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

‘300: Rise of an Empire’ Review

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Dir: Noam Murro

Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, Jack O’Connell and Rodrigo Santoro

Synopsis: Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be an almost spoiler free review. Reason being is that the movie serves as prequel, side-story and sequel to 300, so some stuff will come up. However, I won’t spoil anything from Rise of an Empire.*

 

As stated above in the Reviewer Note, 300: Rise of an Empire is a prequel, side-story, and sequel to the 2006 hit 300.  The movie starts with Queen Gorgo (Headey) giving a speech about fallen 300 Spartans and gives a brief history of the Battle of Marathon. We then go witness the Athenian army, led by hero Themistokles (Stapleton) attacking King Darius’ men. From there we get the origins of the “god king” Xerxes (Santoro), who is Darius’ son (not a spoiler since IT’S HISTORY).  But we also find out that the only reason for Xerxes plans of revenge of world dominance comes from a ruthless general Artemisia (Green).

As you’ve probably seen in the trailers and TV spots, the action mostly takes place at sea.  The Athenians, which are the heroes this time around, are skilled sailors and battle Artemisia’s much larger army across the ocean.  But during all the action we occasionally cut to moments from 300 to get a concept of the timeline or even scenes with Themistokles going to Sparta to meet Queen Gorgo or a pre-Hot Gates injured Dilios (David Wenham).

Themistokles is very different from King Leonidas. Themistokles is fighting for a united Greece and wants to spread the new Athenian concept of democracy as opposed to Sparta’s self-preservation.  Also, opposed to the Spartan soldiers, the Athenian navy is made up of farm-hands, tradesmen, and more.

Artemisia, on the other hand, is ruthless, quick-tempered, and at times blinded by vengeance. Which is a recurring theme in the movie with most of the characters driven by revenge of something.  Her plan “to erase Athens from history” is an extreme one however, as are her actions throughout the film – which makes her one, if not, the best character of the movie, but Artemesia is given some real context, and when you discover the reason for her wrath, she becomes somewhat sympathetic.

Director Noam Murro’s only previous credit is romantic comedy Smart People, so it’s a bit of an unusual choice for the director’s chair. Thankfully, Murro makes Rise of an Empire into an enjoyable and fun action movie.  He makes some stand-out sequences included a fiery sea battle, the last fight and even the love scene is filmed like a brawl. A literal battle of the sexes that’s more erotic than you would think (and probably should be).

Acting wise, Eva Green owns the role and like I said before is probably one of, if not the best, character in the movie. She has a femme fatale quality to her but is very manipulative toward Xerxes. Anytime she’s on screen she isn’t chewing the scenery but pushing the story forward or ready to kill someone. She’s truly an amazing character. If Green wasn’t on anyone’s radar she will be after this.

Sullivan Stapleton heroic Themistokles plays his role as a man that is driven to bring the nation together to fight the greater threat but is also a character filled with guilt over his involvement in the starting of the war, and his regret at sending so many young men to early graves. Being a fan of his from his Cinemax show Strike Back, it’s nice to see Stapleton on the big screen and he definitely has a leading man screen presence.

In smaller roles, Lena Heady who returns as the Spartan Queen Gorgo delivers some of the film’s best lines but isn’t really anything more than a cameo.  Jack O’Connell, plays Calisto, a young warrior who wants to make his father Scyllias (Callan Mulvey) proud of him. Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes really takes a back seat in this, only appearing in a few scenes mostly with Artemisia, but doesn’t really do much.

But, the real highlight in the movie is the action. The sea battles are pretty cool to watch although some will probably be thrown off by some of the wonky camera work (I’ll admit I did at times). The sword battles are also pretty cool this time around and some are fast hitting that you loose yourself in the action. They’re, dare I say, more hard hitting and extreme this time around than 300.

All in all, 300: Rise of an Empire is a great action movie and thankfully it doesn’t completely try to copy what made 300 what it was, although there are some things that are welcomed. The way the story is set up and told really works as it all comes together (obviously) at the end. For a sequel that some people wanted, I’d say some will be happy with the outcome.

 

300: Rise of an Empire

4 out of 5