Paul’s Best of 2017

 

 

And so another year of cinema has come and gone. While I didn’t see as many movies in theaters as I would have liked to see, I would still say that 2017 was a very eventful year for movies. A lot of great movies started out the year, with films like “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Get Out” and “Logan,” while having a bit of a dry summer that led into a captivating fall and winter that had more than enough movies to keep us interested.

At this time, there are still plenty of movies from 2017 I haven’t seen, including “Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Phantom Thread,” “All the Money in the World” and “Darkest Hour,” just to name a few. But, in the mean time, it’s about time we went over the best (and worst) films of the past year. As always, I’ve broken down films into certain categories that determine how I’ll remember this past year.

So let’s start things off with…

 

 

Biggest Surprise – “Get Out”

I’ll be honest, when I initially saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I laughed at how serious it was taking itself, while the trailer kept repeating “Get out! Get out! Get out!” It wasn’t until I saw the stellar reviews the film was getting that I started taking it seriously. And the entire time the film was going, I was transfixed, adoring how it presented a perspective and fear that I had never seen before or since. I left that theater absolutely loving every minute of this movie and respect how intelligent and well-thoughtout it was.

 

 

Most Technologically Impressive – “Coco”

While there weren’t a whole lot of films that I was impressed with on a technical level this year, I guess the one that stands out is the animated film that felt like it invented all sorts of new colors. I swear, “Coco” used such a vibrant color scheme that I saw shades of neon I’ve never seen before, like the whole film was this never ending technicolor rainbow of varying colors. I would consider that more impressive than anything any other film has done technically this year.

 

 

Most Fun in Theaters – “Thor: Ragnarok”

The best popcorn film of the year was such a blast! If I wasn’t laughing at the witty banter or great jokes, I was enthralled by the use of norse mythology and/or colorful alien worlds. Korg might be one of my favorite characters in the entire Marvel universe now, and we finally get a Thor film that never took itself seriously, leading to some really awesome action sequences that take full advantage of their wacky scenarios. This film was this year’s definition of fun.

 

 

Sleep Inducer – “Colossal”

This goes here because I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at one point. This is a boring, hateful movie that never fully embraces its genres of comedy and giant monsters, turning into a forgettable and sometimes hard to watch film that I’d rather forget about. Save yourself the trouble with this film and just watch “Shin Godzilla” instead.

 

 

Need to See Again – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

I really wanted to see the newest Star Wars in theaters again when I had the opportunity, but that chance hasn’t come quite yet. I feel like, in order to fully get Rian Johnson’s vision of Star Wars and what he really wanted to add to this universe, you need to see this film twice (again, very ingenious move by Disney). It felt like it added so much more to this sci-fi fairy tale that I missed on my initial viewing, so I do think a second watch is in order.

 

 

Funniest Film – “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2”

I would have said “Thor: Ragnarok” again for this one, but I don’t want to repeat myself, so instead I’ll go with the film that honestly did leave me in stitches at a couple of points. Watching “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is like watching Abbott and Costello trying to travel across the galaxy – the comedic timing between all of the main cast is pitch perfect and their witty banter is some of the best I’ve heard in any Marvel film. Plus, this film gave us the iconic line, “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” You really can’t go wrong with Yandu.

 

 

Biggest Disappointment – “Power Rangers”

As a longtime Power Rangers fan, this film was nothing but a big disappointment. While I didn’t have many expectations going into this film, I did expect to be entertained by some classic Power Ranger stuff, and we didn’t even get that. Instead it was teen angst and Krispy Kreme, never delving any deeper than a plastic spork on solid volcanic rock into what made the Power Rangers so great and memorable. The ultimate problem with this movie is that it doesn’t understand what made Power Rangers so iconic, even though it is something very simple that even the 1995 terrible movie understood. Hell, I’d take that turd of a movie from my childhood over this crapfest.

 

 

Most Forgettable – “American Made”

I completely forgot I saw this film until I looked through all of my reviews of 2017. My picks for this category are always the film that left literally no impression on me. They weren’t terrible enough to remember, nor did they have anything good to talk about to others. They just exist in the ether that means nothing to me. While “American Made” wasn’t a bad movie, it certainly wasn’t good either. Just a forgettable okay. And sometimes, that can be even worse than being a bad film.

At least I remember how bad “Power Rangers” made me feel. I can’t remember anything about “American Made” other than Tom Cruise flew a plane.

 

 

Most Overrated – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

I thought about giving this spot to “The Post,” but I think that film does deserve most of the praise it is getting. “War for the Planet of the Apes” on the other hand had very little going for it outside of its continued technological breakthroughs. The world was detailed and emmersive and the effects were stellar, but the story was almost nonexistent and the pacing was horrendous. After a certain point, I just stopped caring about everything these apes were fighting for. While this is a visual masterpiece, this film left me feeling pretty cold by the end.

