Bradley Cooper delivers his best performance yet as he takes on the challenging role of Chris Kyle, a real life United States Navy SEAL. The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, delivers an intense and emotional tribute to its subject. The film expands beyond Kyle’s time spent overseas, focusing on his life before enlisting, as well as meeting his wife, time spent at home between tours, having a his first child, and coming home after serving his country—capturing every moment with the appropriate amount of emotion and tension.
With an incredible cast featuring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, not to forget Zach Galifianakis and Emma Stone, along with a unique screenplay and stunning cinematography, this black comedy is a truly unforgettable experience that leaves the audience in awe—and in the end, perhaps a bit puzzled. There were certain aspects of the screenplay, though crucial to the film’s plot, that I feel could have been avoided, as the film was often unnecessarily strange. Say what you will, Alejandro G. Iñárritu has created a masterpiece that has impressed multiple critics and audiences.
This Dutch thriller fits almost any adjective you throw its way: beautiful, creepy, funny, sickening. The film tells the story of a vagabond, played by Jan Bijvoet, and his physical, emotional, and mental intrusion into the lives of an upper class family. Themes of class and society creep in about as subtly as the vagabond creeps into and overtakes the lives of the family. The unsettling film slips in humor—dark, twisted humor—as well as exceptional cinematography that perfectly fits the mood of the film. The film is an unforgettable experience that leaves the audience pleased, though perhaps a bit sick to their stomachs.
A groundbreaking film twelve years in the making, Boyhood displays the authentic journey of growing up, as seen through the eyes of a boy named Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane. The film focuses on important parts of growing up, capturing the wonder of being a little boy, and exploring things like a strong father-son relationship, experimenting in high school, and starting a new chapter in college. The film is a pioneer in films exploring the human condition—so much so that the film is a better sociological study than quality film. Other than Patricia Arquette, who plays Mason’s mother, and Ethan Hawke, who plays his father, the film is riddled with poor acting. The film also features awkward, empty dialogue, dull cinematography, and dreadful continuity errors—though I guess you’re out of luck catching a flaw in post production from footage shot up to twelve years ago. The film is one of a kind and heartwarming, but the authenticity and vicariousness are unfortunately the only valuable features of this film.
Gone Girl is as close to perfect as a film gets. The film shows off David Fincher’s strengths as its detail, foreboding, and intelligence are so marvelous, I would like to think Alfred Hitchcock would have been in awe. The screenplay is based off the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay. Flynn created a dark, unsettling yet riveting story, studied how to write a screenplay, and helped bring a visual experience to life. Rosamund Pike delivers a marvelous performance as Amy Dunne, a master manipulator. The film excels in acting, cinematography, directing, and writing, and is truly a work of art in every way.
Wes Anderson is truly a master of mise-en-scène, and The Grand Budapest Hotel doesn’t hold back on the remarkable visual experience that is mise-en-scène. The comedy film is visually breathtaking, as the cinematography, costume design, makeup and hairstyling, and production design excite the soul and draw deep emotions. Ralph Fiennes is exceptional as Monsieur Gustave H., where supporting actors Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, and Edward Norton also deliver sensational roles. The film is as witty as it is intriguing, as the story takes the viewer on an emotional, geographical and, yet again, visual journey, as the film transitions between aspect rations to correlate with time periods. The film is nothing short of a splendid work of art and another triumph for Wes Anderson.
Marvel truly outdid themselves with Guardians of the Galaxy, as it is easily the best film from the comic books since The Avengers. With the charismatic Chris Pratt leading a group of misfits, including a talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, organized to save the galaxy, along with a sensational soundtrack, stunning visual effects, and witty screenplay, there’s never a dull moment in this film that encourages the viewer to enjoy the ride despite whether or not they’re completely following along.
Regarded by some as one of the most important stories of the last century, The Imitation Game brings the story of Alan Turing to life in an exciting fashion. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an unforgettable performance as Turing, the cryptanalyst who helped solve the enigma code during World War II. Despite some factual errors that inaccurately portray historical events, including Turing's character and relationships, the film was praised by critics and honored by the LGBT civil rights advocacy. A hauntingly beautiful score, outstanding performances by supporting actors, most notably Keira Knightley, and subtle cinematography that perfectly fits the mood accommodate this powerful biopic.
