodies the character so well that you really want to see him succeed and feel for him at the end.

 

The LEGO Movie

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Another movie that probably shouldn’t have worked, The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller managed to pull off a great movie based a huge product that literally has no story to it. The LEGO Movie has so many layers to it that every time I watch it I find something new to love. Everything is Awesome!

 

The Raid 2

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I didn’t think it would be possible for Gareth Evans to top what he did in the first The Raid, but wow, was I wrong. The Raid 2 might be one of the best action films of the year, if not the best. I know a lot of people were irked by how slow things moved, but looking at how all the things turned out, all that build up made the ending so satisfying

 

So what is on your list? What do you think of my list?

 

Happy New Year!

and here’s to another great year of movies

Favorite Directors, Actors, Supporting Roles, Genre Movies, Action Sequence, & More

This is the first year I’ve done this myself. A couple years ago I started an “Award Show” where I’d get some of you vote and leave it at that. However, that’s taken a bit of a plunge but I’m okay with that because I can now give more of my opinion. Which is why we all start a blog right?

 

So this is my first time doing a Best/Favorite Actors, Actress, Directors, etc. I did end up enjoying a lot people and things in every category so there is going to be a lot of nominations and winners so bare with me. (Everything will be an alphabetical order)

 

 

Directors

Christopher Nolan – Interstellar

David Fincher – Gone Girl

Don Hall & Chris Williams – Big Hero 6

Gareth Evans – The Raid 2

James Gunn – Guardians of the Galaxy

Jon Favreau – Chef

Joe and Anthony Russo – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Joon-ho Bong – Snowpiercer

Matt Reeves – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Phil Lord & Christopher Miller – The Lego Movie

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

 

Honorable Mentions

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Bryan Singer – X-Men: Days of Future Past

Doug Liman – Edge of Tomorrow

Gareth Edwards – Godzilla

Jorge R. Gutierrez – The Book of Life

Mike Flanagan – Oculus

Steven Knight – Locke

Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Ball – The Maze Runner

 

 

 

Actors

Andy Serkis as Caesar – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing – The Imitation Game

Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne – Gone Girl

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Pratt as Emmet Brickowoski (voice) – The Lego Movie

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy

Dan Stevens as David – The Guest

Frank Grillo as Sergeant – The Purge: Anarchy

Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom – Nightcrawler

Jon Favreau as Carl Casper – Chef

Ralph Fiennes as Mr. Gustave and Tony Revolori as Zero – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Tom Cruise as Cage – Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke – Locke

Scott Adsit (voice) as Baymax – Big Hero 6

 

Honorable Mentions

Chris Evans as Curtis – Snowpiercer

Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz – Foxcatcher

Guy Pearce as Eric – The Rover

Iko Uwais as Rama/Yuda – The Raid 2

Keanu Reeves as John Wick – John Wick

Matthew McConaughey as Cooper – Interstellar

Michael Keaton as Riggan – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Russell Crowe as Noah – Noah

Steve Carell as John du Point – Foxcatcher

Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles – 300: Rise of an Empire

 

 

Actress

Emily Blunt as Rita – Edge of Tomorrow

Emma Stone as Sam – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne – Gone Girl

Rose Byrne as Kelly Radner – Neighbors

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

Honorable Mentions

Elizabeth Banks as Wyldstyle/Lucy (voice) – The Lego Movie

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Imogen Poots as Julia Maddon – Need for Speed

Karen Gillan as Kaylie Russell – Oculus

Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke – The Imitation Game

Maria Valverde as Zipporah – Exodus: Gods and Kings

Zoe Saldana as Gamora – Guardians of the Galaxy

 

 

Supporting Actor

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Bradley Cooper as Rocket – Guardians of the Galaxy

Bill Irwin (voice) as TARS – Interstellar

Charlie Day (voice) as Benny – The LEGO Movie

Dave Bautista as Drax – Guardians of the Galaxy

Evan Peters as Peter/Quicksilver – X-Men: Days of Future Past

J.K. Simmons as Fletcher – Whiplash

Kang-ho Song as Namgoong Minsoo – Snowpiercer

Michael Rooker as Yondu – Guardians of the Galaxy

Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt – Gone Girl

Vin Diesel as Groot – Guardians of the Galaxy

Will Arnett as Batman – The Lego Movie

 

