David’s Top 5:
It was tough condensing my list of favorite films of this year (I was close to putting The LEGO Movie on this list) because there have been so many great movies, but I managed to mostly do the job. I should mention that I have not yet seen all of the movies that I have planned to this summer.
Thinking about this film makes me shiver. Whether you like this film or hate it, it will not get out of your head for several days after seeing it. The cinematography is among some of the best ever put on film, the original plot directions (especially that regarding a deformed man), and the great score by experimental pop musician Michachu make this mostly silent, minimalistic, and visually arresting psychological thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress creepy and very powerful. I’ll admit that after seeing this movie, I was not sure if I liked it or not (I have decided I really like it by this point), but I knew it was a work of genius. This movie is a scathing critique of the human condition with Scottish men, in particular, and it does its job of proving it. The whole film, one specific sequence in particular, (you will absolutely know it when you see it) is the best (or worst if you ask some people) kind of scary; it is quiet, it is unpredictable, and it is bizarre. It packs a powerful punch and is an unforgettable film. I am also convinced that Scarlett Johansson is not just a pretty face after her subtly creepy performance. Now although this film does pick up again in the very end with a very eerie ending, it takes my #5 space because there is a good 30 minutes towards the end of the film that get pretty boring and take away from the intoxicating tone of the rest of the film. This part is not necessarily bad, but it is a little bit too obvious with its purpose unlike the rest of the film, which is very up for discussion. All in all, this is a great film that does not spoon-feed its audience.
4. Edge of Tomorrow/Dawn of The Planet of The Apes –
I forgive you, Doug Liman. I forgive you, sci-fi action genre. Most of all I forgive you, Tom Cruise. Most audiences were still turned off by Cruise’s recent foibles and skipped this film. The misleading marketing did not help either. This is a HUGE shame. Edge of Tomorrow is without a doubt the best action movie of the past five or more years. It is creative, clever, entertaining, and surprisingly hilarious. Tom Cruise is willing to become the butt of the joke as he FINALLY plays a different character who is his own age, Emily Blunt finally gets the screen time that she deserves, and good ol’ Bill Paxton is back in the army once more! I just cannot praise this movie enough. The writing, the alien design, the direction of the Groundhogs Day-esque plot, etc. It is exciting, awesome, great in 3D, and the most fun I have had at a theater this year. It almost seems like the writers of the film figured out what was wrong with the action fare that Hollywood has been feeding audiences and decided to rectify it. Anyways, Edge of Tomorrow is bound to be a cult classic and should not be missed.
Wow. That was my reaction to this movie. Although I personally like Rise of The Planet of The Apes just a bit better, a better follow-up film could not have been possible. Dawn of The Planet of The Apes is excellent. Not just as a summer movie. Not just as a sequel. But as a film. It is an incredible movie. Also what it does is so unique, it not only makes you care about both sides of a battle, but it gives a whole new outlook on the war that began it all in the Planet of The Apes trilogy. I suppose a few cliches pop up during the movie, but to be honest I did not notice them until after the film and they were executed so damn well that it did not even matter. It is a pretty unique film and there were numerous times where it went in directions I would never have anticipated. The acting on the “human” side is decent. The characters are not incredibly developed, but they do not have to be. They are likable enough and that is good enough for me. But the real stars are obviously the apes. There are a few times when you are aware that the apes were made using effects, but there are some moments that the effects are so good that it is scary. Andy Serkis and the team of motion capture actors are mesmerizing. Hopefully this movie will start to convince Hollywood that actors in the field of motion capture have been ignored for far too long. This movie is also rife with social commentary. An example of this is the ending of the film. It puts a completely new and surprisingly heartbreaking (yes, I used the word heartbreaking in regards to Planet of The Apes) twist on the inevitable future of the original Planet of the Apes film. That is a very hard thing for a movie to do, especially the sequel to the second reboot of a classic film! I cannot think of any other case of a series that was rebooted two different times and on the second time, both of the entries were amazing. Well one thing is for sure, this is the most serious and entertaining film you will see about apes riding on horses with machine guns so far this year.