 

 

Most Underrated – “Logan”

While we raved about this film when it came out, it feels like opinions on “Logan” have died down since its release. And while I gave this film an okay review back in March, my opinion on this film has only grown since then as I’ve realized that it’s not just a great comic book movie, but a wonderful conclusion to a story that was told over the course of nearly 10 movies and gave us one of the best unconventional westerns of all time. I love the bitter-sweet feeling to it all, as well as the heartache it provides as everything gets wrapped up. It may not end the way fans wanted it, but I honestly can’t imagine this ending any other way.

 

 

Best Performance – *Tie* James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist” and Sam Rockwell as Officer Dixon in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Two men who put everything they have on the screen for us to bare witness to, letting us judge not only their characters but their very souls. Both of these men were funny, heart-breaking, thought-provoking and always the center of attention when they were on screen. James Franco disappeared in this role as Tommy Wiseau, while Sam Rockwell gave us a performance that made you similtaneously love and hate this man. So I applaud both of these actors for giving us the year’s best performances.

 

 

Best Scene – Kong’s reveal and initial helicopter fight in “Kong: Skull Island”

While there were tons of scenes that I vividly remember, the one that reintroduced us to King Kong might be my favorite. From the camera movement, to the ballet-like movement of the helicopters to the orange and yellow color palette, this scene made me fall in love with Kong all over again.

 

 

Most Anticipated Film of 2018 – “Avengers: Infinity War”

How could I not be excited for a film that’s been building up for ten years? Litreally everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building up since “Iron Man” is coming together in this one movie. The castlist of stars alone is enough to cover up two posters, and it’s made by the same guys that did the last two Captain American movies. I cannot wait for this film to come out and see exactly how the heroes will combat the greatest evil they’ve ever faced.

 

 

Worst Film – “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

This film was infuriating and insulting on more levels than I thought an action movie could be. It’s one thing if it’s a brainless action film, but it’s another thing entirely when an action film talks down to you, makes snap judgments about the world around us, and paints us all as incompetent morons would couldn’t save ourselves even if we tried. This film made me want to throw up, and made me hate Elton John! How dare you?!

Now before we get to my top five films of 2017, there’s still one question I always like to ask at the end of every year – Was this past year a good one for movies?

My typical criteria for defining what makes a “good year for movies” is the number of stellar or outstanding movies. Ones that weren’t just great entertainment, but ones that I’ll remember fondly years from now, long passed their initial run in theaters. A good year typically has at least three or four of these types of films, while a great year has five or more. Last year was a pretty good year, with films like “La La Land,” “Arrival,” “Moonlight” and “Shin Godzilla,” though not nearly as good as 2015 with an amazing ten wonderful movies.

But this year? I would say 2017 was a great year. As you’re about to find out, I would say there are at least seven or eight movies that are amazing and truly worth everyone’s time. And this is without seeing movies like “Shape of Water” or “Call Me By Your Name.” It was a year of movies that I felt told honest yet extremely human stories, about people who risked everything they had ever believed in, and offered us their flawed souls. Even blockbusters like “Wonder Woman” and “The Lego Batman Movie” did this exceptionally well.

Which brings us into my picks for the five best films of the year. This proved to be difficult for some of these picks, though I didn’t have a problem picking numbers one and two – they were, in my opinion, clearly the best films of the year.

Top Five Films of 2017 –

 

 

5. “The Disaster Artist”

This is not only the best movie about movies since “Ed Wood,” but it feels like a love letter to one of the most bizarre tales in all of Hollywood. It has one of the best performances of the year from James Franco that transcends the typical Tommy Wiseau impression that everyone has these days and a great sense of humor that never lets up. The ending sequence is the reason we go to the movies, offering a visual affection for one of the best worst films ever made.

 

 

4. “Lady Bird”

The best coming-of-age tale of the year, and one of the most relatable tales since “Boyhood,” “Lady Bird” feels like an entire generation wrapped up in one picture, with all of their dreams, fears, insecurities and style all on full display. With some of the best authentic writing that comes across as both humorous and heartwarming, I have no problem saying this is the film I respect the most in 2017.

 

 

3. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

I honestly did not see this one coming. “Three Billboards” was just the right kind of different and weird that I wanted to see, while still remaining honest yet brutal. It doesn’t pull any punches while not giving the audience a clear answer about its morals and ethics, showing us characters that constantly act like villains but never feel like anything less than flawed humans. It has three wonderful performances and the pacing never lets up. It is my pick for the best indie film of the year.

 

 

2. “Blade Runner 2049”

“Blade Runner 2049” makes the number two spot almost because of cinematography alone. Without a doubt in my mind, this is the best visual spectacle of the year and probably the best since “Gravity.” The story world is just as fascinating though and is explored in beautiful and loving detail. The mystery is extremely fascinating and Ryan Gosling’s character makes for a wonderful evolution in this world where the line between android and human is getting thiner every day. While I feel it does have pacing problems, that is not nearly enough to dissaude me from saying that everyone needs to see this movie and see how science fiction is done right.