Honorable Mentions

Antonio Banderas as Galgo – The Expendables 3

Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell – Edge of Tomorrow

Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody – Godzilla

Emjay Anthony as Percy – Chef

Joel McHale as Butler – Deliver Us from Evil

Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ichiro Serizawa – Godzilla

Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies – The Imitation Game

Neil Patrick Harris as Foy – A Million Ways to Die in the West

Thomas Lennon as Chief of Staff – Transformers: Age of Extinction

Will Poulter as Gally – The Maze Runner

 

 

Supporting Actress

Ah-sung Ko as Yona – Snowpiercer

Alison Brie as Unikitty (voice) – The Lego Movie

Anaalise Basso as Young Kaylie – Oculus

Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne – Gone Girl

Mackenzie Foy as Young Murph – Interstellar

Tilda Swinton as Mason – Snowpiercer

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Amy Adams as Amy – Her

Alison Pill as Teacher – Snowpiercer

Emma Watson as Ila – Noah

Ingrid Bolse Berdal as Atalanta – Hercules

Katee Sackhoff as Marie Russell – Oculus

Mireille Enos as Lizzy Murray – Sabotage

Sally Field as Aunt May – The Amazing Spider-Man 2

 

 

Villain

Cecep Arif Rahman as The Assassin – The Raid 2

Eva Green as Artemisia – 300: Rise of an Empire

Julie Estelle as Hammer Girl – The Raid 2

Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Toby Kebbell as Koba – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Very Tri Yulisman as Baseball Bat Man – The Raid 2

Will Ferrell as Lord Business/President Business – The LEGO Movie

 

Honorable Mentions

Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain – Noah

Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Liam Neeson as Bad Cop/Good Cop – The LEGO Movie

Karen Gillan as Nebula – Guardians of the Galaxy

Marton Csokas as Teddy – The Equalizer

Mimics – Edge of Tomorrow

Sean Harris as Santino – Deliver Us from Evil

 

 

Horror

Oculus

Everyone is saying that The Babadook is the best horror movie of the year, I haven’t seen it, so that honor to me goes to Oculus. Not to say that the honor of best horror movie goes to it by default, there were some things about the movie that I liked and that were good. Director Mike Flanagan did some neat camera tricks that made the experience really cool to watch and did some nice interweaving of the different stories and timelines. Add in the fantastic performance by Annalise Basso as the younger version of Karen Gillan character I had myself a good time watching Oculus.

 

 

Animated

The LEGO Movie

Big Hero 6

 

Honorable Mention

The Book of Life

 

 

Adaptation

Big Hero 6

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Edge of Tomorrow

Gone Girl

Guardians of the Galaxy

Snowpiercer

 

 

Honorable Mentions

300: Rise of an Empire

A Most Wanted Man

Lone Survivor

The November Man

This is Where I Leave You

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 

 

Comedy

Begin Again

Chef

The Grand Budapest Hotel

This is Where I Leave You

 

Honorable Mentions

Let’s Be Cops

Top Five

 

 

Fight/Action Sequence

300: Rise of an Empire: Themistokles vs. Artemisia

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Captain America vs. Georges Batroc

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Falcon’s Flight

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Captain America vs. Strike Team

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Steve Rogers vs. The Winter Soldier (Street Fight)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Caesar vs. Koba (Finale)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The Siege

John Wick: Nightclub Shootout

The Equalizer: Finale Showdown

The Purge: Anarchy: Sergeant vs. Rich Purgers

The Maze Runner: Thomas and Minho Maze Run

The Raid 2: The Prison Riot

The Raid 2: Hammer Girl vs. Guards

The Raid 2: Car Chase

The Raid 2: Rama vs. Baseball Bat Man & Hammer Girl

The Raid 2: Rama vs. The Assassin

Snowpiercer: The Siege (Tunnel)

