Best Movies of 2014

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY poster- my pick for the second best movie of the year.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY poster- my pick for the second best movie of the year.

BEST MOVIES OF 2014

By

Michael Arruda

 

Here’s my list for the Top 10 Best Films that I saw in 2014.

 

10 – JERSEY BOYS – Clint Eastwood’s film version of the popular musical about the life of singer Frankie Valli.

9 – CAPTAIN AMERICA:  THE WINTER SOLDIER – I love the Marvel superhero movies, and I enjoyed this Captain America sequel more than the original.

8 – EDGE OF TOMORROW – I really enjoyed this science fiction tale starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.  Clever, creative, and so much more than just a science fiction variation of the GROUNDHOG DAY gimmick.

7 – THE BABADOOK – creepy horror film most notable for me for its lack of false scares.  Nearly every fright in this one is genuine.

6 – THE QUIET ONES– this horror film by Hammer Films about a college professor trying to disprove a demonic possession case didn’t do well at the box office but it really is an intelligently made horror movie that is as eerie as it is thought-provoking.

5 – NIGHTCRAWLER –slick thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a sociopath named Louis Bloom who spends his evenings stealing scrap metal and other items in order to sell them and make some cash, before deciding to become a photographer for the nightly news.  This high-energy thriller came out of nowhere this year, as I had heard very little about it, and then suddenly there it was.

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a phenomenal performance, as he gives the main character Louis such tremendous energy and vitality that everything he does, no matter how outlandish, you believe it.  He also makes Louis likable, which is no easy task.  NIGHTCRAWLER also has a lot to say about today’s media, as the television news station continues to buy Louis’s videos, even when they know he’s manipulating events to get the footage.  It’s all about ratings!

NIGHTCRAWLER is a high octane thriller that features an outstanding performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.  It’s not to be missed.

 

4 – GONE GIRL – superior thriller in which nearly everything works, thanks to director David Fincher. It features a terrific performance by Ben Affleck, and an even better one by Rosamund Pike.  The story of a husband blamed for his wife’s disappearance starts out as a straightforward thriller but there’s oh-so-much-more going on here, with twists and turns you’ll no doubt won’t see coming.  The other thing I really liked about this movie was that three of the main characters were women, and that’s not something you see every day, unfortunately.  There was Rosamund Pike as the missing wife Amy Dunne, Carrie Coon as Ben Affleck’s sister, Margo, and Kim Dickens as the hard-nosed Detective Rhonda Boney, and all three of these performers are excellent.

3 – THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY – a deliciously smart and enjoyable feel-good movie starring Helen Mirren, THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY tells the story of an Indian family led by its patriarch, Papa (Om Puri), that relocates to France where they open an Indian restaurant 100 feet across the street from the most popular eatery in the area, a fine French restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).  The comedy stems from Mallory’s and Papa’s efforts to continually try to one-up the other, and things grow more complicated when Papa’s son Hassan (Manish Dayal), who he promotes as the finest Indian chef in the land, turns to Madame Mallory for training so he can become an even better chef.  Everything works in this movie, as it has terrific acting, a top-notch directorial effort by director Lasse Hallstrom, and an excellent script by Steven Knight.  Just don’t see it on an empty stomach.  The dishes in this flick are absolutely delectable.

My favorite feel-good movie of the year, featuring some of the most mouth-watering dishes you’ll see in a movie.

 

2 – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – the most fun at the movies I had this year, this is one of the best superhero movies ever made, and it’s hilarious to boot.

I loved this movie! The humor was spot-on, thanks to a hilarious script by Nicole Perlman and director James Gunn, and the performances were all top-notch, from Chris Pratt in the lead role of Peter Quill, “Star Lord,” Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, and the voice talents of Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot.  There hasn’t been a superhero group like this since The Avengers, and these guys are more fun!  If there were an Island for Misfit Superheroes, these guys would be on it.

There was pretty much nothing I didn’t like about this film, and in terms of all-time great superhero movies, it’s up there with THE AVENGERS (2012), IRON MAN (2008), and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), but what I think makes this one so special is just how light and funny it is without sacrificing the integrity of the superhero story.  It’s not mindlessly stupid.  On the contrary, it’s intelligently funny.

 

It also has an amazing soundtrack.

 

1 -INTERSTELLAR – My pick for the Number 1 film of 2014 is INTERSTELLAR, Christopher Nolan‘s ambitious big budget science fiction thriller which one day may rank as one of the all-time great science fiction films.  It stars Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut who leaves his family and travels to the far reaches of space in a desperation mission to find a habitable planet on which to relocate the human race because Earth is dying due to a lack of food.

For me, INTERSTELLAR was a near perfect film.  It had everything:  acting, direction, script, pacing, twists and turns, but by far the best part for me was that it tackled some truly big ideas:  it dealt with worm holes, the theory of relativity, time travel, black holes, and what happens when someone enters a black hole.  It remained intelligent enough throughout to keep its science fiction believable.  It also scored high with its human element, as the tale of McConaughey’s character Hooper’s plight to return home to his family no matter what was a winner and grabbed me from the get-go.  It also had an excellent cast led by McConaughey that also featured Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, and John Lithgow.

