Monday, July 7, 2014
Top Five Films of 2014 (so far)
It is weird to think that we are already half way through 2014. It only feels like yesterday I was talking about the best of 2013 and the Oscars, yet now the Summer Blockbusters are halfway done and most of my most anticipated films of the year have already been released.
So far, I have mixed feelings about the films released in 2014. It is kind of like a multiplying effect; when the films were good, they were really good, but when they sucked, they were almost painful to watch, like "22 Jump Street."
However, seeing how most of the best films released this year have been summer blockbusters, it really is not fair to judge it too much. So instead, lets look at the five best films released in 2014 thus far.
These are the five films that have stuck with me long after I left the theater and reminded me how much fun going to the movies can be. Whether they made me think, laugh, cry, terrified or somewhere between, these movies made an impact on me.
Five: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
This is a typical Wes Andersen film, with standard of dry humor, characters talking directly to the camera, while moving and behaving more like dolls than human beings.
But really, is that a bad thing?
I'd say the only thing "The Grand Budapest Hotel" does differently is by expanding its cast even further than usual, while also having a more grand sense of scope and size. While Wes Andersen films typically have a large cast, this one in particular felt much larger, with each new character being played by a well-known and respected actor. This film also takes place over a vast landscape, as well as a war.
This gives the dry humor of a Wes Andersen film even more heft and irony. So while this feels like every other Wes Andersen film, it also does a few things to diversify itself from that same group of cinema.
Four: "The Raid 2"
I did not think it was possible, but a movie actually managed to be more brutal and graphic than "The Raid: Redemption."
It is interesting to compare the first Raid film to its sequel, as they both have many similarities of themes and atmosphere, but also drastically different stories and wider range of characters. But one thing that remained consistent between both films were the fight sequences still being fresh and exciting to watch.
Let's face it, to have a good martial arts sequence these days is incredibly difficult. We've seen it all before and nothing really surprises us. But the creators of the Raid films still find a way to make each fight memorable and intense. By introducing fighters who each have a unique look and fighting style, each one feels different from the last while still remaining fast-paced and brutal.
That is what makes "The Raid 2" so much fun to watch. It is different enough from "The Raid: Redemption" but still keeping its core of solid fight sequences and a basic human drive that makes us care about the brawls.
I couldn't help myself. This one had to be on the list.
The more I thought about this film, the more I really started to enjoy it. At times, it is reminiscent of films like "Jaws" and "Alien," in how it builds up to the eventual reveal of Godzilla, but knowing when to hold back and not give us too much Godzilla, or else the audience would grow tired of him.
Not since "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack" have I felt a giant monster walk around with so much weight, power and strength. Without even showing us his face, you get the impression of how imposing and earth-shattering Godzilla is. And he looms over every scene in the film, waiting to strike like a shark on the prowl.
While I still believe the acting is the weakest part of the film, it is never so bad that it becomes grating or annoying. It's just so average that it does nothing for me. If we had one more actor who was on the same level of intensity as Bryan Cranston or unflinching and intelligent as Ken Watanabe, then this would have been a wonderful film.
But, for what it was, I thoroughly enjoyed "Godzilla." It had just the right amount of monster sequences, while still having a balanced human story and some great moments of tragedy and heartbreak. It honored the character of Godzilla and knew exactly what he stands for.
Two: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
This is a much more sophisticated movie than I thought it would be. I expected some degree of intelligence, like I do with most Marvel movies these days, but what we got was an argument about the blurred lines between good and evil and whether we can truly fight for one side when both are so messed up.
Captain America is one of the most basic superheroes imaginable: He fights for what he believes is right and just. Which makes the argument of "right vs. wrong" so powerful in this film. Even more so when put in a world that is constantly evolving, with new global threats appearing every day and trust is thrown right out the door.
This was a nice divergent from the typical superhero film of the villain being one-dimensional and predictable, and instead being a corrupt version of ourselves. In a world where demigods can smite us at any moment or another alien invasion could take out a major city, protection and justice are needed even more for the people. But when we focus so much on protection, we end up putting fear and terror in everyone.
So really, is that the right thing to do? I'm not sure, and I don't think Cap is sure either.
One: "The Lego Movie"
This gets number one on my list because I have never seen any film quite like "The Lego Movie." Not just stop-motion animation with legos throughout the entire film, but the world of legos. How the different lands of legos interact, how the master builders can take apart the landscape and rerrange it at will, how each piece of brick can used as a tool and how it all comes together with its twist in the end.
"The Lego Movie" is what I love about cinema. It is fun, imaginative, exciting, thought-provoking, intelligent, witty and is something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. No matter what your film preferences are, there is something to be enjoyed in this movie.
The goal of this film is to make you feel like a child again. Coming up with your own grand adventure with your toys and legos, even using household items as some sort of foreign and ancient treasure. Yet, in the end, the film is also about growing up and moving on from your toys to have an even bigger adventure, while still remembering the good times you had.
"The Lego Movie" nails that aspect every step of the way, while still keeping up its pleasant and friendly environment where everything is awesome.