 

 

1. “Dunkirk”

Visual storytelling at its finest. “Dunkirk” feels like if Alfred Hitchcock made a big budget silent war film – it is eerie, tense, heart-pounding and makes you feel like you’re there with these men fighting for their lives against a faceless enemy, and all without hardly ever saying a word. This might be my pick for Christopher Nolan’s best film, because of how masterfully he weaves in and out of his three parallel stories to create this dynamic and very human struggle for survival.

Honorable Mentions – “Logan,” “Wonder Woman,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Get Out” and “It.”

 

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Best Of 2015

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And with another year in film coming to end, it seems appropriate to finish it up on my awards for the year. This will be different from my top ten films of the year, as these will be the films that stuck out in my mind for various reasons.

But first, let’s answer the question of “Was 2015 a good year for film?”

Since I’ve been writing reviews, it seems like every year of cinema has gotten better than the last. 2013 had three or four stand-movies to make it a good year, 2014 was a great year with five or six films that I still love to watch, and this year was even better. Most of the cons of 2013 and 2014, like the lack of good comedies and over abundance of effects-filled movies, were fixed in 2015. We got several laugh-out-loud comedies, like “Spy” and “Trainwreck,” films with more practical effects, like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Star Wars,” plus a nice mix of stand-out horror films and better effects in movies overall.

And while there were more than a few movies that grinned my gears, I can think of at least eight films that I would have no problem watching times in the future. I go into a bit more detail about that in my top ten films of 2015, so be sure to check that out. Any year where more than five rewatchable and respectful movies come out is a fantastic year for cinema, so I would call 2015 a massive success.

With that said, let’s take a look at the best (and worst) of 2015. Beginning with…

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Biggest Surprise “Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation”

Going in, I did not expect much out of this one. Tom Cruise is getting far too old for these types of roles, and the “Mission: Impossible” franchise seemed to be running out of ideas after the third film. But, much to my amazement, “Rogue Nation” dwelled less on stunts and more on complex character moments, giving Tom Cruise enough room to play both hero and villain. Each action piece was unique, and the pacing makes each one gripping and exciting to watch. This is not only the best film in this series, but the best spy film of the year.

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Most Technologically Impressive “Ant-Man”

In a year full of technologically impressive films, this one was tough.

Usually, I like to give this award to the film that transports us to a fascinating new world. But this year, while films like “The Martian” and “Inside Out” did just that, they always felt close to home. So I’m giving this one to “Ant-Man,” for making our world feel foreign. This film was at its best when making every-day objects feel like weapons of mass destruction, especially a toy train set.

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Most Fun In Theaters “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens”

This one is a no-brainer. If you didn’t have fun with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” go see it again. It only gets better on the second and third viewing. Trust me, I learned that from experience.

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Sleep Inducer “Run All Night”

It certainly didn’t help that I saw this one at 11 o’clock at night, after a long day of walking miles through an anime convention. I’m pretty sure I tuned out half way through this “Taken” clone.

You know, I haven’t even seen “Taken.” But now that I’ve seen so many films like it, I feel it would ruin my first experience of the film that just about everyone seems to love.

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Film I Need To See Again “Spotlight”

I respect “Spotlight” far too much to only watch it once. This film deserves as much attention as it can get, for being so loyal and dedicated to the truth, much like the journalists covering the story.

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Funniest Film “Spy”

I rewatched “Spy” recently, and the comedy still holds up as much as it did when I saw it in theaters. The scene where Melissa McCarthy verbally destroys Rose Bryne’s character in the airplane is her crowning moment of comedy, combining her talent of insults, imagination and spunk. This film makes the best use out of McCarthy’s talent as both a comedian and an actress, while still giving plenty of great moments to Jason Statham and Jude Law.

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Biggest Disappointment “Joy”

A film that I had looked forward to since the first trailers came out, and what we got was the story of a bored housewife making a mop, while everyone around her either ruins her dreams or watches soap operas.

Weak.

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Most Forgettable “Southpaw”

After watching “Creed,” I had utterly forgotten about seeing “Southpaw.” That film was the most cliché, predictable and by-the-numbers film of the year, with no stand-out performances, even from the lead actors. At this point, “Southpaw” has become nothing more than the butt of a joke.

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Most Overrated “The Revenant”

If this is the most overrated film of the year, then you now it has been a good year for cinema. Because there was a lot to like about “The Revenant.” Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance, the breath-taking cinematography combine with so many long takes to show case the awe of nature, and the atmosphere of isolation.

However, the pacing is excruciating at times, making the experience almost sleep-inducing at times. Since “The Revenant” came out the same year as films like “The Martian” and “The Hateful Eight,” this one seems almost forgettable.

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Most Underrated “Kingsmen: The Secret Service”

Even I had forgotten about this one for a while, since it came out so long ago.

