Category: Lists

Yeah, I know the idea is to do a top ten, but f*** you, this my list.

And I know it’s super late to be doing one of these, but just because a few months have gone by doesn’t mean I like them any less.

There were so many great ones last year that there was no room for movies that I thought for sure would make it the cut. Although The Hobbit and The Hunger Games made my list last year (Hunger Games at #2) neither of the follow-ups made it near the top.

And although there were several more movies I really enjoyed last years, there were a few that just missed the boat, like Birdman, The Theory Of Everything, The Rover, Only Lovers Left Alive, Fury, The Fault In Our Stars, and a little known film called The LEGO Movie.

Now, let’s get into it.

Selma20. Selma

This powerful and expertly crafted recount of Dr. Martin Luther Kin Jr.’s march through Selma, Alabama is bolstered by an outsanding lead performance and an equally powerful song by Common and John Legend that I can’t stop listening to. Also the feels. Oh, the feels. It may be low on this here list of favorites but, objectively speaking, I believe this to be one of the 5 best movies of 2014.

Begin Again19. Begin Again

Who saw this movie coming? Despite receiving accolades for different performances last year, Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley each give one of their best performances to date in this musically fueled, lighthearted drama. And not to mention great soundtrack, but it has a great soundtrack.

Ice Cube;Jonah Hill;Channing Tatum18. 22 Jump Street

How often does a comedy sequel come along that might actually be better than the first film? Well this might be one of them. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have better chemistry than couples in most romantic comedies and they show that in full force in this hilarious movie.

The Guest17. The Guest

Whoa. Another movie that came out of nowhere and knocked the f***ing roof off the place, this crazy throwback to the B action and horror movies of the 80’s is bananas.

John Wick16. John Wick

Oh, my God, the scene in the club where he’s like BAM BAM BAM and Theon Grejoy runs like a  bitch and Willem Dafoe is all *thwip*thwip* with his sniper and Keanu Reeves is shooting people in the face with gun-fu and the guy from Fringe  is like “‘Ello, Mistah Wick” and then Keanu Reeves is all “whoa” and then he blows up a car and it’s awesome! Baba yega!

Snowpiercer15. Snowpiercer

Where are these movies coming from!? A  brilliant sci-fi thriller with great style, terrific performances, and smart social overtones, this movie is worth it for Tilda Swinton’s bonkers performance alone.

How To Train Your Dragon 214. How To Train Your Dragon 2

The first film surprised me by how earnest and exciting it was and this film brought it even further by showing these characters further down the line and facing new challenges. Surprisingly emotional and just as visually stunning with a boisterous score to boot, this is a worthy, if not better, follow-up.

Tom Cruise Edge Of Tomorrow13. Edge Of Tomorrow

Remember when we all saw the trailer and thought it would be as generic as Jai Courtney in everything? Boy were we wrong. This sci-fi action film in which Tom Cruise must relive the same day over and over to defeat and alien invasion is exciting, smart, and even has a great sense of humor as well as heart.

Tom Cruise Edge Of Tomorrow13. Edge Of Tomorrow

Remember when we all saw the trailer and thought it would be as generic as Jai Courtney in everything? Boy were we wrong. This sci-fi action film in which Tom Cruise must relive the same day over and over to defeat and alien invasion is exciting, smart, and even has a great sense of humor as well as heart.

Chef12. Chef

(drools) It’s a good thing my dad is a chef because I wouldn’t be able to live if I couldn’t eat like the characters in this movie. Full of passion, heart, humor, and an amazing cast, this comedy from Jon Favreau is impossible not to like.

K72A3451d.tif11. Nightcrawler

What a delightfully unsettling film. With a fully committed performance that reminded me of Patrick Bateman and others of Travis Bickle, this is not a film that you won’t forget any time soon no matter how hard you try.

