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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Savor Every Moment of THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014)

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The-Hundred-Foot-JourneyMovie Review:  THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014)

By

Michael Arruda

 

Watching a movie that gets everything right- acting, writing, directing- can be as satisfying as eating a gourmet meal.

Such is the case with THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014) a new comedy-drama about an Indian family opening a restaurant in France across the street— one hundred feet to be exact— from a renowned French restaurant, and what happens when the family crosses paths with the established restaurant’s owner, played with delectable precision by Helen Mirren.

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY begins in Mumbai where the Kadam family runs their restaurant, but when election night riots destroy their eatery and take the life of their mother, Papa (Om Puri) moves his family to Europe in the hope of starting again.  They settle in France, and Papa, a rather eccentric fellow, spies an abandoned restaurant and decides on the spot that this is where they shall open their new eatery, even though it’s situated directly across the street from one of the area’s most prominent restaurants.

The family tries to talk him out of it, but Papa is undeterred, and he quickly goes about setting things in motion, buying the property, and promoting his son Hassan (Manish Dayal) as the best Indian chef in the land, all to the chagrin of Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) who owns the French restaurant across the street and cringes at the idea of competition.

And so she sets out to quash the Kadam family, but Papa is just as determined as she is, and the two go back and forth trying to one-up the other.  Meanwhile, Hassan befriends Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) one of Madame Mallory’s up and coming chefs, and the two begin a relationship which is playfully competitive until Hassan approaches Madame Mallory and prepares a dish for her, proving to her that he is indeed a chef for the ages, who with the proper training, can help her achieve her goal of the restaurant earning the coveted second Michelin star, a critic rating that lifts restaurants to elite status.  When Madame Mallory hires Hassan to work in her restaurant, it sets off a firestorm of events, as it changes the relationship between Hassan and Marguerite, and makes Papa accuse Madame Mallory of trying to brainwash his son, but Mallory is quick to point out that this is an opportunity for Hassan which will change his life forever.

THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY is a highly entertaining and very satisfying movie.  It’s got terrific acting, a topnotch directorial effort, and my favorite, an excellent script.

Top-billed Helen Mirren is sufficiently proper as Madame Mallory, the woman who at first wants nothing more but to shut down the Kadam family restaurant.  But Madame Mallory is more than just a cold-hearted businesswoman, and Mirren does a terrific job making her a three-dimensional character.  When her own chef takes things too far by setting fire to the Indian restaurant, Mallory doesn’t applaud or approve but quickly fires the young man.

Om Puri makes Papa a feisty yet easy to like character whose best scenes are those where he plays off Helen Mirren.  When he wants to make an offer to buy the restaurant, Madame Mallory tells him it’s more than he can afford, and she says this because she heard he bartered for a discount at the local inn, to which Papa replies that his asking for a discount doesn’t mean he’s poor but that he’s thrifty.  The two actors, Mirrin and Puri, share a great chemistry in this movie, for the most part as energetic adversaries, and they become even more likeable when they realize that they actually like each other.

But the best performance in the movie belongs to young Manish Dayal as Hassan.  He is completely believable as the young man blessed with amazing cooking talent.  He comes off as genuine and sincere.  When he tells Marguerite that he has been hired to work at Madam Mallory’s restaurant, he expects her to be happy by the news, but when she’s not, he’s surprised, and you can see his innocence and the hurt he feels when she insinuates that he used their relationship to gain access to Madam Mallory, when that wasn’t what he had intended at all.

Charlotte Le Bon is also very good as Marguerite.  She makes Marguerite attractive, talented, and smart, and she and Hassan make for a very likeable young couple.

Director Lasse Hallstrom captures the beautiful scenery of the French countryside, making this movie a picturesque treat from start to finish.  The camera also captures the remarkable elegant dishes prepared in this film— don’t see this on an empty stomach!—- which will make your mouth water.  You can almost taste the food.  Likewise, Hallstrom captures the flavor of the small village, of the two restaurants across the street from each other, and of the people who inhabit both of them.  It’s an intimate portrayal of these folks, and you’ll enjoy getting to know them and spending time with them for the two hours you sit in the theater.

The screenplay by Steven Knight, based upon the book by Richard C. Morais, tells a heartwarming story that is as moving as it is humorous.  I laughed more during this movie than during some of the recent so-called mainstream comedies of late.  The humor in THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is smart and nuanced and stems from true situations.

The characters are all well-developed.  I understood young Hassan’s passion for food and for cooking, and Papa’s need to take care of his family and his drive to make his new restaurant a success in spite of the odds against him, which means doing whatever it takes to get it done; and I understood Madame Mallory’s reasons for stomping out her competition, for wanting her restaurant— the passion of her life— to become the best it can be.

In some ways, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is predictable, but it still works.  It’s a feel-good movie, and so you expect things to work out in the end for these characters, but when it does, it doesn’t feel fake or forced.  These characters make their own destiny, and when you see them working as hard as they do, acting in ways that show they are real people, not cardboard caricatures who mindlessly step on others to get ahead, but simply work hard and respect those around them, you have no difficulty buying into the notion that they succeed in what they set out to do.

The dialogue is all first-rate, and like I said, I laughed more here than during some of the traditional Hollywood comedies which for some reason too often equate “stupid” with “funny.”

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if come Oscar time THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY receives nominations for Best Director, Screenplay, and acting by Manish Dayal, Om Puri, and Helen Mirren.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY.  It’s one of my favorite movies of 2014.

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