While I did say that “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” was the best spy film of 2015, “Kingsmen: The Secret Service” was the best spy film that did not take itself seriously in the slightest. This one takes the most ludicrous action sequences, villain schemes and long-winded speeches from “Spy” and “Spectre” and amps it up to 11. Yet, it never looses its sophistication, especially with Colin Firth’s character. Though there were sequences that didn’t make a lot of sense, like the all-out violent scene, and I still don’t know why Samuel L. Jackson’s character had a lisp, “Kingsmen: The Secret Service” was a blast and a hidden gem from this year.

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Best Performance Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in “Creed”

This might be the biggest surprise of 2015. In a year where we get stellar performances from Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron and any role from “Spotlight,” it is Sylvester Stallone that comes away with the greatest performance of the year.

Stallone gives us a tortured and beaten soul that has given up on life, until life gives him a second chance to prove that he is still useful in this world and can continue to fight. At times, Stallone seems low on energy, but there is always that hidden power laying underneath each line of dialogue.

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Most Anticipated Film of 2016 The Japanese Monster Films to be released, in particular “Godzilla: Resurgence”

At this point in time, there isn’t a lot I’m looking forward to in 2016. Right away, we have “Kung Fu Panda 3,” “Deadpool” and “Hail, Caesar!” Later on, we have “Captain America: Civil War” and “Batman Vs. Superman.” But if I had to pick a movie to be excited for, it would be every monster film being planned for 2016. And there’s a lot.

There’s a Ultraman movie being planned for later this year, a new Gamera film has been tentatively planned for a 2016 release, and most importantly, a new Japanese Godzilla film, titled “Godzilla: Resurgence.”

Not much is known at this time about the film, but given that Toho wants to make this Godzilla even bigger than the 2014 Godzilla, while still maintaining his roots to the 1954 film, is at least promising. While the new suit has already thrown a lot of people off, I think the suit is terrifying. This is a Godzilla that has been decimated by the atomic bomb, as shown by his massive amounts of teeth (in strange place no less) and the large burn marks all over his body, and yet is still alive. It’s almost tragic in a way, a creature that should have died a long time ago, but is somehow being kept alive to suffer, and share that suffering with millions of people.

Count me in.

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Worst Film of 2015 “Krampus”

This was the only film that truly hurt me this year. “Krampus” is anti-fun, as if it is taking something away from you as you slowly descend into a tedious rage. It wasn’t funny, nor scary, and was about as whimsical as an icicle through the eye. I really don’t care if it is faithful to the legend of Krampus, because that does not make the viewing experience any better.

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Best Film of 2015 “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Oh, what a film! What a lovely film!

 

Best Of 2014

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Another year of film has come to an end, and it was a year that continually impressed me. From the beginning, there were films that showed boundless creativity, to ones with stellar effects and dripping with atmosphere. Movies that touched on social issues in our world without over doing it, and ones that spoke to the simple aspects of life.

I would say that 2014 is comparable to 2013, with many of the same pros and cons, but that 2014 saw those aspects amplified. The good things in 2013 got even better, but the bad ones got even worse. But since I said that 2013 was still a good year for films, I firmly believe that 2014 was a great year for cinema.

As such, let’s take a look at the best (and worst) films of 2014 and give ourselves a little reminder to all the movies that made us laugh, cry, imagine and whimper in fear. However, unlike last year where I simply announced the best film, there were just too many great films this year to choose from, so at the end of this blog post, I’ll be counting my top five films of the year.

Let’s get started with…

Biggest Surprise – “Captain America: The Winter Solider”

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Going into this film, I did not expect a lot. I thought there would be espionage, some cool hand-to-hand fight sequences and lots of Scarlett Johansson. While all of that was there, what we also got was the smartest superhero film since “The Dark Knight.” A film where every character has shades of gray and by the end you are unsure what to make of both the heroes and villains. The terms “good” and “evil” are irrelevant, and only “right” and “wrong” remain.

Most Technologically Impressive “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”

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This category was a hard one, since there were so many films that looked amazing through their scope and use of camera techniques. “Interstellar,” “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” “The Lego Movie” and so many others blew me away with their visuals. But, if I had to pick one, it would be “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” one of the more overlooked films of 2014. In this film, every single ape has its own  movements. Then you remember there are over 200 different apes in this film. All done with CG. Combine this with another one-of-a-kind performance from Andy Serkis, and you’ve got a “Planet Of The Apes” film that almost reach the level of the original 1968 classic. Almost.

Most Fun In The Theaters – “Godzilla”

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Admit it. Everyone saw this coming.

Though there were plenty of entertaining and cool films this year, especially from Marvel, nothing can compete with my excitement and expectations of Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla.” I had waited ten years for this film, and it did not disappoint. The size and scope of Godzilla was bigger than ever before, the effects for the monsters destroying cities looked impressive and we finally got the Godzilla that fans have waited for a long time to see. My only disappointment is that the acting from Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olson could have been more convincing, which would have made their scenes even more heart-pounding than they already were.

Sleep Inducer – “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies”

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What was the point of this film anyway?

