Top 10 Movies from the first half of 2014

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It’s been about three weeks since we passed the halfway mark of 2014, so I figure I should get this list up before the end of July. As I did the previous years, I’m including some films that might’ve opened internationally prior to 2014, but I’m including them here as I’m using the USA release dates (either wide or limited releases). These are movies that I consider a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is a big factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types (for me anyway), but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. The Grand Seduction (full review)

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I almost missed seeing this one at the MSPIFF earlier this year but I’m glad I was able to catch the second screening. I had a lot of fun with this one and I’d be happy to watch this again at some point. You can always count on Brendan Gleeson to entertain, and here he delivers once again along with Newfoundland’s most famous celebrity Gordon Pinsent and surprisingly enough, Taylor Kitsch is fun to watch here as well. This comedy is delightfully funny, heartwarming and beautiful to look at, it could practically doubles as a tourism video for the Canadian province!

9. Edge of Tomorrow (full review)

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I’ve been seeing this movie in fellow bloggers’ favorite-of-the-year list and I can see why. I bet it was as much a pleasant surprise for them as it did for me, as I was ready to dismiss this one as yet another Tom Cruise’s meh sci-fi. Well, it ended up being massively entertaining and has a worthy female heroine in the form of Emily Blunt. The movie is not as profound as some people made it out to be, but props to director Doug Liman for pulling off the ‘repetitive’ aspect of the story that is far from boring. I certainly don’t mind a repeat experience of seeing this one again on rental.

8. The LEGO Movie (full review)

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Everything is awesome! Now that’s a bold tagline to live up to, but guess what, this movie did just that and then some! Apparently February is NOT just for duds and I’m pretty sure this one will get a nomination come award season. The LEGO Movie is easily one of the most fun experience I had in the movies in a long time, it’s every bit as cute and hilarious as the trailers and featurettes promised us. It’s the perfect geekstravaganza for everyone of all ages, an awesome escapist from the Winter Dump Months for the young and the young-at-heart.

7. The Machine (full review)

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Ok so some of you might think because Toby Stephens is in this that this movie ends up in my top 10… and well, you won’t be entirely wrong 😉 But I really do think this is a worthy sci-fi that’s well-made, well-acted AND thought-provoking. Made with a shoestring budget (less than $2 mil), The Machine has more heart than its big budget sci-fi counterparts (think Elysium) which proves that it takes way more than big budget and big stars to make a memorable movie. The two leads, Stephens and Caity Lotz are impressive here, and their performances are able to overcome the flaws of the movie, and their scenes are what make this movie watchable over and over.

6. Locke (full review)

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It’s a testament of Tom Hardy‘s strong screen presence and Steven Knight‘s taut script and direction that this one-man show is gripping even when practically nothing happens on screen. The entire film takes place inside a car with Hardy’s Ivan Locke behind the wheel. It’s certainly one of the most unique cinematic experience that immerses you into the world of its protagonist. Visually it’s striking too, somehow Knight’s able to make highway driving look so dramatic and even artistic. If you ever had any doubt about Hardy’s acting prowess, well then I suggest you check this one out and prepare to be blown away.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel (full review)

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I don’t love everything Wes Anderson put out there, but this one works for me. It captivated me from the opening scene all the way until the end. It’s more fast-paced than his other films but has all the things you expect from Wes: the quirky characters, the perfect symmetry of every single scene, playful music, etc.  I was quite invested in the two lead characters, particularly Zero Mustafa (played by F. Murray Abraham and Tony Revolori), more than I’ve ever felt about previous Wes Anderson’s characters. Mischievously whimsy, but with heart. Like a charming hotel, it’s one I wouldn’t mind revisiting again and again.

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (full review)

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I adore the first film so I was a bit nervous this sequel would not live up to it. Well clearly I LOVE this one too as it made my top 5 so far. Despite the more complicated storyline, writer/director Dean DeBlois still made the adorable duo Toothless and Hiccup the central focus of the story. The additional character played by Cate Blanchett delves more into Hiccup’s family background, which makes you appreciate him and his father Stoick (Gerard Butler). With John Powell’s rousing score once again, this ranks high in my favorite animated features and would probably be among the nominees come award season!

3. Belle (full review)

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For a fan of period dramas, Amma Assante‘s sophomore feature has everything I could possibly want from this genre, and then some. Some critics call it ‘Jane Austen with a conscience’ as the protagonist’s story is set in the backdrop of slavery and racial injustice. Gugu Mbatha-Raw gracefully carries the film with her heartfelt performance, surrounded by a stellar cast that includes Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson. Sam Reid also impressed me with his performance as Belle’s unlikely confidante/love interest, I definitely would love to see both Mbatha-Raw and Reid get more prominent roles in the future. I can’t wait to own the Blu-ray that’s out next month, this one will definitely get a lot of play in my house!

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (full review)

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I happen to LOVE the first movie which my hubby and I have watched repeatedly. It’s rare to see a sequel that not only lives up to the original but manages to be even better! Billed as a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a superhero movie’, The Winter Soldier delivers on that front and gives us something that’s genuinely intriguing and massively entertaining. I LOVE espionage movies so the story definitely appeals  to me, but of course it also has the exciting action sequences that’s the bread-n-butter of any superhero blockbuster. It’s filled with adrenaline-pumping geek-gasm scenes without being banal or vapid. Chris Evans‘ much more confident in the role which makes him even more watchable, and Robert Redford + Anthony Mackie are great additions to an already-fantastic cast. This one has become my favorite Marvel stand-alone feature and Cap my favorite Marvel superhero!