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Quicksilver Saves Logan/Erik/Charles

 

Honorable Mentions

A Walk Among the Tombstones: Graveyard Shootout

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Nick Fury’s Chase

Deliver Us from Evil: Butler vs. Santino

Edge of Tomorrow: Beach Takeover

Godzilla: Godzilla vs. M.U.T.O. (Both)

Guardians of the Galaxy: Prison Riot

Lone Survivor: Forest/Canyon Shootout

John Wick: John Wick vs. Kirill

Robocop:  Robocop vs. Vallon and Henchmen

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splinter vs. Shredder

Transformers: Age of Extinction: Chase off the Yeager Farm

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Sunspot/Blink/Warpath/Colossus/Bishop/Kitty vs. Sentinels

 

 

Action

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Guardians of the Galaxy

John Wick

The Raid 2

 

Honorable Mentions

300: Rise of an Empire

Edge of Tomorrow

The Expendables 3

 

 

Drama

Boyhood

Birdman

Gone Girl

Locke

Whiplash

 

Long list right? I did warn you though. So who and what are on your lists?

Worst/Disappointing/Least-Liked Movies of the Year

It’s the end of the year, so you know what that means? Time to put lists together. Since you probably read the title, you know that this list will contain movies that I thought were disappointing, worst, and movies that I liked the least.

Please take into account that this is my list and reflects my personal opinion. Obviously if you feel different that is completely fine! I won’t really label them considering they are in this post so you can assume I didn’t think highly of them.

 

“Honorable” Mentions:

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: The Paranormal Activity movies have taken a slump recently. I’ve was a fan of the first three movies but the last two have been lacking in any sort of quality. I had some hope for The Marked Ones because it was billed as a Latino spin-off that was its own story but had major connections to the actual series. While the movie was that, it still left something to be desired and failed to execute on its premise.

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Sex Tape: I didn’t go in thinking Sex Tape was going to be great. I did hope that I would at least laugh a lot. Of course, both of those were slight right. Sex Tape had few good laughs but overall it wasn’t that funny and Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal’s characters weren’t entirely likeable.

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Least-Liked/Disappointing/Worst

As Above, So Below: There is not a lot to like about As Above, So Below, but even the likeable things could not outweigh everything that was wrong with it. The found footage aspect is probably the best use of the gimmick in a while. Also, all found footage movies tend to be horror movies and this was promoted as one, but As Above, So Below doesn’t really feel like a horror movie until it needs to be. This isn’t a bad thing but the shift in tones didn’t help. Another plus – if that’s what you want to call it – is this does have at least a more likeable lead for the most part.

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Brick Mansions: Another remake that had people up in arms, Brick Mansions is a remake from the French movie District B13 that was produced by mega action producer Luc Besson. The American remake was also produced by Besson and even stars original cast member David Belle (also, the co-founder of Parkour) playing essentially the same character. So what went wrong?

Besides Americanizing it (setting in Detroit) the movie doesn’t have the same charm as the original did, which really did hurt it. This was also Paul Walker’s last completed film (as he hadn’t even finished Fast & Furious 7, when this came out) which made the movie a little more special. But unfortunately it wasn’t really that good and was another forgettable movie.

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Robocop: When it was first announced that Robocop was getting the remake treatment, everyone went up in arms, and arguably, rightly so. Paul Verhoeven’s original Robocop was a satire but made complete sense and still holds its own today. The remake didn’t have a lot of things going for it. Of course, one of the things is they changed the suit and his “origin,” but it tried to be its own thing which I did appreciate.