The Raid 210. The Raid 2

Oh, my God, the scene where the guy with the bat is like *whoosh* and the hammer is like *thwop* and Rama is kicking people in the face and the guy in the kitchen with the Riddick knives and Asian Joseph Gordon-Levitt is like “respect me!” and the mobs are like BAM BAM and the prison brawl and the kitchen fight again, my God the kitchen fight, and the chase scene and it’s so amazing!

guardians-of-the-galaxy-zoe-saldana-chris-pratt9. Guardians of the Galaxy

OR as I like to call it: 70’s Soundtrack: The Movie. A crazy off the wall space opera that basically felt like Tarantino’s Star Wars, this movie made me love a tree and root for a raccoon. That alone is worth praising it. But with a cast, a soundtrack, and action like that, there’s almost too much to love about it.

Boyhood8. Boyhood

It’s almost difficult to explain why I loved this movie. Sure it has a loose structure and almost no plot, but that’s the beauty of it. A beautifully un-cinematic look at a person’s journey through adolescence without some unnecessary plot shoved in there. The real-time journey of the characters through the film also gives it a realism and a relatability that is absent from other films.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Boy, that title is a mouthful. Look, forget all the performance capture stuff for a minute. This is still a great, smart, intense film about trust and understanding among other things with a touch of Shakespeare and “Animal Farm” thrown in there. The humans may not be as interesting as last time, but with killer lead performances from Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell, who gives a shit?

Captain America The Winter Soldier6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

“When Captain America throws his mighty shieeeeld!” I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Captain America. I thought it was a serviceable movie that brought us closer to The Avengers, in which Cap still wasn’t my favorite character. And then this movie blasted through and became the best stand alone MCU movie as a neo-political espionage thriller with a slant on the grey area of global affairs and the fear brought on by the faceless enemy of terrorism. Who would have thought that the most politically intelligent film of the year would be a comic book movie? Take that, fake baby in American Sniper!

FOX_3750.psd5. Wild

I haven’t seen this on many top ten lists and I don’t know why. The book destroyed me emotionally and the film matches it in the capacity. With a career best performance from Reese Witherspoon as well as the incomparable Laura Dern, this film is a powerful look at grieving in a most extreme way with gorgeous locations to boot. It was the first “non-event” movie I ever saw more than once in theaters.

X-Men Days of Future Past4. X-Men: Days of Future Past

First Class was a nice way to whet our appetites after the mediocre Last Stand and the embarrassing Wolverine in ’09, but it wasn’t until the previous year’s The Wolverine that I felt like we were getting back to what I loved about the first two films. And Days of Future Past didn’t disappoint. Overflowing with fan favorites, the action almost takes a backseat to the characters in this film more so than we’ve seen before, but you almost don’t notice because you’re so invested in the characters.

Interstellar3. Interstellar

What would happen if you set one of McConaughey’s Lincoln ads in space? You get Interstellar. Screw the haters, I loved this movie. Sure Matt Damon threw me for a loop, but it was visually stunning, original, heart-pounding, and emotionally satisfying. Plus, that score by Hans Zimmer is orgasmic.

Whiplash-5547.cr22. Whiplash

Why is JK Simmons always yelling at me? To say the brilliant JK Simmons steals the show undercuts the brilliance of Miles Teller’s performance and Damien Chazelle’s storytelling. It poses the question of how far you’re willing to go and what you’re willing to give up to achieve greatness and gives you an answer that may not feel right, but you can’t help but root fr him. Plus that last ten minutes is every bit as intense as any action scene last year.

Gone Girl last shot1. Gone Girl

Rosamund Pike. (drops mic)


Top 13 Best Movies Of 2013

that's high praiseOnce again, I’ve shared what my preference of movies were from last year, the films I’d rather watch again due to my own taste or personal reaction. But what about the films that objectively stood out among the rest? What about the films that, even if they were absent from my favorites, were clearly achievements in their own right either through technical or emotional craft? Here’s a brief rundown of the best films of the year, the only films this years that came close to the greatness of Nic Cage’s filmography.
But before we get started, let’s honor the runners-up. Counting down to the list are Blue JasmineNebraskaAll Is Lost, The Way Way Back, Frozenand The World’s End.

13. Saving Mr. Banks: Just missing out on my favorites, this true story about the making of the film adaptation of Mary Poppins is made just as interesting and magical as the film itself by smooth storytelling and several great performances, including Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, and the sorely overlooked Colin Farrell.