Interstellar is easily the biggest disappointment in film this year. The movie had great potential to be something truly great, as one would think a Christopher Nolan film about space featuring Matthew McConaughey could not possibly go wrong. The film has its good traits, including its cast, gorgeous cinematography, visual effects, and half of its story…that’s where the film goes wrong. Somewhere a little past halfway through, the plot loses itself and is never found again. The film becomes less about being entertained and more about figuring it out, which is an impossible task. The film gets too weird too fast, and along with faulty sound mixing and a few plot holes, these make for an overall disappointing film that had potential to be out of this world (pardon the pun).
Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a knockout performance in this dark, exhilarating drama set in nocturnal Los Angeles. Every second of this movie counts; look away and you’ll miss a reaction, plot clue, or stunning picture of the nighttime urban sprawl. Lou Bloom, the central character portrayed by Gyllenhaal, undergoes tremendous character development, growing from a young man desperate for work to a successful freelance cameraman. The movie will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire two hours, as the brilliant screenplay, outstanding acting, and exciting visuals perfectly align to create a sensational film.
This controversial film made quite a stir among believers because of its inadequate adaption of a story in the Bible. Russell Crowe delivers an unforgettable performance as Noah, who is an obedient servant of God, as well as a loving father and husband. The film follows Noah through times of peace, war, grace, and madness. The costume design is pleasing to the eyes, as well as realistic. Burlap looks good on Russell Crowe as Noah, not to mention Crowe sported three hairstyles in the film, ranging from long to shaven. The ark is brilliant: a massive structure presented as large as imagined from Genesis. The visual effects of the animals, such as birds, crawlers, mammals, and snakes inspire awe. The Watchers are intimidating but beautiful creatures. The waters that flood the earth create a feel of haunting beauty. The time lapses, especially those that tell a story, such as the as the creation of the universe, earth, and evolution are a stunning touch. The adaption of the story of Noah and the ark is an interesting idea. The film expresses themes of good and evil; struggle and redemption; justice and mercy. In the end, perhaps a little controversy about a few chapters from the Bible may not be a bad thing for believers, as it sparks interest in nonbelievers, and allows believers to spread scripture to those nonbelievers. All in all, Noah is a great film for the religious and nonreligious, because everyone loves a great film.
Selma is led by David Oyelowo as he delivers an awe-inspiring performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most important men of the last century. The film focuses on Selma, Alabama in 1964 and the events that happened in surrounding areas, such as the march from Selma to Montgomery. Parts of the film were filmed on location in Selma, most notably at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, used to depict the the Bloody Sunday march. While the film excels in some aspects of authenticity, it fails in others, as there are many factual errors and inaccuracies, most evident being the depiction of President Lyndon Johnson, as the film portrays him to be an antagonist. Nevertheless, the film is indeed powerful, capturing the brave and honorable life of King while reminding us of how far we still remain from the ideal world his work embodied. Oyelowo delivers one of the best performances this year has seen, short only to Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
The Theory of Everything is more of an emotional love story than a biopic. Based on a memoir by his ex-wife, the film tells the story of Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist brilliantly portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, covering his relationship with Jane Wilde Hawking (portrayed by Felicity Jones), his diagnosis of motor neuron disease, and his success in physics. The film is led by two extraordinary performances by Redmayne and Jones. Because the film is based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir, it focuses more on Stephen Hawking's relationship with Jane and less on his success in physics, though that plays a big role in the film. The film may become a bit tedious and redundant, but Redmayne’s impeccable performance is what keeps it alive, along with a gorgeous soundtrack. Though the film may not be the year’s finest, Redmayne delivers the best performance this year has seen, and one that will stand the test of time.
Easily one of the year’s most compelling screenplays, Whiplash is sure to captivate its audience with its energy, intensity, and formidable performance by J.K. Simmons as Terrence Fletcher, as well as a great performance by Milles Teller as Andrew Neiman, the central character. Simmons’s performance is one you will not soon forget, and perhaps never forget, as it will leave you as nervous and rattled as his students. The film is built by a gripping screenplay, as features noteworthy sound mixing. The film, though not as complex and rich as some of the year’s others, will leave you impressed and satisfied, and most of the credit can be given to J.K. Simmons as he delivers the best supporting performance of the year.