Part 2 of my Favorite Things of 2014 list. MOVIES. It was a decent year for movies, with some big stand-outs for me. I missed quite a few I wanted to see this year, like The Guest, Fury, Nightcrawler, Birdman, Locke, & Foxcatcher. Next year I’ll catch up. But on to the list!
The Raid 2: Berandal
Wow. Wow wow WOW. Iko Uwais and Gareth Evans are here to save action films! The original Raid was a perfect blend of simple concept and tight execution, taking the viewer on a brutal ride. The Raid 2 is definitely a larger film in scope and staging of the fight scenes. Although some claimed the film is a bit bloated with dialogue scenes, I found the story to be a neat twist on gangster movie tropes, with some nice performances. Honestly though, the film could have been people talking like chickens whenever there were no fights happening and I’d still have loved it. Gareth Evans brings back that feeling from older Hong Kong films of really pushing the limits of what you can do when filming action scenes. He utilizes really long takes, insane camera movements, and super tight editing that builds as the film progresses. When you finally arrive at the final knife fight, you think you’re ready for what awaits you. Then you experience one of the most brutal and amazing fight scenes ever committed to film. Iko and Gareth are 3 for 3 in my opinion and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Otomo is back! One of my favorite animated films is Memories, which featured 3 Katsuhiro Otomo stories adapted by himself and 2 other directors. Short Peace is a similar anthology style film, with Otomo’s works being adapted by others. Otomo directs one portion of the film, which takes place in feudal Japan. His use of movement and references to Japanese scrolls pulls the viewer in to the chaos of a huge fire. The other stories are also very well-done, with a huge variety of styles on display. I was initially a bit turned off by the use of CG in “Posessions” and “Gambo”, but quickly adjusted and was sucked in. “Gambo” features a monster fight akin to the ending battle in BPRD: The Long Death, illustrated by James Harren. Two beastly titans duking it out. Any fan of animation should definitely give this a look, as it displays a diversity of styles from masters of animation at the top of their game.
Edge of Tomorrow
I had pretty much given up on Tom Cruise scifi movies. I was so glad I gave this one a shot. It’s funny, has great action, interesting design work, and Emily Blunt is BAD ASS. Christopher McQuarrie’s writing is surely responsible for many of the successes of Edge of Tomorrow though. He takes a concept that could easily become tiresome and (literally) repetitive and uses it to elevate the dramatic and comedic impact of the film. The pacing and impact of character moments really elevate it above the cute concept. Unfortunately, the ending is complete american sci-fi film cop-out material, but I can forgive that.
All the dudes are making their ‘tough guy revenge movie’ these days. From the new Die Hard movies, to Taken, to 3 Days to Kill, to (cringe) The November Man. But John Wick gets it RIGHT. I felt like I was watching Raw Deal or Above the Law. Say what you will about Keanu, but he’s got the chops (literally) for this part. Many of the modern ‘tough guy’ movies rely on some annoying camera and editing work (cough-JasonBourne-cough) to take the place of real punching. Keanu is certainly no Iko Uwais, but he’s a long way from Kevin Costner. At the end of the day, I know this is a formulaic revenge movie in a long line of revenge movies. Just like a burger is always a burger. But damned if there ain’t some burgers that are perfection from first bite to last.
It’s a lot of fun to see the plans madman Jodorowsky had for Dune. It represents a moment in time where you had a lot of amazing artists involved in something ambitious and crazy. And these artists would almost all go on to work on movies and comics that represent a sea-change in the art-forms. Don’t get me wrong, Jodorowsky is completely insane, but the inspiration and life he exudes is infectious. Watch this movie and try NOT to go make art. It’s impossible.
This movie is bananas. Lots of fun little touches in the midst of over-the-top everything else. Well made and a blast to watch. For me, this is what I’d call a good ‘popcorn movie’.
Honorable Mentions: Big Hero 6, VHS: Viral
Next post will cover music. To see my favorite comics just look HERE.