12. The Conjuring: A film that’s rated R for being too scary, The Conjuring brings back the vibe of classic horror movies when it was about tension and atmosphere rather than nudity or body counts. You’ll feel uneasy going into your basement from now on.

11. Captain Phillips: Paul Greengrass reminds us yet again why he is a master of this genre with this true story of the hijacking of a cargo ship by Somali pirates, bolstered by a visceral sense of realism and a spectacular lead performance by Tom Hanks.

10. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug: While still not as perfect or resonant as Lord Of The Rings, this latest installment in The Hobbit trilogy is full of fun action sequences and an immersive world. Not to mention a fantastic villain in the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch.

9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The closest we’ve gotten to the greatness of the last Harry Potter movie in the Young Adult genre, Catching Fire reignites excitement for future installments with a darker tone, exciting action, and fantastic performances, especially from lead actress Jennifer Lawrence in a career best performance.

8. Lone Survivor: Overtly patriotic, but still a tense, hard to watch action thriller about the true story of a team of Navy SEALS who were pinned down by Taliban soldiers, held together by a deep respect for the brotherhood and bond that these men shared.

7. Star Trek Into Darkness: If anything, it just gets me more excited for JJ Abram’s Star Wars, but this film still works as a cool sci-fi film, an emotional character story, and an homage to previous Star Trek episodes and films. Not to mention a fantastic villain in the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch.

6. Dallas Buyers Club: People are so caught up on the admittedly fantastic performances that they miss out on the rest of the film. The story of a man stricken with AIDS who creates the Dallas Buyers Club is just as fascinating and well executed as the three leads.

5. Mud: Another Matthew McConaughey film, this coming of age tales of a 14-year-old boy helping a fugitive evade the law and reconnect with his true love, driven by his own young sense of love, is a dramatic, gritty, and even sometimes touching movie.

4. The Place Beyond The Pines: If not just to admire the unconventional structure, this dramatic tale of fathers and sons is expertly crafted and filled with fantastic performances all around that give the film a realistic touch.

3. Prisoners: An emotionally draining and nerve-wracking film to watch, Prisoners’ tale of a father and a cop working separately o find two missing girls is dark and relentless.

2. The Wolf Of Wall StreetA thoughtful comedy that could have been a throwaway film is brought to life by Martin Scorsese’s energetic, youthful direction and a cast led by an unstoppable Leonardo DiCaprio.

1. Gravity: A groundbreaking masterpiece as well as another thoughtful, emotional journey, held together by Alfonso Cuarón’s vision and Sandra Bullock’s powerful performance, Gravity will dazzle your eyes and your heart.

And just to finish off, here’s my video tribute to (almost) all the films of last year.

drive-angry-3d-explosion-nicolas-cage-hair-highlights-carSweet bacon and eggs, there were some good ones this year. Picking my favorites of the year always feels harder than picking what I think are the best of the year. While some films are arguably better than others (like every Nicolas Cage movie ever made), there’s always those movies that stick with you in a certain way. Movies that make you laugh, cry, or just leave you entertained for two hours. Even if it’s a film I responded to emotionally or otherwise to, there might be another movie that has more rewatch value. If you’re stuck on a desert island, are you bringing The Place Beyond The Pines or Furious 6? I could have made a list of my thirty favorite or even forty favorite movies of last year and still felt some were missing. Of course, some major disappointments would have been absent like American Hustle or A Good Day To Die Hard. Really? I mean, really?
But on a positive note, there were some films this year that just made me happy to be a movie-goer. There are those movies that come out of nowhere like 42 or Fruitvale Station which I adored. Those movies that you expect to be horrible and leave you thrilled afterwards like World War Z or Olympus Has Fallen. Then there’s always those sequels that pop onto the screen and actually surpass their predecessor like Riddick or The Wolverine. Then there’s those little films to balance out your year like PhilomenaBlue JasmineSaving Mr. Banks, and Nebraska, which all just missed the cut by a hair.
Special shout out to Sharknado which is technically a TV movie. It doesn’t mean I love you any less, you ridiculous piece of shit.