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past (full review

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It took me a while to decide between The Winter Soldier and X-Men: DOFP as my #1 pick, but after much deliberations, this one wins by a slim margin. I give this one an edge because the time travel aspect and the back-and-forth across multiple dimensions are tough to pull off, but Bryan Singer did a tremendous job making it all work beautifully. I have a soft spot for the X-Men franchise and despite the disappointing The Wolverine, this is one of my most-anticipated films of 2014! It certainly did NOT disappoint. Glad to see Singer back at the helm for this one, after relinquishing his directorial efforts to other directors for X-Men 3 and X-Men: First Class. Now, I’m a big fan of the latter and a lot of the emotional high notes of that first prequel are carried over here as well. Emotional drama and complex relationship are mixed together well with witty humor and thrilling action. Similar to Nolan’s Batman films in some ways, it’s character & plot-driven punctuated by exhilarating action sequences. As far as superhero movies go, this one has everything that makes going to the movies so gratifying.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These aren’t stellar by any means, but it was pretty entertaining and worth-seeing. So yeah, I’d recommend these for a rental!

 


WORST of the year so far:

I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid what’s poised to be stinkers like I Frankenstein, Blended, Pompeii, Tammy,etc. but I wish I hadn’t wasted my precious 2+ hours on these two!


So that’s my Best/Worst list of 2014 so far. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀

Wordless Wednesday: 7 Favorite Scenes of Man & Machine

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Hello everyone! It’s a bit late and I already skipped a month without Wordless Wednesday, ahah well I guess I’m consistent at being inconsistent in keeping up with my own blog series, ahah. In any case, as I did in my previous Wordless Wednesday on Emma Thompson, I choose a random Wednesday of the month to shine a spotlight on or pay tribute to something/someone with clips and/or gifs I find on Tumblr.

Well, since I was just talking about Man-Machine relationship on my Question of the Week yesterday, I figure why not feature some of my favorite scenes. So here goes:

Tears in Rain – Blade Runner

Are these feelings real? – Her

Superman! – The Iron Giant

Frank & robot doing some light exercise – Robot & Frank

T-800 tries to smile – Terminator 2

 

Helo & Sharon (Boomer) – Battlestar Galactica (2004 series)

I LOVE the tricky yet passionate relationship between human (Helo) and cylon (Boomer), one of my fave couples in the space-opera.

 

Vincent & The Machine – The Machine

[originally posted on my Tumblr] Can’t find the exact scene of this one [hopefully someone will post it now that the Bluray is out!] but I LOVE the dance sequence in The Machine… sleek, eerie, ethereal and sexy all at the same time.

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These are just a sampling of my favorite Man-Machine scenes. Feel free to share yours.

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Films of April 2014

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Happy May Day everyone!

Well April’s certainly been a hectic month! We’ve got the Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF 14) and also my hubby and I are planning for our trip to Europe at the end of May. Oh and guess what, I also got a press pass for the first ever Minneapolis Comic-con, yay!

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The thing is, this weekend I actually had to fly to Chicago to apply for tourist visa (Schengen visa) as I’m not a US citizen, and the closest Dutch/French embassy is in that city! So I can only attend the Sunday event, which means I’ll miss seeing Nathan Fillion AND William Shatner! Such a bummer eh, those two guys would’ve been a lot of fun to see.

Here are some posts from April you might’ve missed:


Thanks to Josh from JJAMES reviews for partnering w/ me on reviewing MSPIFF movies! His reviews are marked w/ *

MSPIFFreviewsIntruders*
Joe* & Brave Miss World
Hotell & Mystery Road*
Breathe-In & The Grand Seduction
Beyond the Edge
Paulette & The Life of Riley*
A Thousand Times Good Night & Words and Pictures
Proxy & The Animal Projects*
The Double* & The Last of Robin Hood

New Releases:

Rental/Rewatches:

  • Rewatch – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1959)
  • The Guard (2011)
  • All Things To All Men (2013)
  • Leap Year (2010)
  • The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2008)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
    I mistakenly thought this was one of my Blindspot movies, the other Billy Wilder movie that’s on my list is The Apartment. So I’ll have a double Blindspot post in May to make up for it.

So overall it’s been a pretty good month of movie viewing with 16 new films watched. It’s actually lower than what I had hoped as I missed a few MSPIFF screenings for one reason or another. But hey, I also watched a bunch of TV, well mostly binge-ing on Toby in a variety of TV stuff he’s done, from The Great Gatsby (2000 TV movie), the British cop comedy Vexed & his latest project Black Sails. Thank goodness for Youtube as I could also get my Toby-as-Rochester fix there until my Jane Eyre dvd arrives! So yeah, the Toby Marathon continues! 😀

Favorite Movie Seen in April 2014:

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I know The Machine isn’t perfect, I wish they’d focus more on the relationship between the scientist Vincent and the intelligent machine Ava, but still I’m very impressed by Caradog James’ work in crafting a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller with a shoe-string budget.

As for The Grand Seduction, out of all the films I saw at MSPIFF, this is one I’d readily watch again. I had so much fun watching it, lots of thigh-slapping hilarity to be had all around.


So, what movies did you get to see in April and which one is your favorite?