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Top 10 Films of 2014

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Just a quick update before we get started. I’ll have my Oscar predictions and results from the latest Vote! segment out this week, so make sure to get your votes in before it closes. Additionally, hopefully, my review of “Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter,” a film I greatly adore, will be published before week’s end. Now let’s get going…

25: The Raid 2: Berandal (Gareth Evans)
24: Snowpiercer (Joon-Ho Bong)
23: Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
22: The Trip to Italy (MIchael Winterbottom)
21: Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)

20: The Rover (David Michod)
19: I Origins (Mike Cahill)
18: Frank (Lenny Abrahamson)
17: The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)
16: Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)

15: Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
14: The Drop (Michael R. Roskam)
13: Nymphomaniac (Lars Von Trier)
12: Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
11: Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)

10: Starred Up (David Mackenzie)/(’71, Yann Demange, 2015?)

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Are we going with 2014 or 2015 for “’71?” It’s rather comical that up-and-coming super-stud Jack O’Connell had three films screen this year, the worst of which received the widest release. “Starred Up” is a hard-hitting prison drama that’s lifted to towering heights by the performances of O’Connell and co-star Ben Mendelsohn. Swapping the more traditional, cringe-worthy visual aspects of the unflinching prison sub-genre (not all) for impenetrable dialogue and a vast array of relationships teetering on the brink, “Starred Up” will fill you with insight before knocking a few teeth down your throat.

9: Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy) / Enemy (Dennis Villenueve)

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Very few have had quite as stellar a year as Jake Gyllenhaal in 2014, which is why I couldn’t help but rank this remarkable double-feature inside my top 10. This double-dose of Gyllenhaal showcases the actor’s staggering, at times terrifying range. It’s mind-blowing that Gyllenhaal didn’t garner an Oscar nomination for either of these two fantastic performances, but I digress.

8: The Guest (Adam Wingard)

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Containing easily the best soundtrack any film of 2014 had to offer, “The Guest” sees dynamic duo Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett reach new cult status. With incredibly charismatic performances from Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe, in addition to non-stop action “The Guest” is endlessly entertaining!

7: Locke (Steven Knight)

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Looked upon as a reliable, strong-minded scribe with a plethora of solid screenplays to his name, including the creation of “Peaky Blinders,” a personal television favourite of mine. Prior to 2014’s “Locke,” Steven Knight hadn’t much to brag about from behind the camera, but that quickly and assertively changed. Led by a phenomenal performance from occasional Knight collaborator Tom Hardy, “Locke” is a magnificent spectacle of the human experience.

6: A Most Violent Year (J. C. Chandor)

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This is the second consecutive year-end “best of” list J. C. Chandor has cracked for me, personally (All Is Lost, 2013). Much like last year’s film “All Is Lost,” “A Most Violent Year” didn’t get much love come award season, but once again that didn’t discourage my ranking it inside the top 10. With formidable performances from its entire cast, including Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, and Albert Brooks, a subtle, yet immensely powerful story, gloomy atmosphere, and the sure-handed direction from Chandor, “A Most Violent Year” is a must-see to any who missed it.

5: Force Majeure (Ruben Ostlund)

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As I’m sure most of you are aware, comedy cinema doesn’t sit too well with me. Which should only speak volumes in regards to “Force Majeure’s” placement on this list. Providing the laughs, abundantly, and a rock-solid story that’s never as easy to watch as its breezy demeanour would insist, “Force Majeure’s” Oscar snub is almost as unforgivable as the absence of “Mommy” in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

4: Gone Girl (David Fincher)

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To say that I adore David Fincher and his very impressive resume would be a massive understatement. “Gone Girl,” although not the illustrious filmmakers best work to date, certainly has a place amongst the top of his efforts. Further cementing Ben Affleck as a force to be reckoned with both on and off screen and earning Rosamund Pike an Oscar nomination, deservedly so I might add, “Gone Girl” mixes all the potent Fincher facets into one hell of a morbid cocktail.