EDIT: Had I seen Frozen before I initially made this list, it probably would have found a spot somewhere. What a wonderful movie.

Here we go!

theconjuringposter13. The Conjuring: Lucky 13. After scaring our socks off in 2011 with Insidious, which felt like an homage to more inventive horror films like Poltergeist, director James Wan came out swinging with The Conjuring, which felt more like classic 70s horror movies like The Amityville Horror or The Exorcist. A film based on tension and atmosphere, it’s the only horror movie I can think of that, for me at least, felt scarier the second time around. Focusing on the alleged true story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, most famous for investigating the aforementioned Amityville house, taking on a small family in the middle of nowhere with a malevolent force making their life a living hell. Rated R despite having no nudity, and no violence or language found in anything above a PG-13, The Conjuring earns its adult rating for being classically unsettling, and boy does it earn it.

lone_survivor_xlg12. Lone Survivor: A spot I was sure another favorite, Captain Phillips, would take, Lone Survivor is another tension filled, recent true story of survival with a palpable sense of humanity. We follow a group of four SEALS played by Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch, who are sent out into the mountains of Afghanistan to take out a high-ranking Taliban leader. But when their position is compromised, they find themselves outnumbered in a fight to survive. It’s a relentless action thriller that never forgets what it is, a film about brotherhood and the will to do what is right and what is necessary. Whether or not the film is completely realistic, I felt myself thrown into the situation and feeling the dread that the characters were feeling. Having trekked similar terrain near where the film was shot, I can only imagine how much harder it would have been if I were being shot at. Now the film at times feels overtly patriotic, which is obviously from director Peter Berg’s deep respect for the military. And whether or not it’s truly earned, is honoring our troops a bad thing?

thor the dark world poster11. Thor: The Dark World: Coming only a few months later and removing Man Of Steel as my favorite superhero movie of the year, Thor: The Dark World also replaces The Avengers as my favorite Avenger movie. Building on Thor’s growth as a character and as a leader, and Loki’s complex nature and absurdly likable villainy, as well as their dynamic together, this movie throws them into a much more immersive, creative, and ultimately more exciting film than its predecessor. While Thor was bound by the formula of an origin story, this film is free to explore the world of Asgard as well as its history and many enemies. There’s much more depth in this film than in any of the last few Avengers movies, finding its voice in its unique world. Not to mention some seriously kick-ass action ending in a fight to rival even Superman vs. Zod in Man Of Steel. And one more thing… dat twist.

Hobbit_the_desolation_of_smaug_ver15_xlg10. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug: I haven’t seen every movie dragon of all time, but I’m pretty sure Smaug is up there with the best. Now the film may not be as tight or memorable as a whole as Lord Of The Rings, and it may have been too long (no “may have been,” it was too long) but to say I was ever bored would be a gross falsity. The film only fed the flame that is my love of Middle Earth and all these films have to offer. Introducing new parts of the world I would have never imagine being part of this world, yet making it seem like a natural extension, it works as a solid installment. Not to mention some familiar faces as well as some welcome new ones, like Tauriel, a warrior elf played by Evangeline Lilly who just walked into my life. She may have been the standout, even with her Partner Legolas being a badass in ways we haven’t seen before, but that doesn’t take away from Martin Freeman’s unfailingly great portrayal of Bilbo. Then throw him in a scene with Benedict Cumberbatch playing a dragon and a chase down the river involving barrels and you have some of the most exciting action scenes in recent years.

prisoners-poster9. Prisoners: Damn. Replacing The Place Beyond The Pines as my favorite gritty drama of the year, Prisoners is a dark, intense tale of two men and their families coping with e abduction of their daughters, and the cop who’s dedicated to finding them. Television has been overly saturated in the last twenty to thirty years with shows that deal with this subject matter, so some elements may feel familiar, but that doesn’t stop this movie from being an emotionally draining experience with no sure outcome. With outstanding performances from the cast, a confident script, steady direction, and beautiful photography from Roger Deakins, Prisoners left me breathless. And that last thirty seconds brilliant.

