The Grand Budapest Hotel: Going into seeing a Wes Anderson movie, you have to know the kind of comedy that is in store for you. Sometimes it is dark humor and the rest of the time it has a quirky quality to it. It is no different in The Grand Budapest Hotel. The story centers around the hotel in the 30s when M. Gustave (played to perfection by the uber talented Ralph Fiennes) was the concierge there. Fiennes is hilarious and has the comedic timing down to perfection. There’s a murder mystery going on as well; there is actually a lot going on in this movie, but it is always funny. The entire A-list cast will have you laughing constantly. I will be quoting this hilarious movie for years. Read my review of The Grand Budapest Hotel here.
Wild: A true story based on the real-life hike that Cheryl Strayed embarked on. She hiked over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Why she did this is revealed through flashbacks with her mother (played by Laura Dern in a great performance) and a little narration as well. This movie work as well as it does because of the amazing performance by Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl. She carries the entire movie and you are invested in her character because of it. She should be nominated for her performance in this movie and is reason enough to see Wild. Read my review of Wild here.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Talk about a fun movie. This is it. With such an odd mix of actors and actresses, I had no idea this movie would be so enjoyable. Chris Pratt leads an unlikely all-star cast in this superhero movie. The entire cast work extremely well together. The villain was a little bland, but he isn’t the point of the movie. The point is to team all of these oddball characters up. And it works so well. It has one of the best soundtracks ever for a movie and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best Marvel movies I have seen and is definitely a fun time. Read my review of Guardians of the Galaxy here.
Edge of Tomorrow: Tom Cruise and sci-fi mix very well together. I was impressed when he did Minority Report, I liked Oblivion a decent amount, and now he tried sci-fi again in Edge of Tomorrow. And once again, it worked like a charm. Mixing elements of Elysium and Source Code; its a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day. It is funny when it tries to be and the story elements work really well once it starts getting to the main conflict. Cruise and Emily Blunt work very well together. It is a very original story told in a cool way. The action scenes are awesome. The ending may be a bit confusing but the rest of it is just very well done. Read my review of Edge of Tomorrow here.
Interstellar: Christopher Nolan is back and this time with a space drama. Interstellar is about trying to save the human race by travelling through a worm hole in space and trying to find safe planets to inhabit. Leading the charge in this movie is the new and improved Matthew McConaughey. He has done some amazing work the last few years. True Detective, Mud, and Dallas Buyer’s Club. His acting is top notch in this film as well. The one thing that makes this movie work as well as it did is the father-daughter bond. McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy did a great job with this. The whole cast is actually really good and an extended cameo that was quite surprising. Interstellar takes something as complicated as space and physics and makes it easy to understand. Interstellar is a great movie and an amazing experience if you like movies that take place in outer space.
Chef: Feel-good movie of the year? Probably. Don’t watch this movie on an empty stomach because it will make you severely hungry. All the food looks amazing in Chef and it just makes cooking look like a blast. In Chef, you have a well-known cook finding himself out of a job and having to resort to using a food truck to cook the kind of food he has always wanted to cook. In doing so, he has to spend some quality time with his son that he hasn’t exactly been the best dad to. It is a great movie to watch. The bond between father and son and seeing all the food makes it a movie that you can pretty much watch anytime and have a good time with it. Jon Favreau wrote, directed, produced, and starred in Chef; and he made a good one. The rest of the cast is great as well. Add the human element you find in indie movies and you have yourself a great movie about food. Read my review of Chef here.
10.) Gone Girl: With the exception of his Alien movie, can David Fincher go wrong with any movie? I doubt it. It doesn’t matter what movie he is directing; they are always high in quality. Gone Girl is no exception. He took on a novel that, in my honest opinion, is hard to adapt to screen and perfected it. It didn’t hurt that Gillian Flynn (the author of the novel) wrote the screenplay. It is always better for the author to pick the important bits that need to be in the film and the ones that can be taken out for timing reasons. With Gone Girl, it was perfectly cast and it was shot perfectly. The musical score and atmosphere add to that quality. I can’t say enough about how good the acting was in this film. Affleck and Pike were fantastic, and even Tyler Perry was great. It is definitely not a feel-good movie but one everyone should see. Read my review of Gone Girl here.
9.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier: While I wasn’t too high on the first Captain America, this one definitely improved every aspect that I didn’t like about the first one. The first one wasn’t bad by any means, it just had a really rushed and abrupt ending. Winter Soldier, however, excels in every area. The acting is great, the chemistry between the leads is there, there’s phenomenal action scenes and a legitimately terrifying villain. Plus, the story is extremely interesting and engaging and it mixes action and comedy extremely well. I used to not think so much of Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, but now that is no longer an issue. This is the best Marvel movie to date. Read my review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier here.
8.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Any worries I had about a movie focusing primarily on the apes as opposed to the human was a worry I didn’t need to have. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an extremely intelligent movie that just so happens to have some awesome action scenes in it. The apes look real as ever and Andy Serkis provides some of the best acting you can see from someone playing an ape. There is some of The Lion King in the story elements but that is never a bad thing. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn’t just a good movie; it’s a great one. It has a great story with phenomenal storytelling. And what is best is that you see why these characters act the way they do, because they are fleshed out and developed well; both on the ape side and the human side as well. It really is a treat to watch, because it does everything right. Read my review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes here.