Of all the films I saw in 2014, INTERSTELLAR was the most satisfying.

 

So, there you have it, my picks for the best films that I saw in 2014.

Next time I’ll share my list for the worst films that I saw in 2014.

Until then, thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

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GONE GIRL (2014) – Exceptional Adult Thriller

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Gone-Girl-2014-film-posterMovie Review: GONE GIRL (2014)

By Michael Arruda

I had originally planned to review GONE GIRL solo for Cinema Knife Fight and post the review here on this blog as well, but then L.L. Soares decided he’d like to see the movie too, since he’s a big fan of director David Fincher, and so we reviewed the movie as a Cinema Knife Fight column, which will be posted this weekend.

However, I had penciled in today’s date as the time I would post the GONE GIRL review on this blog.  To honor that schedule, and to avoid spoiling our Cinema Knife Fight column, I’ve decided to post an abbreviated review of GONE GIRL.

Be sure to check out the more extensive review after midnight on Sunday October 12 at cinemaknifight.com.

GONE GIRL is director David Fincher’s latest movie, the story of a man whose wife disappears under suspicious circumstances, and as a result, he becomes the prime suspect in the crime.

The movie opens with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) visiting his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) at The Bar, a bar which the two of them own, and over a drink they commiserate over Nick’s wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), so right off the bat we get the sense that all is not well with Nick and his wife.

When Nick returns home, he finds that his wife is not there, and there’s a glass table that has been knocked over and shattered, and it’s just weird enough to raise a red flag. Nick calls the police, and responding to the call are Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit).  When they discover traces of blood at the scene, Boney calls in her crime unit, and when word gets out that Amy has disappeared under suspicious circumstances, and Nick seems to be overly relaxed in front of the media, the accusations begin to fly.

The question on everyone’s mind is: where is Amy Dunne, and did Nick kill her or didn’t he?  And that’s as far as I want to go in discussing the plot, because the less said about the plot of GONE GIRL the better.

Ben Affleck is very good here as Nick Dunne in an understated performance. Affleck portrays Nick as man who doesn’t always react in the way others think he should, and it’s difficult to gauge whether he’s being manipulative or simply boneheaded.  As a result, he’s always on the defensive, and the media eats him alive.

The best performance in the movie belongs to Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne. I’ve seen Pike in other movies, but this might be my favorite role of hers so far.  Pike makes Amy an even more complicated and intricate character than her husband.  They are one of the more intriguing movie couples I’ve seen in a while.

Nearly as good as Affleck and Dunne is Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo. Margo is the one who seems to have a level head on her shoulders, and she is constantly trying to help her brother, but it’s a frustrating and losing battle as she’s out of her league when dealing with the likes of Amy and her brother.  Coon is terrific in the role.

Kim Dickens makes Detective Rhonda Boney a refreshingly smart character not bound by the clichés of the police detectives in the movies. She actually shows a lot of restraint when the media has already tried and convicted Nick, but she refuses to arrest him until she finds more evidence.

One of the best things about GONE GIRL is that three of the best characters in the movie, in terms of acting and writing, are women.  This doesn’t happen in the movies very often.

Tyler Perry makes his mark as hotshot defense attorney Tanner Bolt, and like Detective Boney, Attorney Bolt is not your typical cliché movie lawyer. He finds the whole story of Nick and Amy fascinating and seems entertained by the whole ordeal, and while he continually gives Nick solid and truthful counsel, you get the feeling he’d rather be booking his client on an episode of Dr. Phil.

Neil Patrick Harris plays Desi Collings, a man from Amy’s past, who she once accused of stalking her. He plays a key role in the story, and Harris does a nice job making him weird and sad at the same time.

GONE GIRL is an exceptionally well-made movie by director David Fincher.  He’s made a lot of movies, and GONE GIRL ranks near the top.

Fincher also serves as Executive Producer to the hit TV show HOUSE OF CARDS on Netflix, and I saw some similarities between the powerful political couple on HOUSE OF CARDS played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and Nick and Amy in this movie.  They’re obviously quite different characters in terms of personalities and social status, but they both share an almost pathological obsession with their mates which transcend the usual boundaries for husbands and wives in television and the movies.  Nick and Amy are like Francis and Claire Underwood without the political ambitions and with more time on their hands.

GONE GIRL is a very dark movie that will make you feel like you need a shower to wash off the grime once you leave the theater.  There is one very shocking brutal scene that is more disturbing than the majority of “shock” scenes usually found in the traditional Hollywood horror movie.

The film boasts an excellent screenplay by Gillian Flynn, based on her novel of the same name. The characters are fleshed out, and even better, the plot is refreshingly original and keeps you guessing all the way to the end.

 GONE GIRL is an intensely satisfying movie that works on nearly every level, and if you prefer dark movies, you’ll especially love this one.

—Remember to check out the full Cinema Knife Fight review at cinemanknifefight.com this weekend!—

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