0001_mud_poster8. Mud: Another film that not only came out of nowhere, but I had no clear idea what it was, Mud joins Warm Bodies as one of my favorite surprises of the year. Although very different in style, Mud is the story of 14-year-old Ellis who, with help from his friend Neckbone, helps a fugitive named Mud evade the police and reunite with his true love, whore- I mean Juniper. Speaking of, Reese Witherspoon is such a good actress that she made me hate Reese Witherspoon. Now the film’s marketing was based around Matthew McConaughey as the prominent supporting character, Mud, but this is young Tye Sheridan’s movie as Ellis. A remarkably subtle performance for a young actor, he shows an innocence underneath his blind confidence. Ellis’ young ideas of love are what motivate him to help Mud and are ultimately what lead to devastation. The film is almost nothing like the crime thriller that the ads would certainly lead you to believe it is, but it works even better at what it really is, a great coming of age story.

the-way-way-back-poster17. The Way Way Back: Another coming of age story, although very different from Mud. Whereas Mud is more in keeping with some harsh truths with rays of light here and there like The Spectacular NowThe Way Way Back is more in keeping with The Kings Of Summer which is more rays of light with some harsh truths here and there. Now The Way Way Back is a very good, very entertaining film about another 14-year-old who, Duncan, goes with his mom and her boyfriend to a beach house for the summer. He’s your typical awkward kid who’d treated like shit by her mom’s boyfriend and hid daughter, but you feel for him. His mom doesn’t quite pick up on the problems that her son is facing even though she tries, and her boyfriend doesn’t care or realize that he is the problem. So Duncan takes refuge in a water park where he meets Owen played by Sam-good-God-damn-give-this-man-an-award-Rockwell. Rockwell steals the show and give this movie the edge over Mud for me. Owen helps give Duncan the confidence to get a job, meet a girl, stand up to his mother’s boyfriend, and not be such a sad sack all the time. Plus, with a supporting cast like Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, and Maya Rudolph, how can you not like it?

1322166. The World’s End: I’m not gonna lie, when I first saw it, I liked it, but I didn’t think it stacked up next to their last two films, Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz, or even the year’s earlier end of the world comedy (and another favorite) This Is The End. But, much like with Shaun and Fuzz, when you watch it again, you pick up on little things and the film starts to appear tighter and tighter and just that much better. Simon Pegg, in my favorite performance of the year, plays Gary King. When Gary gets his old friend back together to complete a pub crawl they didn’t finish in High School, things don’t seem to be able to get worse… until they discover the town has been taken over by alien robots. You know, typical night out drinking stuff. The film is unfailingly clever, full of detail, fun, funny, full of heart, and even sad at times. The unsurprising amount of depth in the film set off by its relentless comedy make this easily one of my new favorite comedies.

star_trek_into_darkness_poster_enterprise5. Star Trek Into Darkness: Simon Pegg, keep being in stuff so I can keep putting them on my list. After blowing our socks off with the fresh and genre revitalizing Star Trek, JJ Abrams is at it again with Star Trek Into Darkness. While suffering from sequel-itis, the film doesn’t quite feel as fresh as the first one, but it still retains all the same fun and great characters of the first film. While the characters have certainly found a groove as far as operating the Enterprise, they’re still learning and continue to figure out each other. Friendships are strained or even lost at times, and its made even worse when they go after terrorist John Harrison. Screw it, he’s Khan. Can I call him Khan? Spoiler: he’s Khan. But if you didn’t know that by now, Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are the same person and Snape kills Dumbledore. A great villain and some great action scenes including a sequence that involves two characters navigating a debris field in space and two Starships facing off against each other. Sign me up for part 3.