It is sad that a film as epic as a tale from Middle Earth could be so boring and uncaring. Part of this problem stems from the fact that all the character development and motivation was in the first two films of this trilogy, leaving “Battle Of The Five Armies” with nothing to go on. The film is practically running on fumes by the end of the first act. As such, there is no reason to give a damn about anything that happens. Characters are dying left and right, but I couldn’t care less, because I don’t even know half of their names, let alone their character traits.

Film I Need To Watch Again- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

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I’ll give Wes Andersen this, he knows how to make a film that needs to be watched multiple times, but you don’t mind watching multiple times. I have now watched “The Grand Budapest Hotel” twice, and I still do not feel like I fully understand it. To me, it is just another Wes Andersen film like all of his others. That is not a bad thing, but it didn’t do much to grab my attention. It could be that I just do not get it and need to see it again. We will see.

Funniest Film Of 2014- “Guardians Of The Galaxy”

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Like I’ve said many times over the last year, comedies nowadays suck. Even though 2014 did give us some decent comedies in “Top Five” and the previously mentioned “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” none of them were uproarious laughter. The film that consistently made me laugh this year was “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” From the witty and pop culture-fueled Star Lord, to Drax taking everything seriously, to Rocket and his general attitude of not caring about anything but himself, to Groot being…Groot. Lots to laugh and enjoy about this one. One of the better blockbusters of 2014.

Biggest Disappointment- “The Boxtrolls”

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For a film made by the same people as “Coraline” and “Paranorman,” this one was unnecessarily mean-spirited and hateful. It certainly had some neat animations when it came to the Boxtrolls, but the characters were either unimaginative, poorly written and so strange that seemed out-of-place. By the end of it, I was more disappointed at myself for falling for all that than I was at the movie.

Most Forgettable- “The Judge”

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Did this movie even happen? I forgot.

Perhaps it was because I saw it on the same day as “Gone Girl,” but “The Judge” had nothing going for it. The story was predictable, the characters were cliché and bland, and there was nothing to grab my attention. The conflict between Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall is so forced and hammered in that you just roll your eyes at every scene. And of course, it began my least favorite part of 2014 – keeping character motivation and backgrounds hidden until the last ten minutes of the film. This trend needs to go away, or else we are bound to get some terrible stories.

Most Overrated- “Interstellar”

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It was a tough choice between “Interstellar” and “Selma” for this one, but in the end, Christopher Nolan’s ego-trip won against the Civil Rights story that we’ve all heard many times. As I’ve mentioned before, “Interstellar” does have some breath-taking visuals and make it worth watching, but the story is unnecessarily convoluted, forced and pretentious.

Believe me, I hate to use the word “pretentious” on anything, since it has air of smug and know-it-all. But that word and “Interstellar” seem to go together. It thinks way too highly of itself, like it is telling the most epic story ever created, when it is just like any other science-fiction movie. Christopher Nolan’s finger prints are all over this film and that takes something away from it.

Most Underrated- “Big Eyes”

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Early on in 2014, I talked about Hayao Miyazaki’s last film “The Wind Rises” and how it not only encapsulates the feelings of its main character, but Miyazaki’s dreams as well. Of a man who had no limitations on his creativity and imagination, no boundaries to speak of and always tried his best to make something that he could be proud of.

I bring this up because “Big Eyes” and its’ director Tim Burton work in a similar way. The film depicts a woman who, despite all odds, saw the need to paint in the eyes of people and brought those paintings to the masses. She sees the inner beauty of people, or some cases the ugliness. Burton does the same with his work, as he makes his adaptations into his own ideas. They may not always work, but that is the beauty of being an artist – sometimes you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. No one knows that better than Tim Burton.

Best Performances Of 2014- *TIE* Anything by Jennifer Lawrence and Christoph Waltz

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I am now convinced that both of these wonderful people can do no wrong. Both of these actors were in two movies that I saw this year, “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” for Lawrence, and “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Big Eyes” for Waltz. In all cases, Lawrence and Waltz were the highlight of all four films. The charisma of Waltz and the intensity of Lawrence have become eye-popping and worth the price of admission. It is impossible for me to choose between these two, so it is only fair that they share this spot.

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Best Rediscovery Of 2014- “Fargo”

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Like last year with “The Lady Eve,” there were a few films this year that I had watched before, but gained an all new respect for all of a sudden. In 2014, that film was “Fargo,” which I am now convinced is the best Coen Brothers film. After watching the unnecessarily depressing “Inside Llewyn Davis,” I realized that the Coens are at their best when they have an overly optimistic and positive outlook on life in their dark worlds. No one does that better than Margie Gunderson in “Fargo.” If it weren’t for her, there would be very few redeeming qualities to that film. She makes the struggle of our pathetic and stupid characters worth following, as we see her have this happy and content life with a loving husband and a baby on the way. One of my favorite films today and a good one to pop in at any time.

