My Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Well, it’s the end of the year and you know what that means. The lists of “Best of” or “Worst of” start to come out.  So of course, I have to put my list out there too!

Making these “Best of” lists is always hard.  Because no matter what’s on your list people will always disagree with where you put a movie.  So this year (like last year) I will put the movies in alphabetical order.  It’s simple and clean for the most part.  As usual I put the “Honorable Mentions” first and then put up my “Best/Favorite” movies of the year.

NOTE: This is MY list and in no way is official or meant to say your list is not good.  These are the movies that I enjoyed/liked/loved or thought where actually superior to others (I won’t say which ones are those)

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

John Dies at the End, The Kings of Summer, Mud, The East, Blue Jasmine, Fruitvale Station, The To Do List, Dallas Buyers Club, Short Term 12, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Saving Mr. Banks, Antiviral

 

Honorable Mentions:

2 Guns: Didn’t expect a lot coming from this even with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.  Turns out it was pretty fun with some cool action scenes and great chemistry between the two leads.

About Time: Being a fan of Richard Curtis’ Love Actually I was kind of excited to see what he would do for his “last romantic movie.” The thing that surprised me about the movie is that it wasn’t just a romantic comedy with a time travelling aspect to it but it’s what you do with that.

Closed Circuit: A great political thriller about a bombing in London with the CCTV cameras not being any good use for the case.  Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall give solid performance and the way everything comes together and goes down really shocked me.

Dead Man Down: A reunion between director Neils Arden Oplev and his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace was nice to see but it was Colin Farrell’s stoic performance in his very European feel movie about revenge that had me from the very start.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters: Tommy Wirkola’s took almost the same sensibility with this that he took with his hit Dead Snow.  The movie didn’t take itself too seriously and it worked.  I had a lot of fun with this movie and I think if people gave it another chance they would enjoy.

In A World: Directed and staring Lake Bell, the movie was a fun quirky look at how competitive Hollywood can be, just to do a voice over in a movie trailer.

Mama: Based on a short by the same name, producer Guillermo del Toro and short director Andres Muschietti came together to expand the short and give it a creepy/eerie mythology.  I liked the tone of the movie as it did fit a bit with the short and del Toro’s classic touch.

Oblivion: The movie could have been lost as a typical “sci-fi” movie but I found the movie to have a little more and with the score, it got to me enough to get here on the list.

Olympus Has Fallen: One of the two White House takeover movies and in my opinion the best of the two. Probably the reason I liked it the most was that it felt like an 90s action movie and knew what it was.

Out of the Furnace: A beautifully shot movie with a great story about brothers and what you will do for them.  Christian Bale does a great job in the movie but it’s Casey Affleck who steals the show as his brother.

Star Trek Into Darkness: I loved J.J. Abrams Star Trek and was excited to see what he would do in his second go around.  I know not a lot of people were crazy about the movie, even calling it the worst Star Trek movie ever (REALLY?) but I really liked it and Benedict Cumberbatch’s character reveal was still awesome to hear and see even if I already kind of knew.

Stoker: Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) made his American directorial debut this family drama thriller that is a bit of a slow burner and goes in directions you wouldn’t think would go.

The Croods: Didn’t know much about The Croods walking in and I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of it. Nicholas Cage’s father character totally fit him.

The Family: With nice nudges to Robert De Niro’s gangster movies, Luc Besson manages to pull together a good family action drama with a gangster twist of sorts.  But I think one of the highlights is John D’Leo

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Although I didn’t enjoy the whole movie as much as I did An Unexpected Journey, the sequel had it’s moments that I felt I could not let the movie pass without being on the list.  The River Barrel scene, Smaug and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel were the major highlights for me.

The Heat: I don’t think you could go wrong with Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig.  It also happened to be one of the movies that I laughed out loud in a theater.

The Last Stand: Another American directorial debut, this time by Kim Jee-Woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil) bought back Arnold Schwarzenegger to the big screen.  Yes, the movie wasn’t perfect but the last third act was pretty funny.

The Lone Ranger: The movie does have some pitfalls but the movie really wasn’t as bad as people said it was.  The last action scene involving the train is fantastic.

The Place Beyond the Pines: This movie wasn’t like anything I thought it would be. The trailers give nothing away and it takes a turn you didn’t think I would. The movie was a bit on the long side for my taste and the last act wasn’t as good as the first two.

The Wolf of Wall Street:  A great and somewhat twisted story of the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort, a real life former Stock Broker, who rose through the ranks his own way.  Martin and Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio prove they can do no wrong together.  Although the movie was a little long for my taste every minute tells a story.

This is the End: When the movie was first announced I didn’t really care too much about it but then I saw the movie and I took everything back.

Trance: Danny Boyle is pretty much always dependable and his psychological crime thriller makes you think until the very last minute on what the hell was really happening and even then you’re wondering what the hell was going on.

