- Birdman: This movie has everything, innovative camerawork, masterful performances, tremendous music and unique insight into art that entertains and boggles the mind. It’s a film that is equal parts celebration and condemnation of art and the people who create it. Speaking of artists, it’s difficult to single performance out of this terrific ensemble that includes Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifinakis and Naomi Watts. Where this movie shines is the way it shows us that to move forward we have to embrace the past, warts and all. This movie will stay with you long after you’ve seen it in the best way possible.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: If “Guardians” was Marvel’s answer to the blockbusters of the 80’s, “Winter Soldier” was it’s answer to the spy thrillers of the 70’s. Not only is this the best superhero film of the year, it is, for my money, the best of the Marvel films. Chris Evans steps up his game as Cap in this film and the chemistry between him and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow make this film really pop. Not that the film is lacking every where else. The tone is perfect, the action is spot-on and the film actually has some terrific twists. There are a lot of films that promise to shake things up. Few deliver on that promise, but this one did in a huge way. And I can’t wait for what’s next.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: The charm of this movie can be summed up by the prolific words of Rocket Raccoon, “Ain’t no thing like me, ‘cept me”. Who knew that a movie could make me fall in love with a talking tree? Marvel takes full advantage of this properties oft-kilter personality to not do a cookie-cutter superhero movie, but rather their answer to “Star Wars”. From the memorable characters, to snarky heart of the script and the expert use of ’60’s and ’70’s pop hits, this was easily the best time at the movies this year.
- Boyhood: This is a massive achievement of filmmaking prowess. This film follows a family over the course of 12 years. And what’s remarkable about this movie is how it pulls us in with relatable drama and humor that entertains and pulls at our heartstrings as much as any other film with heightened dramatic influences. You can watch this film over and over again and find yourself relating to any of the numerous characters in this film. Special credit goes to Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette for maintaining their character arcs with grace over the 12 years it took to finish this film. This is yet another winner from director Richard Linklater.
- Gone Girl: David Fincher should direct every literary adaptation from here on out. Seriously. Between this “The Social Network” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” he’s proven that he knows how direct the hell out of a film that is not only faithful to story but also a riveting cinematic experience in it’s own right. So yes, I’d be down to see David Fincher’s “See Spot Run”.
- The Lego Movie: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!! This song actually made me briefly get “Let It Go” out of my head. Aside from that, the special effects are superb, the plot is imaginative, and we have some fantastic voicework from Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett. I would also like to add that any movie that has Batman flying away on the Millenium Falcon is automatically going on my list of favorites of the year.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: It’s difficult to press the reboot button on a storied franchise. And when the first installment paves the way for a second, it can be “The Dark Knight” or it can be “Quantum of Solace”. Luckily, film is the former. “Dawn” builds on everything that made “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” great and takes it deeper. This movie balances very well the points of view of both sides of the central conflict. Both sides had it’s heroes, it’s villains, and while it’s easy to predict the outcome (provided how well you know your “Apes” history), you’re still taken aback but how much gravitas that outcome has. It’s a surprise just how strong this series has turned out, and if this latest installment is any indication, we are in for one hell of a series of films.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past: Some films warn against the dangers of turning back the hands of time. This one pleads the case that sometimes you need to. Many fans feared that this would be a cop out way to erase the inferior entries in the franchise without losing some of the franchise bigger stars, i.e. Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence. The same fans who bitches incessantly about X3 and Origins. Fanboys are always so easily appeased huh? But the movie transcends that by returning to the cerebral tone of the superb first two films. And, as much as I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, it was refreshing to see other characters take on the dramatic weight. This film not only ironed out the checkered past of this series, but also opened up fruitful possibilities for the future.
- John Wick: This movie is like “Taken” if the filmmakers made an effort. Yes, the plot is simple, and possibly even cliché, but the film makes you actually care about the characters! What a concept! Mix that in with crisp fight choreography, gorgeous cinematography, and appropriately over-the-top performances, you have one of the best times at the movies.
- Mockingjay Part 1: Compared to last year’s “Catching Fire”, this “Hunger Games” is light on the action, but more than makes up for that with spot-on political commentary, brilliant performances and haunting visuals. Jennifer Lawrence is as spot-on as ever, and Julianne Moore is a perfect addition to the already superb ensemble. It’s a hell of a set-up to what promises to be an explosive finale.
- 22 Jump St.
- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
- Big Hero 6