However, there was a standout scene that involved Alex/Robocop (Joel Kinnaman) taking out a full warehouse of baddies in the dark. Even a scene where he finds out there was some people he thought were brothers in blue had betrayed him. But these moments of potential were yanked away by poor decisions and some flat characters and arc that went nowhere. Poor move.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For: A sequel that came a little too late. When the first Sin City came out, it was cool, and the special effects made the movie more of an experience. However, times have changed, special effects have changed and even gotten better. So when A Dame to Kill For came out it felt like, as a reviewer put it, “visiting an old friend.” It isn’t that bad of a movie, but after waiting so long, the movie has lost some charm and was kind of boring in some occasions. The only thing to come out of it is seeing Eva Green playing a femme fatale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt chewing up his scenery, and Powers Boothe showing he is the perfect bad guy.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michael Bay produced this mix of motion capture-CGI and live-action about our favorite heroes-in-a-half-shell. Unfortunately, everything I loved about Ninja Turtles wasn’t there, at least not really. The movie felt more catered to kids, which isn’t a bad thing and at least they are going to get that market, but you really shouldn’t forget about the older crowd. The best thing for me was the heavy marketed mountain slide action sequence, which even seeing it in theaters was just a tad underwhelming and a fight scene between Shredder and Master Splinter. Then there is Megan Fox as April O’Neal. She wasn’t terrible, but she wasn’t good either.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Now before you think I’m on the bandwagon of hating on ASM2, you’d be wrong. Some of movie was good, Andrew Garfield is a great Peter Parker/Spider-Man and his relationship with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is what made the movies more than worthwhile. However, ASM2 suffered from too much world building. Instead of really focusing on this movie and dropping just a few tidbits on future villains or tease things to come, it decide to shove them in front of our faces and forget about their own movie.

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Transcendence: A great cast in Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, even Johnny Depp (although I’m not his biggest fan, sorry) in one movie, so what went wrong? The movie had a great concept but loses steam real fast. It asks interesting/thought provoking questions but at the end of the day, it was kind of forgettable and ended up going nowhere.

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Transformers: Age of Extinction: I haven’t been a fan of the Transformers series since the first one, and even then, that movie was only okay. Even when they filmed Dark of the Moon here in Chicago, I was excited because I got to see my home city get destroyed, but it just turned into blah. So when we all heard that Age of Extinction would be a semi-reboot with new characters, transformers and designs, and a new director, I was somewhat hopeful. Then Michael Bay decided to direct.

Age of Extinction did have one exciting scene. The chase off the Yeager farm through a small town and to a warehouse, but that’s pretty much it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of huge explosion as much as the next person, but this just stopped being fun. The second half of the movie became what the other movies were. And I’m all of mindless fun but AoE really pushed that limit.

Also, they made a kind of big deal about the dinobots finally making an appearance, but we had to sit throughout the whole movie to see them, and they didn’t even act like the dinobots that everyone loves. Plus, only get about ten minutes of screen time. Nice move Michael Bay.

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So what are your movies that would fit this list?

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Review

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Dir: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett

Synopsis: Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review. As much as a spoiler free review goes on a movie based on a popular book and a prequel to popular series.*

 

 

Peter Jackson has done it. He has bought the world of Middle-Earth that J.R.R. Tolkein created to life on the big screen. Of course, he added in another whole movie that really seemed unnecessary but, hey what the hell right? The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies should have felt – and for some part does – as a grand finale to another ambitious trilogy that we could have only originally only imagined. The film has great moments but after a while the final film of The Hobbit series is slightly an underwhelming one.

 

Hobbit Smaug

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug left things on a cliffhanger with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) flying toward Lake-town to cause havoc. The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right after that as we see Smaug raining down fire upon the citizens of Lake-town. It’s a great set-piece to start off but judging how short the scene was I really couldn’t see why they decided not to put it in as the finale in the last film. Yes, more money, but even so, I really couldn’t see any reason they couldn’t have squeezed in an extra ten minutes.

 

The “real” beginning of the film would have been a great start, which is the rescue of Gandalf (McKellen), by Galadriel (Blanchett), Elrond (Weaving), and Saruman (Lee). The scene is cool because it gives Blanchett, Weaving and Lee more to do than just sit around a table and talk about the “Darkness that is coming.” Also, the scene is a bit anti-climatic, which can be said for the whole film series in some way. It is a prequel after all, and while I’m good at suspending disbelief, I couldn’t help but have the thought in my mind: “they’re going to be okay!”