3. Snowpiercer –
I heard about all the praise that this movie was garnering. I knew the director was Jong Boon-Ho, director of The Host and the excellent serial killer drama, Memories of Murder. I knew it was his English language debut. I knew it had a fairly big name cast with such actors as Chris Evans, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, and Ed Harris. But I had trouble figuring out how this movie was going to be so great. It had a plot similar to that of Elysium and movies with clever plots these days often fail to reach their potential. Nonetheless, I was excited to see it, but I had low expectations. After a somewhat uninspired steam punk-esque first 20 minutes, I knew how sorely wrong I was. This movie is a masterpiece. It takes complete advantage of its plot with some of the most impressive production design of the past few years. It is filled with absolutely jaw-dropping action sequences with bone-crushing brutality. The special effects are equally amazing. The cinematography is positively invigorating and every time something with action was happening or the outside of the Snowpiercer (the train which is the movie’s namesake), I was completely transfixed. The characters are also surprisingly good as well. Tilda Swinton, Allison Pill, and Ed Harris steal their scenes with their small roles, and Chris Evans proves his worth as a good actor. If you are a cynical movie viewer who has been waiting for a non-mainstream, pleasing and original climax to an action movie, you are going to cry in joy at this film’s climax. This movie is filled with amazing action, fantastic cinematography, original ideas, unconventional twists, and is not just merely enjoyable, but a cinematic experience.
2. The Double –
It is a very exciting experience to see a movie that you have low expectations for and then once its final frames have ended and the credits pop up, you just stare at the screen with awe. I had that reaction to The Double. I watched it two more times in the days following my first viewing and it is now one of my favorite films of all time. What is interesting about Richard Ayoade’s adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella is that its material is really not that original. It is kind of a mix of Brazil (which is in turn inspired by 1984), and Fight Club. It also came out in the same year and only months apart from another doppleganger film, Enemy. Yet the material is so well executed by its actors, the cinematography so spectacular, and the writing so peculiar that it paints a nearly perfect cinematic picture. This also creates a perfect balance of hilariously dark humor and a ferocious sense of menace. It helps that Jesse Eisenberg steps out of his comfort zone and plays both lead characters perfectly, delivering his best performance yet; even better than in The Social Network. Mia Wasikowska is also great in this film. This is the kind of movie that makes me want to be a filmmaker. It has so much style yet it handles character with such care and everything seems to be in place perfectly. I should add that this movie is not for everyone – it is bizarre and it wears that on its sleeve. If you are someone who can handle that, then you will love this movie. If not, then you will hate it within the first 10 minutes. Either way, it is worth checking out to see which crowd you fall into.
1. Jodorowosky’s Dune
Alejandro Jodorowsky is such a charismatic speaker and fascinating human being that I could literally listen to him speak for hours on end. It helps that he has an interesting topic to speak about. After seeing this film, I honestly hope I do not see a better movie this year. This documentary follows the ill-fated production of Chilean cult film director of El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and his incredibly ambitious attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic, Dune. This film is funny, well made, moving, and a mind blowing piece of pop culture. There are two reasons you should see this: (1) It’s very genuine and (2) the reputation of the greatest film never made can be realized. Everyone involved in this movie obviously wanted to be there, and there is so much creativity and good nature flying around. Yet it is never hero worship towards Jodorowsky. It’s all very realistic. As the tagline reads, this could have been “the greatest movie never made.” The descriptions alone of this version of Dune are mind-blowing, and most people do not realize how influential it already was without even being made. To put this in perspective, Alien would not have been made if it were not for Jodorowsky’s Dune. If enough people see this documentary, it will just barely spread the influence that the actual film would have. But just barely is enough. This is a must see if you are a lover of cinema, and it is one of the best damn movies I have ever seen.