Most Anticipated Film Of 2015- “Inside Out”

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2015 promises to be a big year for the blockbuster. The second entry for the Avengers, the return of the Terminator, Mad Max and Jurassic Park, the end of Katniss, and of course, “Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens.” So, since there is no new Godzilla film coming out, what is the movie that I’m looking forward to above all others? I have to go with Pixar’s most imaginative film since “WALL-E.”

One of my disappointments with 2014 was that there was no new Pixar movies. Luckily, we’ll be getting two new ones in 2015, including one about the emotions of a girl and conflict going on inside of her head. Simple premise, but it could lead to so many creative and thought-provoking scenarios in a long time. You can bet that I’ll be in the theater opening night to see “Inside Out.”

Worst Film Of 2014- “St. Vincent”

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If this film was not making me roll my eyes at the cliché and predictable story, it was making me groan in frustration at how poorly written these characters were. “St. Vincent” is unfunny, mean-spirited, poorly paced and subscribes to the idea that you should save character development until the audience is getting ready to leave. Even Bill Murray couldn’t save this film, because he is not given any room to do his improv or add his own spice to the role. “St. Vincent” is an ugly movie only makes me feel dirty for watching it.

And now, we arrive at my top five films of 2014. Even though I still given five spots, it was still and difficult process to narrow it down to just five films. I’d like to give some honorable mentions to “Wild,” “American Sniper,” “Big Eyes” and “Life Itself” for being so close to making it on this list and still be wonderfully thought-provoking and entertaining films.

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5. “Boyhood”

It took me a while to decide if “Boyhood” would make this list or not. I was unsure of how I really felt about the film and whether I actually liked Mason as a character. But in the end, I decided that I love Mason as a character, but I do not like him as a person. Since we see Mason become his own man over the course of twelve years, we can safely say that we know the inner workings of this guy. As such, I can at least respect Mason, but that he is still unlikable and boring at times.

Much like “Gravity” and “12 Years A Slave” last year, I respect “Boyhood” more than anything else. And because of that respect, it certainly earns a spot on my list of the best films of the year. No other film has done what “Boyhood” did and will probably never be attempted again.

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4. “The Lego Movie”

I’ve probably talked more about this movie than any other one this year, but this needs to be stated – I have never seen a movie like “The Lego Movie.”

I don’t mean just a movie where everything is made out of Legos, but how each world of Legos operates, how the pieces of each construction can be broken down and recreated into something else, how it able to combine the aspects of some of the greatest stories ever made and still be its own unique story from the mind of a child. Throw in a wonderful sense of humor, some good voice acting and surprisingly adult twist and you have one of the most imaginative and fun movies that I have seen in a long time.

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3. “Gone Girl”

Aside from this being an effective mystery that can be watched multiple times without getting tiresome, “Gone Girl” works at being an emotional rollercoaster, where your feelings on the main characters can change on a whim. Sometimes you’ll be sympathetic to Ben Affleck, but other times you’ll hate him for being a scumbag and then there are times where you’re convinced that he killed his wife. For a film to be able to pull that off, and for to do it without even realizing it, is a massive achievement in dramatic storytelling and pacing.

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2. “Birdman”

For a while, I had “Gone Girl” ahead of “Birdman,” but the more that I thought about the dialogue, the camera movement and the tragically optimistic character of Riggin Thomson, the more I realized just how amazing and profound “Birdman” is. The visual style is unique and fits the theatre theme, each character is like-abley pathetic and it leaves you wanting more. Out of the many smart movies in 2014, this one was the prodigy of the group.

And The Best Movie Of 2014 is…

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“Nightcrawler”

Certainly the creepiest movie of the year, but the creepiness works in perfectly to Jack Gyllenhaal’s performance and the unnerving business of breaking news. It goes beyond dog-eat-dog and becomes a dark place where the lowest scumbags will film your death to sell to the highest bidding news station. On top of that, you have a character like Louis Bloom, who lives in his own little world where people are expendable products and only the dominant and work-driven survive. In a world where the media consistently goes by the “If it bleeds, it leads” slogan, “Nightcrawler” is the most relevant movie of the year.

And this brings us to the end of 2014. I have to admit this has been one of the better years for film in some time and it has been a joy to share all these wonderful movies with you. I hope you have enjoyed my experience and thoughts throughout and I hope that 2015 will bring us even more great work.