 

Hobbit Gand and Gala

 

But this is the problem with prequel series and older fans. We know how the story is going to, so we do have to suspend our disbelief a lot more than fans that maybe don’t know about the original series (I’m looking at you Star Wars prequels!). However, one of the great things that Peter Jackson has done with The Hobbit films is that he has created a series that is some way is new and creates great moments that you forget the previous films. Desolation of Smaug is a great example of that but The Battle of the Five Armies juggles that throughout the whole film. When the film is on full cylinders it’s an amazing experience, but when it starts to slow down and gives the audiences some winks to the future (or is it past, I don’t know) it becomes a little jarring.

 

Hobbit Thorin 2

 

Anyway back to the film. Thorin (Armitage), Bilbo and Company have finally secured their homeland and have gotten the room full of gold. Unfortunately, their celebration is cut short by Thorin, who becomes obsessed on getting the “Arkenstone.” So much that he starts to act like his grandfather before him. The obsession is described by Balin (Stott) to Bilbo as “dragon sickness,” as Thorin starts to turn on his own thinking one of his own people is hiding his birthright. Thorin starts to act brash and when the people of Lake Town come for shelter and some of the gold that was promised to them by Thorin himself in the previous movie, he tells them to leave or else. Things don’t get any better when Thranduil (Pace) comes and wants to claim the mountain as well.

 

Hobbit Thraduil

 

This puts the sides on opposite ends as Bard (Evans) tries to reason with Thorin, but again he’s having none of it. Thranduil sees this as an act of war and the Elvin army is ready to attack when Thorin’s cousin Dain (Billy Connolly) comes to help him. But before any of them can attack each other, the Orc army makes itself known and thus begins the titled Battle of the Five Armies.

 

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Here is where Peter Jackson success and fails. Jackson gave us some great and dare I say mesmerizing battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, especially The Return of the King, and while I don’t want to compare the two final films, The Battle of the Five Armies does have title to hold to. Now, I’m all for a good battle scene and while we have to sit through about an hour or so of build up for that actual battle and characters constantly reminding us that a war is coming or about to begin, when the battle actually starts, it is only okay. Again, don’t get me wrong, Jackson is one of the best directors that can put together a grand set-piece like a war (again look at the LotR films) but unlike those previous battles, Jackson relies more heavily on CGI with The Battle of the Five Armies. Of course since casting millions of people, controlling them in just an open space would be a pain in the ass, and there aren’t any huge goblins out there, CG is reasonably the best way to go. However, at the same time it feels like we’re watching an animating film instead of a live-action film, which again sucks because of the great battles Jackson has given us in the past. And yes, I know Jackson used CG in the LotR films, but he was able to hide it more in those films than these.

 

Despite that, it’s certain characters that save (and I used that word very strongly) the film. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield character’s come full circle. You can arguably say that The Hobbit movies are as much a Thorin movie as it is a Bilbo movie. Thorin goes from sympathetic and heroic character in the past films to this crazed and troubled character for three-fourths of the movie back to being character we love. Thorin’s arc is touching, heartbreaking and an great experience to watch unfold and Armitage does an amazing job of being able to fill those shoes.

 

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Freeman is also great and while he doesn’t spend so much time on screen the scenes he has are touching and great to watch. Whether it’s a scene of him trying to bring Thorin back to normal or a simple scene of him and Gandalf sitting down not saying a word to each other because at that point there is nothing to say, Freeman has given the character of Bilbo more life than one of could have imagined.