ff6-new-movie-poster4. Furious 6: Don’t judge me, I’m only human. I don’t care what you say, I love these movies. And what’s even more, I love them on a legitimate level as well. I’ve grown to care about the characters, I like the different directions the series has taken, and the chemistry between the cast is a lot of fun to watch. But let’s not beat around the bush, the reason most people go to see these movies is for the actions scenes. And Holy tits on a pancake are they good in this movie. As far as practical action scenes go, these films are certainly among the best of the last decade or so for the sheer skill involved and the excitement they emit. That one sequence in particular everyone is talking about, final chase scene involving the Antonov on the longest runway on the planet, was not only breathtaking, but I had to pee the whole time. Talk about tension. Now having grown attached to these character and caring about them on a legitimate level, I was deeply saddened by the passing of Paul Walker in a way I had never felt before with a celebrity death. But to find a happier way to look at it, with the level of enjoyment I felt with this film and the boisterous energy of the theater crowd, Furious 6 was the best theater experience I ever had I like knowing that he was a part of that. Speaking of, I really did have a great crowd, that one stunt in particular at the end of the tank chase had people going f***ing bananas. You know the one. And that cameo at the end has me pumped for the next film.

MV5BMjIxMjgxNTk0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjIyOTg2MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_3. The Wolf Of Wall Street: Something tells me that D.A.R.E never told Jordan Belfort to “just say no.” The Wolf Of Wall Street is an excessive, debaucherous film about excessiveness and debauchery. So I guess you can call it a success. The film could have been a very intelligent, serious film about Wall Street in the 90s, but Martin Scorsese’s decision to keep the film more in keeping with the proper tone of the story and characters and make it as wild and offensive as possible, was not only the right call, but a dangerous one as well. Under a less gifted filmmaker, the film could have been nothing but the type of parties and wildness you see in Seth Rogen movies, especially considering Jonah Hill pops up eventually, but the film has a clear point to it. This film had me laughing every bit as hard as I did during films like The Heat, but never forgot the dramatic, human side of the story. Throw on top of that Leo’s electric performance that feels like a one man stadium rock band, and the film is not only a great, smart film, but easily the fastest three hours of 2013.

thehungergams-catchingfire-ukposter2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Forget Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence is The Girl On Fire. In a performance that is far superior to her overrated turn in American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence brings the character to life again in what is easily, for me, the most satisfying movie of the year, based on expectation and previous disappointment. Not that I didn’t like the first film, I did very much, but it was missing a few things. Things that this film got right. Francis Lawrence, a director not exactly known for making great films, expands upon Gary Ross’ vision in the first film and makes this one darker, heavier, and ultimately much more tragic. The actors are in top form, the tension is high, the action is exciting, the tone much scarier and daunting, and the set and costume design can rival even those of the visually stunning The Great Gatsby, another film I highly enjoyed. I absolutely loved this film, which is saying a lot. I often am more critical of adaptations than I want to be, even having problems with great films such as The Shining. But any film that garners such a profound emotional response from me deserves praise.

gravity_xlg1. Gravity: There were times in this film where I found myself hyperventilating, sucking in as much precious oxygen as I could. Before I go any further, I have to get very serious right now and look you in the eye. This film… is a masterpiece. Despite the emotional and thematic weight of the film, the three-dimensional characters, Bullock’s intense and heartbreaking performance, and the visual metaphors that people either don’t see, see and appreciate, or see and call obvious, the film is such a technical achievement that even me, someone who frequently studies behind the scenes of films, was left wondering, “how’d they do that?” I spent the money to commute into the city, and then plopped down even more so I could see it in IMAX 3D, and prepared myself to be blown away. And guess what? I felt like I was in space. Even with extremely high expectations, I was not let down. The film was beautiful to look at, made my palms sweaty, and made my eyes water. It’s a seemingly simple film about two astronauts who survive the destruction of their space shuttle and have to find their way home. Similar in ways to the one man show and dialogue free All Is Lost in its simple premise but expert execution. Thrillers nowadays have to have multiple twists and turns or have to try to be something unforgettable or profound and usually fail. This film shows that sometimes the simplest story can be the most engaging, and that the characters themselves and subtle visual elements can be what make is unforgettable and profound. Alfonso Cuarón has created a groundbreaking film that has set the bar the same way Avatar did several years earlier. It pushes the boundaries of what is possible with film, but never forgets to connect with an audience and boy does it do it. Gravity is a wonder to behold and is, in simplest terms, why we go to the movies.