The Best Of 2013



2013 has come and gone, but will never be forgotten. This year was host to many wonderful movies that have stuck with me long after I saw them. Some of these movies were technologically impressive, while others wowed me with their characters and story and some were just plain awesome all around. While there were some disappointing or downright bad ones, every year is going to have their share of crap. 
Overall, I felt this was a good year for film and one of the best in recent memory. Certainly the best of the 2010s so far. This year meant a lot to me because it was the year I finally began to review every movie I saw and I was able to share my thoughts and feelings with everyone who reads them. For that, I am eternally grateful to both my readers and filmmakers who bring us these works of art. 
Now is the time for reflection and choosing which of the many films I saw this year stood out above all the others. Whether they stood out for being good, bad, funny, heartwarming or somewhere in between, these are the films that left a lasting impression on me. 
This is the best (and worst) of 2013!
Most Technologically Impressive: “Gravity”


This was a beautiful film for many reasons. The main one being how the film made you feel like you were in space alongside Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. The camera moves as if it is floating alongside them and, in typical Alfonso Cuaron fashion, it rarely cuts from a dramatic shot. I want to say that “Gravity” does this so effortlessly, but I know that it took hundreds of hours just to make a few frames look stunning. For that reason, “Gravity” is one of the most impressive movies in years. 
Funniest Movie Of 2013: “The Wolf Of Wall Street”


If there was one thing wrong with 2013, it was the shortage of good comedies. “This Is The End,” “Anchorman 2” were both unfunny and brainless and even “The World’s End” to a lesser extent wasn’t all that noteworthy compared to Edgar Wright’s other work. Hell, for a while the film that made me laugh consistently was “Iron Man 3.” You know its bad when superhero movies are funnier than most comedies. 
Thank god for Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio for bringing the funny back in “The Wolf Of Wall Street.” The difference between what Scorsese did and what other filmmakers missed out on was having a certain charm to the characters. To either make us love the characters or hate them so much that we want to see everything go bad for them. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” creates the biggest assholes imaginable who feel they’re in their own little world and everyone else is lame and pathetic. That alone makes me want to laugh but the film takes it even further than that and shows every disgusting detail of their nasty lives. Throw in some great performances from Leo and Jonah Hill and you’ve got a recipe for one outstanding comedy.
Sleep Inducer: “Man Of Steel”


It seems like most people are split right down the middle on this movie. Some hate it, some love it. I still find it to be boring and bland. Acting that leaves a lot to be desired, a barebones story and writing that acts more like it wants Superman to be a dark, misunderstood hero when we already have Batman to do that for us. Very little to keep the audience interested, other than action sequences filmed in confuse-o-vision. 
Most fun at the theater: “Pacific Rim”


On the opposite end of “Man Of Steel,” we have a film that is consistently fun with some of the best action sequences between two giant creatures. Not only was the world of “Pacific Rim” familiar and refreshing, but how the film used its antagonists (the kaiju) made them more than just brainless bodies to beat up. The weight of each punch could be felt just through camera movements. For a film about giant robots beating up giant monsters, that is an impressive feat. 
Film that needs to be watched again: “American Hustle” 


This film really does need at least two viewings to understand everything that happens. Preferably at least once with subtitles. Whether because of plot points traveling at super sonic speeds or Christian Bale’s mumbling, much of the film could go over peoples’ heads. But, there is still enough charm present to keep the audience interested, particularly in the performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams. Even if you’re not interested in the plot, they’re always fun to watch. “American Hustle” deserves a second viewing just for Lawrence seducing Bale again. 
So close, but not quite there: “Star Trek: Into Darkness”


I haven’t had a chance to discuss this one yet, but “Star Trek: Into Darkness” was so very close to being a masterpiece that its kind of sad. It’s like watching a baseball game, and your team completely dominates for the first eight innings…only for them to completely screw it up in the ninth inning and lose the game. There was a moment where I felt that this one might top the best Star Trek film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan,” because the writing was excellent. Keeping up the mystery of who the villain is, making Kirk question his role as captain, an intriguing political scandal that is competent and well thought out and addressing the age-old question of whether Starfleet should be a military organization or a group of explorers. Then the last fifteen minutes of the film happen and the writing gets extremely lazy, ripping off lines from other Star Trek films, forced moments of conflict and deus-ex machina as an alien furball. It was inches away from being so good, which is why I’m so upset about it. 
Most Forgettable: “Don Jon”


Wait, I watched this movie? I completely forgot about it. This is due in large part to the predictable and by the books story. It is the plot of every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen and only rarely tries to say anything new. If it had been more about the parallels between watching porn and watching movies, then this could have a more noteworthy movie, yet the film barely touches on this and leaves much of the discussion untouched.  Other than that, I feel like I could predict every line of dialogue before it even happens.
Most Overrated Film Of 2013: “Inside Llewyn Davis” 


The Coen Brothers are often at their best when there is an air of optimism and hope for the future in their films. “Fargo” and “No Country For Old Men” stick out because of their main characters and their struggle throughout the film not affecting how they see the world and their joy within it. This is not the case with “Inside Llewyn Davis.” It is sad and pessimistic from the beginning and never lets go. The characters are assholes, the plot goes no where and does practically nothing and it doesn’t seem to understand the essence of folk singing. It just lacks the Coen Brothers charm that I’ve come to know and love, which is very disappointing. 
Most Underrated Film Of 2013: “Prisoners”