We’re the Millers: A little raunchy comedy never hurt anyone and with an unusual premise the movie actually kind of worked.  Although, the major flaws of the movie was Jason Sudeikis’ main character.

White House Down: The second White House takeover movie and one I wasn’t looking forward to.  One reason is that it was another White House takeover movie. The second was because I’m not the biggest Channing Tatum fan.  However, the movie was a good combination of humor and action so I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

World War Z: Very loosely based on Max Brooks’ popular zombie book, Brad Pitt stars in a race against time zombie survival movie.  Despite its behind-the-scenes problems the movie still managed not to be terrible.  Probably the standout of the movie was the Israel action sequence.

 

BEST/FAVORITE

12 Years a Slave: One of the most gripping, emotional, and character-centric movies of the year and it’s all a true story of Solomon Northup. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender give two of the best performances of the year and Paul Dano’s short supporting role is another highlight performance wise.

American Hustle:  Everyone gives great performances but probably the standout of the cast is Amy Adams.  Based on true events the movie has a good sense of the time period down to the music and clothing.  David O’ Russell knows how to get good performances out of his cast.

Captain Phillips: Tom Hanks gives a great performance as the title character that is kidnapped by Somali Pirates and does his best under the situation.  Props go to Barkhad Abdi for standing toe-to-toe with Hanks during those intense scenes.  But Hanks steals the show especially in the last act.

Evil Dead: Remaking a “cult-favorite” like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is sure to strike a chord with people, and that is exactly what this movie did.  However, I (and many others) were able to look past that and see the movie for what it was.  It wasn’t necessarily a direct remake and it didn’t try to tarnish the original that people all love.  At the end of the day the movie did its job and that is to scare me.

Fast & Furious 6: Everyone thought that topping Fast Five would be hard but Justin Lin’s last Fast & Furious movie sure made it harder to make that decision.  The action is pushed to another level and everything feels like a conclusion and a new way to begin the story.  If it isn’t the best Fast & Furious movie then it sure is a close second. And really, can you not like the long runway scene!

Frozen: I found myself struggling a little with animated movies this year.  As much as I liked seeing Monsters University this movie surely is the better movie and a strong one at that.  Disney (by themselves, not with Pixar) has been stepping up the game lately with their animation movies.  Frozen played a little with the genre but also felt like an old classic and I think that’s why I liked it so much.

G.I Joe: Retaliation: Let’s face it, Retaliation should have not worked after Rise of Cobra.  Yes, the first one had it’s moments but if you asked me back then if I wanted a sequel I would have said no.  However, add in the “franchise savior” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and make it feel realistic and you have me.  Besides, the ten minute mountain sequence was just awesome.

Gravity: Every now and then we get a movie that is truly an “experience movie” and Gravity is that movie this year.  However, we also have to add in the “How the hell did they do all that?”  Nevertheless, the movie is great to look at and with the combination of Alfonso Cuaron’s directing and Sandra Bullock’s great performance I was completely sucked in to what I was seeing on screen.

Iron Man 3: Say what you will about Iron Man 3.  Was it perfect? No, (but really is any movie) but was it better than Iron Man 2? Yes.  But of course all anyone can talk about was “The Mandarin Twist” which pissed everyone off.  Let’s face it, Marvel totally got us and I think that’s what pissed everyone off.  I personally loved it because it played with our expectations and gave us, whether intentional or not, one of the biggest moments this year.

Man of Steel: I, like everyone, had my doubts about Zack Snyder’s Superman movie.  But seeing the final product but away all those doubts.  Henry Cavill did a great job playing the man from two worlds and Russell Crowe’s Jor-El was better than I thought it would be too.  The standout for me was Antje Traue’s Faora-Ul.  Of course this movie also had it’s own “twist” which again, I didn’t mind but the purists out there seemed to forget that it was part of the, at least to me, beginning of who and what Superman will become later.

Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon took a break from his Marvel duties and filmed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play of the same name.  Filled with Whedon’s alumni the movie was set in modern times but still managed to work.  Drama-filled, funny and smart Whedon proved that he can work in all genres.

Pacific Rim: What’s not to like about giant robots fighting giant monsters! Next to the fact that everything looks fantastic

Prisoners: Hugh Jackman steals the show as he plays a father wanting his daughter back and takes matter into his own hands by taking the only person accused of it, who is played by Paul Dano.  Jake Gyllenhaal also gives a strong performance but it’s probably Melissa Leo who goes toe to toe with Jackman.

Rush:  A re-telling of the famous rivalry between Formula-One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  With great performances by leads Chris Hemsworth, standout Daniel Bruhl and Hans Zimmer’s score it was truly one of the best movies of the year.

The Conjuring: If this is James Wan’s last horror movie, it’s surely a good way to go.  Creepy, scary and based on actual events investigated by real life paranormal investigators The Warrens.

The Way Way Back: A great indie comedy with a good and real story about growing up. I knew nothing about it expect that it was getting good reviews and I agreed with them. Sam Rockwell is the best part of the movie and worth all the praise.