 

The rest of the cast kind of gets thrown at the wayside, which tends to happen when you have such a huge cast. All the actors that play the other Dwarves don’t really have moments to shine expect for Aidan Turner’s Kili who continues and finishes his romance arc with Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel. Luke Evans has more to do as Bard the Bowman acting as new leader and gets to show off his fighting ability. Lee Pace has about the same amount of screen time he had in last movie as the Elvin king Thranduil but finally gets to show more of his ability to fight. Finally, Orlando Bloom as Legolas is just in the movie for the action as he doesn’t really serve a purpose for the movie other than show how he got on his adventure at the start of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

 

Hobbit Tauriel and Legolas

 

All in all, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is not a bad movie but considering that there was going to be only two movies and the previous Hobbit movies built up to this, it does leave a little bit to be desired and was a bit underwhelming. If anything, The Battle of Five Armies and the other Hobbit movies are all about the adventure and characters, and on that end it succeeds with flying colors. But when it comes to the titular Battle of the Five Armies and a final film of a trilogy, it’s only okay.

 

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

3.5 out of 5

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‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ Review

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Dir: Ridley Scott

Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver and Sir Ben Kingsley

Synopsis: The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

*Reviewer Note #2: I know I’ve been gone for a bit. I have been watching movies but I’ve been busy with school which has kept me from writing reviews. Sorry*

 

 

Before I start reviewing the movie I want to talk about the “White Washing” Controversy that is surrounding this movie, and has even caused many people to boycott it. This obviously is not the first time people have been trying to boycott a movie due to ethic casting. The other biblical film that came out this year Noah had some boycotts due to the casting and “changes” to the well-know story. Other occasions are Rooney Mara being cast as Tiger Lilly in the new Peter Pan film Pan, Idris Elba playing Heimdall in Thor and Thor: The Dark World got some people talking even though Marvel went the other way of the ethnic casting. Finally, the one I remember the most was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender which caused an uproar by all the fans.

 

The thing I want to say about the ethnic casting is for me, it doesn’t matter. I can see both sides of the argument, but at the end of day we should judge a movie by its quality aka if it’s good or bad. Again, I see both sides of the situation and depending on the adaptation I do feel Hollywood should go the way of the “source material.” But, for the most part let the acting justify if the role should have been played by someone else.

 

Now, getting into Exodus: Gods and Kings, the movie doesn’t start with the usual baby Moses getting picked up from the river in a basket. Director Ridley Scott gives us a full grown Moses (Bale) and Ramses (Edgerton) who are generals in Ramses’ father, Pharaoh Seti (Turturro). The two go into battle and something happens that starts to cause a bit of a rift between the two that have been raised as brothers. Years later when Ramses is now Pharaoh, Moses finds out that he is not who he thinks he is by Nun (Kingsley), an elder slave, and is exiled for it when it gets back to Ramses.

 

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Moses finds peace in a small village where he marries Zipporah (Valverde) and has a son. Of course if you know the story, Moses is called upon by God and tells him he must help his people (aka the slaves) and set them free, even if it means going to war with someone he thought of as a brother.

 

We all know the story of Moses and Ramses, so when the story starts to jump around in major gaps of time you don’t feel immediately lost, and even if you don’t know the story you’ll be okay too. But, with the run time being around two and a half hours long, the movie still feels like there is some stuff missing, which is a shame because the supporting cast is completely underused. Even Joel Edgerton who plays, arguably the villain of the movie Ramses is a bit used, which is a shame since he gets second billing and is the other important character of the story.

 

The movie does belong to Christian Bale. It’s not a bad thing either, he does try to humanize Moses to some extent – as does Edgerton with Ramses – but this Moses isn’t the normal Moses we know from the story. Obviously, he’s a general in the beginning of the movie, so this Moses knows how to fight and once he is put on his mission from God, he goes back to what he knows and starts to go on guerilla warfare type missions. This Moses is also not afraid to talk back to God and question him, God in this movie looks to be portrayed by a child that shows up at random times to talk to Moses.

 

I love Ridley Scott, as most people do, and while the war scene at the beginning is great to see, knowing he had a four hour cut of the movie first doesn’t surprise me. But, there is a lot that he cut out that I feel could have added to the story. Like I said, the supporting characters are really underused or not use at all. John Turturro as the Pharaoh has about five minutes of screentime before he passes away, Ben Kinglsey who feels like he would serve a greater purpose is just there, Aaron Paul who is almost unrecognizable really serves no purpose and could have been given an unknown actor if that’s how they were going to treat the character. Finally, Sigourney Weaver surprisingly only has about five lines in the movie and disappears after the first half hour, it nice to see the reunion of Scott and Weaver but it didn’t go anywhere. Maria Valverde might be the only one that gets some good material going but is a bit underwritten.