Most people seem to have forgotten about this film, which is upsetting. For quite a while, this was my favorite film of the year. It gives us a mystery that stands up to repeated viewings, has characters whose moral center is blurred and has a good pace that never feels too slow or too fast. If “Prisoners” isn’t intriguing for its mystery, then the characters who have to make tough choice will be there to keep you going.
Hardest Film To Watch: “This Is The End”


While I didn’t feel like walking out of “This Is The End,” there were times where I turned around and wondered why the audience was laughing at most of the jokes. Ones that revolved around James Franco and Danny McBride arguing over a Playboy and a demon that has nothing to hide. The humor was forced, disrespectful, unbelievably crude and worst of all not funny. Just an all around bad time.
Biggest Disappointment: “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”


This is what I get for putting my hopes up, that this would turn out to be a simple yet effective movie. What could have been something insightful and touching turned into a film with way too many plot points and characters in it. The film lost track of what it wanted to be and instead told a story that we’ve all seen before and will see many more times. And that’s sad. 
Best Performance Of 2013: TIE Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks” and Sam Rockwell as Owen in “The Way, Way Back”


I wanted to widdle this down to just one performance, but I couldn’t bring myself to decide which performance I loved more. They’re both amazing jobs by Hanks and Rockwell and for very much the same reason: The two disappear when performing. When I see both of these actors in their respective movies, I don’t see Tom Hanks or Sam Rockwell, I see Walt Disney and Owen. 


Hanks captures the charm, wit and childlike wonder of Disney that all you need to do is look his smile and you believe that you’re watching the creator of Mickey Mouse. Owen, on the other hand, takes every opportunity to have fun with everything in life. He doesn’t let many things get him down, because he feels life is too short for that. Rockwell has enough unmatched charisma to pull something like that off. Both roles are different, yet have quite a bit in common. For that, they’re both the best. 
Biggest “WTF” Moment Of 2013: The torture scenes in “Kick Ass 2” 


Sometimes there are points in movies where you just want to yell at the screen and question what the filmmakers were thinking when they put that in. The scene that made me want to do that more than any other comes from “Kick Ass 2,” where we see one of the main characters be brutally and vividly tortured and killed. The worst part of it was that the scene entirely unnecessary. The audience could have easily gotten the idea of what was happening by the other characters reacting to the news rather than showing every little detail. In the first “Kick Ass,” violence was used to show how brutal and disgusting this world was. In the sequel, violence is overdone and over stays its welcome. 
Best Rediscovery of 2013: “The Lady Eve” (1941)


Occasionally there seems to be a film or two which I re-watch for the first time in years, catch something that I missed the first time and end up falling in love with the movie. In 2013, that movie was “The Lady Eve,” starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda and directed by the wonderfully funny Preston Sturges. A romance that develops naturally, characters who change due to this charm but not so much so that they’re a whole new person. The comedy is always funny, whether verbal or slapstick and comes off without feeling forced. There is a logical train of thought and progression, yet at the same time logic is beyond this film because of how outrageous things can get. It just works on so many levels that it is now one of my favorite films. 
Most Anticipated Movie Of 2014: “Godzilla”


Does this really come as a surprise to anyone? While I was initially hesitant to say anything good about the new Godzilla film, due to the director who has only ever worked on one independent film, the newest trailer has convinced me otherwise. Portraying Godzilla with more power and size than he has most other incarnations is a good way to go. Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Tyler-Johnson, Ken Watanabe and Elizabeth Olson has me convinced that I’ll at least be excited to see the film. Will it turn to be an excellent rebirth to the classic king of the monsters? Or will it turn out just like the terrible 1998 film? We’ll just have to wait and see. 
Worst Film Of 2013: “Elysium”


This one was a toss-up between “Elysium” and “Anchorman 2” but I ultimately felt that the former was far more painful to watch. “Anchorman 2” was just bad, from start to finish. “Elysium” on the other hand was not just bad, but insulting. It failed because it felt that anyone who has enough money is a selfish douche-bag who doesn’t deserve what life has to offer. On top of that, the film is ugly. Much brown and unpleasant caricatures that they call “characters” and far too much shakey-cam to know what’s going on in any fight sequence. Not even Matt Damon’s performance could redeem the movie. None of this film seems to work. 
And the Best Film Of 2013 is…


“her”
This is the film which had the most real characters I’ve seen in a long time, with a relationship that blossoms so naturally that it is beautiful in its simplicity. The world in which “her” is set is stunning to observe with all the little touches, like their uses of video games and social media. Most importantly, even with all the heartbreak that occurs, the film ends a more somber and pleasing note: That no matter how advanced and sophisticated our technology may become, life is still ours for the taking. It is how we use the time we have on this earth that matters, and we all deserve to have joy in lifetime, even those with artificial intelligence. 
This brings us to the end of what 2013 has to offer. While there were some low points, I still felt that the good outweighed the bad and gave us a year that I’ll look back at fondly. I hope that my reviews and thoughts also gave you a good perspective of 2013 and I am excited to do it again in 2014. 
Next Post: The Top 10 Films I Watched in 2013