The Wolverine:  Basing it off one of the most popular Wolverine stories it’s finally a solo Wolverine movie that Wolverine fans wanted.  Hugh Jackman proves that Wolverine is his role and I feel sorry for the next guy that takes the role when Jackman finally steps aside.

The World’s End: The final installment of The Cornetto Trilogy isn’t probably entirely what people thought it would be but it was a somewhat fitting ending to it.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do a switcheroo role wise with Pegg being the better of the two.

Thor: The Dark World:  Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston embrace their roles more this time around and the movie really ups the action this time around.  Needless to say this movie surprised the hell out of me.

You’re Next:  A combination to an old school horror and home invasion, You’re Next was one of my biggest surprises this year. Also a fine performance by Sharni Vinson playing the heroine.

Zero Dark Thirty: Besides all the buzz (or controversy depending on how you view it) around the movie, it still was a great movie about (how the tagline puts it) “The Greatest Manhunt in History).  Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke career shot straight up after this but another highlight from the movie is Mark Strong’s supporting role.

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Review

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Dir:  Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, and Rob Reiner

Synopsis: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.  Also I want to apologize for being gone and not putting up reviews lately.  I haven’t had time to do any but I have been watching movies. *

 

Based on Jordan Belfort’s bestselling memoir of the same name, The Wolf of Wall Street recounts how, as a young New York stockbroker, Belfort (DiCaprio) made a fortune from selling penny stocks aka made a ton selling crap to suckers.  He later went on to start his own firm, Stratton Oakmont and made the leap to IPOs.  Belfort’s success, cunning, and penchant for excess earned him the nickname “The Wolf of Wall Street,” despite the fact that his firm was based in Long Island. (Belfort’s Wall Street days were, as the film shows, quite short-lived.)

Belfort started Stratton Oakmont as a boiler room, training some of his drug-dealing neighborhood pals to become brokers of penny stocks. Soon, the firm is pulling down the big bucks and expanding into a true force to be reckoned with. And with remarkable success comes extraordinary excess in every imaginable way, from sex to drugs (especially drugs) to material things.  We see Jordan slide from non-user to full-fledged raving addict.  His drug of choice being Quaaludes, but he also abuses cocaine and morphine.

Ultimately, Jordan’s wild and greedy ways cost him the women he loves, his livelihood, and his freedom when the FBI (led by Kyle Chandler’s agent) finally bust him.  The movie doesn’t necessarily condone all this bad behavior, and you feel a little bad rooting for a guy like this but he makes it looks pretty good.  However, Belfort never quite seems sorry for what he did. He seems more upset that he had to give it all up

But The Wolf of Wall Street is anything but a white collar crime movie.  The movie is also a great dark comedy.  It’s profane, vulgar in every conceivable way, and goes to the point of utter absurdity, but it freaky works.

Next to Leo’s performance which I’ll get to in a second, one of the highlights is Jordan’s business partner and pal Donnie Azoff played by Jonah Hill.  Donnie has big white teeth and a manic personality and while Hill is largely here as comic relief, there are a few vulnerable moments for his character near the end that reveal other layers to him.

Jon Bernthal has a small role as a drug dealer/middle man pal of Jordan’s, while Ethan Suplee, P.J. Byrne, and Kenneth Choi get lots of hilarious moments as some of Stratton Oakmont’s original team of brokers.  Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin has a small, but important role as a Swiss banker, while Rob Reiner is hilarious as Jordan’s ill-tempered dad “Mad Max,” an accountant who tries to be the voice of reason for his son when he’s not berating him over the bills he’s running up.  But its Matthew McConaughey who steals the show in his brief turn as Mark Hanna, the Wall Street broker who first hires Jordan and basically teaches him all he needs to know to be a scumbag and an untrustworthy stock broker.

One of the weakest elements is arguably the female characters.  The women are mostly eye candy or hookers (yes I said hookers, this movie is pretty crazy).  Margot Robbie is better than her role as Jordan’s second wife Naomi, aka the Duchess of Bay Ridge, probably deserves.  You can argue that she may actually love Jordon or she’s nothing more than a gold digger.  Jordan’s first wife, Teresa (Cristin Milioti), is sweet and probably could have been a real highlight but she disappears for a while when she comes back it’s really for nothing.

This film though belongs to DiCaprio.  He’s has the right balance of scummy and appealing, and he’s also incredibly funny.  He embraces the debauchery, greed, and recklessness of Belfort.  Is it his best performance? Arguably yes.  You can tell that DiCaprio is having fun playing and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch him play the role too.  Even if you feel a bit dirty at times watching him do everything he does, especially when drugs take its toll.

All in all, The Wolf of Wall Street is a great movie, although probably a bit long, but everyone involved from Scorsese and DiCaprio to supporting actors like Hill, McConaughey, and the behind-the-scenes team pull out everything they got.

 

The Wolf of Wall Street

4 out of 5