 

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The relationship between Moses and Ramses is also a bit on and off. One minute you can believe the dynamic between them and the next you can’t. It is a bit distracting and frustrating as Scott is going in a different direction with the story and there are moments where you can clearly see that but Scott and the writers go into a somewhat generic by-the-books way of going with Moses and the film.

 

This isn’t to say Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t a descent film. The plagues sequence is one of the major, if not the major highlight of the film. Although it comes into well into the middle of the movie so you have to wait around to see that. The CGI also looks pretty impressive with the heavily promoted Red Sea sequence. The other great part about the movie is the score, which is done by Alberto Iglesias, whom I’ve never heard of (even though I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

 

All in all, Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t entirely the same story we all known and the changes really don’t go anywhere or they completely change the dynamic of the story. Bale does a good job of bringing Moses to life and Edgerton has his moments to shine as Ramses. The great supporting cast is underused but is saved a bit by the score and Bale’s performance.

 

 

Exodus: Gods and Kings

3 out of 5

 

December Movie Preview

Well, it’s the last month of the year boys and girls. The month that is filled with some feel good films and potential Oscar winning performances and films. It’s also loaded with limited releases that will expand before the end of the year and on to January (mostly the movies at the end of month). So I’m going to spare putting the (limited) around the films that are going to be released in a limited capacity, because chances are they will get expanded before the month is over. (Release dates are according to Box Office Mojo and IMDB)

 

5th

Pyramid: A rarity in December that a horror movie comes out, especially a “wide release” (only coming out in about 550 theaters). But, Fox is taking the risk and it’s also the only wide release the first week. The movie follows archeologists that find a mysterious pyramid, go in, and find out they are trapped and being hunted. The movie has a As Above, So Below feel but we’ll see what happens.

Wild: The movie follows Reese Witherspoon’s character on a solo hiking adventure trying to find herself after a catastrophe. The movie looks like a great character piece and straightforward drama, and is already picking up some award buzz.

 

12th

Inherent Vice: The new movie by director Paul Thomas Anderson that looks like a change of pace for him. The movie is based on a book by Thomas Pynchon of the same name and follows L.A. detective “Doc” Sportello as he investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend. The cast is impressive with the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Benicio Del Toro, and more.

Top Five: Comedian Chris Rock steps behind the camera about a comedian trying to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancé wants them to broadcast their wedding. I didn’t even know about this movie until about a month ago thanks to a movie theater billboard. The movie will have some other comedians in it as well.

Exodus: Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott is back and this time is tackling the bible story of Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton). The movie looks like a Scott production with massive battles and some crazy good looking CGI.

 

17th

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: With director Peter Jackson already promising a 45-minute battle sequences and a title like The Battle of Five Armies, the last installment of The Hobbit movies looks like it’s going to end on a high note.

 

19th

The Gambler: Directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) stars Mark Wahlberg as a gambler that gets in over his head when he comes across a bigwig named Frank (John Goodman). It also stars Brie Larson, Jessica Lange, and Michael Kenneth Williams. Doesn’t look to bad, and with Wahlberg and Goodman attached you know it going to be at least enjoyable.

Annie: A remake of the famous musical and movie now has Beasts of the Southern Wild actress Quvenzhane Wallis stepping into the title role and Jamie Foxx playing the new Daddy Warbucks. This new iterations hasn’t really sparked my interest, but it does have a pretty good cast.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb: These movies really could have been lost at the wayside, but the last two movies were really enjoyable and have found a crowd. Needless to say, I’ll be ending up watching this.

 

24th

Big Eyes: Directed by Tim Burton, it follows painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) and her success in the 1950s and her legal troubles with her husband (played by Christoph Waltz) who claimed credit for her work in the 60s. I actually don’t know how I feel about this although it does have a pretty descent cast that also includes Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Danny Huston and Terence Stamp.