7.) Nightcrawler: You could say this is the creepiest movie of the year. And nothing too horrifying happens. It isn’t a horror movie with jump scares. It is Nightcrawler, the story of a terrible human being who wants to make it in the television news field by being a freelance cameraman. And yes, he is a terrible human being. He has almost no emotion and you know nothing about him except that he learns everything by researching online; and I mean everything. Even just carrying on a normal conversation. At the center of the movie is Jake Gyllenhaal, who carries the entire movie. He is unlike anything you’ve seen in a movie. He really sinks his teeth into this role and completely disappears. But as a whole, this film is entirely entertaining and captivating. Gyllenhaal’s performance is reason enough to see this movie but also see it because it is one of the best films of the year. Read my review of Nightcrawler here.
6.) The Imitation Game: In any other year, this would have probably been my favorite for movie of the year. But this year was stacked with tremendous films so it fell down the list a little bit. This film tells the true story of Alan Turing, the mastermind behind helping break the German’s encrypted coded messages during World War II. He was an odd figure, who became more known after the war not for his great work but for his homosexuality. Benedict Cumberbatch gives an amazing performance, one that may earn him an Oscar win for Best Actor. He will for sure be nominated at the minimum. This historical drama is just terrific. A great soundtrack, great performances, and just a damn good story. Read my review of The Imitation Game here.
5.) Under the Skin: Now, I am aware that a lot of people don’t like this movie. It is loved critically but I know a lot of people that absolutely HATED this film. I kind of get it. But I loved it. I loved almost everything about it actually. It really doesn’t have much of a story. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who falls to Earth, dons her look-alike’s clothes, and goes “hunting.” She drives around Glasgow in a creepy pedophile white van, looking to pick up random men to pretty much take back to her place and do some creepy alien shit with them. Feeding her race maybe? No one knows. But I loved the way this film told a story without really saying much of anything. Johansson’s performance is understated and amazing. She probably won’t get any nominations for it because it wasn’t some big emotional performance, but I think she deserves just as much praise for her work as a “stone-cold” alien. Everything about this movie is amazing. The creepy score that makes every scene just THAT much more creepy and disturbing all the way to the direction and imagery placed throughout. Plus, I love that it doesn’t sell out and explain every detail to the filmgoer. You’ll never see a movie like this ever again and it will more than likely literally get under your skin; just a matter of whether it is in a good or a bad way. Read my review of Under the Skin here.
4.) Locke: Locke is a strangely simple but amazing movie. A lot like Phone Booth in many manys, but so much better. Tom Hardy plays a character named Locke who is in one spot the entire movie. And it never leaves him. The story? Hardy’s character is driving to meet Bethan, a colleague with whom he had a sexual encounter seven months previously. She has gone into premature labour. Despite his job responsibilities and although his wife and sons are eagerly awaiting his arrival home to watch an important soccer match, Locke decides to drive to London to be with Bethan during childbirth. And from there he makes several phone calls. Some to his wife, sons, co-workers, and boss. It sounds boring; a guy making phone calls for 90 minutes, but it is extremely interesting and engaging. Hardy’s performance is excellent and the time flies by when watching this film. It is simple but amazing.
3.) Enemy: This movie is all kinds of fucked up. I can say that with confidence. Enemy tells the story of Adam Bell, a history professor who simply watches a movie and spots himself; or rather, his doppelganger/double. Adam is kind of down on his luck. But after seeing his double, he decides to track him down. And both of their lives become intertwined once they meet. This is the basic setup, but there is so much more to it than that. Jake Gyllenhaal plays both Adam and the double and the way it plays out is unexpected and shocking. This is a weird movie, and the ending will have most saying “what the hell?” but I loved it. I thought it was the best movie of the year for a while. Plus, it has so many different hidden meanings and themes that made it a movie that makes you think. And I’m a sucker for movies that make me think. Enemy is tricky and the spider imagery in the film just creep me out even more, but my God it is fantastic. Read my review of Enemy here.
2.) Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Never in a million years would I thought I’d be claiming Michael Keaton gives the best acting performance of the year, but I am. Holy crap is he good in Birdman. I love plays and originality so this movie had it all for me. It had the orginal and awesome style of filming with the feel of it being all one take and it also had some amazing performances. It felt like a play. And with the whole “single-take” style, the characters, especially Keaton’s Riggan Thomson, feel a whole hell of a lot more real because of it. Edward Norton and the rest of the cast are amazing. They all give big and showy performances but Keaton is above them all. Plus, it is the funniest movie I’ve seen this year. It isn’t considered a comedy but I can’t remember laughing more during a film this past year. Just see this movie. It is pretty damn awesome. Read my review of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) here.
1.) Boyhood: There was no question to me what the best movie of the year was. Especially considering everything that was put into this movie. I mean, come on, this thing took 12 years to make. Imagine the amount of patience, creativity, and originality that had to be put into it. Amazing stuff. Richard Linklater has always been a genius and Boyhood just proves he’s still got it. The film is pretty much about a boy growing up in a dysfunctional family. They cast a child actor and filmed him every 4 years to see his growth and change. It is brilliant. It is amazing and though-provoking. I understand that half of the reason I love this movie so much is because of the nostalgia. It was a flashback to when I was growing up; the things I watched, played with, said, and acted out. I loved the hell out of this movie and everyone else should too. It is the clear cut best movie of this past year. No one should miss it.