Selma: One of the few movies about Martin Luther King Jr., this one has David Oyelowo playing MLK and will star Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth (as George Wallace) and Tom Wikinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson.

American Sniper: Clint Eastwood directs Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, a Navy S.E.A.L. who has the most confirmed kills in history. The trailer looks moving and Cooper has really held his own with his recent string of dramatic roles.

The Interview: What screams a holiday movie better than a movie about killing the South Korean leader and a movie that was consider an act of war by South Korea? Of course James Franco and Seth Rogen would be behind it.

Into the Woods: Based off the popular musical of the same name, Disney brings an all star cast and even members from the musical to bring some famous fairy tale stories to the big screen.

Unbroken: Angelina Jolie steps back behind the camera to direct this film that chronicles the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during WWII. The movie looks like a harrowing, moving, true story of his man, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

 

 

So what movie are you looking forward to this December?

‘Big Hero 6’ Review

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Dir: Don Hall & Chris Williams

Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, and Maya Rudolph

Synopsis: The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of hig-tech heroes.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

If you were surprised to see that Big Hero 6 was based off a Marvel comic, you are not the only one. While not the most well known group of heroes, Big Hero 6 is the first animated movie that Disney has taken on and it is glorious.

 

Set in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, the movie follows Hiro Hamada (Potter), a robotic genius that instead of putting his talents to good use and going to school spends his time robot fighting for money. His older and equally as smart brother Tadashi (Henney) finally has enough and takes him to the university his goes to show Hiro the potential he can have and what he can really do. Hiro goes with the idea and enters a competition to get into the school by creating “microbots.” Hiro’s creation could be used for multiple things like transportation and construction.

 

However, tragedy strikes and Hiro is left with Tadashi’s invention, a gentle nursing robot named Baymax (Adsit). The two discover a mysterious figure has gotten his hands on Hiro’s microbots and is using them. In order to stop him, they recruit some of Tadashi’s friends Go Go (Chung), Fred (Miller), Honey Lemon (Rodriguez), and Wasabi (Wayans Jr.) to use their scientific skills to become superheroes.

 

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While the group does eventually become superheroes, they don’t really have powers per say. Their superpower happens to be that they’re really smart and use it to their advantage. One character even says “we’re not superheroes, we’re nerds!” which reminds you that these characters are human (in the movie world anyway) and when they finally go up against the bad guy there is a real danger.

 

The supporting characters are great. Go Go is punky and always let’s you know what’s on her mind, Wasabi is a well-built guy that is overly-precious, Honey Lemon is a goofy and the gentle soul of the group, and finally there is Fred, who is a somewhat of a slacker but has a wild imagination and a heart of gold.

 

But the real focus of this movie is between Hiro and Baymax. Their relationship grows from their first time they meet. Baymax isn’t really like other robots we’ve seen. His sole purpose is to be nurturing and then power down. His exterior is like a giant marshmallow – which is really made of soft vinyl – and even though he looks huge he’s not the strongest robot out there – although he can lift up to a thousand pounds. He’s also hilariously naïve and oblivious, although not entirely, to his surroundings. Baymax knows when there is danger approaching and protects Hiro and the rest of the group. He’s so innocent and lovable you can’t help but love him.

 

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Besides the characters, the best thing about Big Hero 6 is the visuals. I know, it’s an animated movie, it’s all visuals! But, Big Hero 6 is pretty ambitious when it comes to world building. San Fransokyo is futuristic and filled with bright neon colors that I wished we spend more time just going around the city.

 

The mircobots are really cool to see and are best used in one of the better action sequences in the movie that involves all our characters racing down empty streets as the villain is basically surfing on them and throwing everything at them. The mircobots are almost a better villain than the person controlling them but the animation is so great it doesn’t matter.

 

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All in all, Big Hero 6 is great on pretty much all levels. It does have some great messages in there and like all Disney animated movies now, it knows how to pull on the heart strings and makes us tear up.

 

 

Big Hero 6

5 out of 5

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