3: Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

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The odds-on favourite to take home “best foreign language film” at this year’s Academy Awards, “Leviathan” is an aptly titled juggernaut. Breathtaking visuals, impressive performances, and an unfathomable socio-political complexity are just a few tangents of what makes “Leviathan” triumphant.

2: Mommy (Xavier Dolan)

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Directed and written by home-grown Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, “Mommy” catapults the young filmmaker to the relative peak of my top 10. I’d feel very unpatriotic leaving Dolan’s latest off this list, but rest-assured he earned this spot. “Mommy” is brutal, unforgiving, whilst conversely evoking the most genuine and rooted responses of the emotional spectrum. Performed with the utmost investment by the entire ensemble, “Mommy” is one foreign language film you won’t want to miss.

1: Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)

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It doesn’t exactly bode well for the credibility of Nolan’s latest topping this list, seeing as I could be considered the leader of Nolan’s group of so-called “Fanboys,” but I can’t stress “Interstellar’s” greatness enough. You’ve either seen this film by now and loved it or hated it. I fail to see the middle ground and apparently so does everyone else. With monumental visuals, a complex, out-of-this-world premise that simultaneously showcases the down-to-earth emotionality and intellectual reach of the human race. “Interstellar” will leave you in awe and down-right flabbergasted. Thankfully, this film offers much post-viewing reading that should solve any issues or curiosity.

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What did you think of my list? Have a list of your own? Let me know in the comment section below!

 

The Trip to Italy (2014)

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Since I started blogging a little over a year ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to make a ton of new friends, simply through a reciprocated love of film and television. Additionally, I’ve been given more opportunities to expand my craft and following through new outlets. The Cinematic Katzenjammer and its wonderful staff welcomed me and my contributions with open arms and I am eternally grateful. So please, head on over and check out my latest review, and while you’re there, be sure to have a look around! It’s run on WordPress, so please login and drop a like and/or comment. You can find my review and be redirected to the site by clicking below. Thank you!

The Trip to Italy (2014)

The Look of Love (2013)

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For the most part, “The Look of Love” is the beneficiary of some fine performances and unwavering chemistry between director Michael Winterbottom and his actors. In majority, the positives outweigh the story’s skeletal simplicity and the second half is a brilliant ending to a beginning that felt almost non-existent. This biopic provides a veritable gaze into the restricted, promiscuous, pornographic world created and lived by Paul Raymond. And although this lifestyle sounds like all fun and games, it proves to be quite the contrast. Shining a harsh, unflinching light upon drug and sex addiction, family struggles, and existence. “The Look of Love” may offer up some shady hilarity and the occasional quip, but nevertheless remains quite potent and disheartening. “The Look of Love’s” beautiful, nostalgic soundtrack, strong performances, and hypnotic camera work are enough to save it from mediocrity and make it recommended viewing.

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Paul Raymond (Coogan) is an adult magazine publisher and entrepreneur. Upon opening a few burlesque houses and touring with a mature show, his fortune beings to explode. Now, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, Raymond begins to fall victim to temptation. With sex and drugs available to him so easily, Raymond eventually parts ways with morality. This causes him to lose his wife Jean (Anna Friel) and puts a serious strain on his relationship with his daughter Debbie (Poots). Raymond is left trying to recoup and reinvent his life, starting with his family.

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This is the fourth time director Michael Winterbottom has collaborated with actor Steve Coogan, who tackles the lead role portraying Paul Raymond. And even though “The Look of Love” is the duo’s weakest effort in a long line of overwhelming successes, the film is a step outside the pair’s comfort zone. So cinephiles, take note that instead of treading warm waters, the formidable twosome opted for a bold, dramatic, and more importantly new direction. I know it is no excuse for the flicks relatively linear and cliched story. Nonetheless, I’d rather applaud them for taking a leap, you know, find solace in the risk. I mean it should assist in the viewer reluctantly coming to terms with “The Look of Love’s” blandness. However, don’t take this dissection the wrong way, it is an entertaining, visceral, and occasionally funny film.

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Winterbottom’s direction is as intoxicating as ever. Consistently throughout “The Look of Love” the viewer is bombarded with a colourfully detailed pallet. Wave upon wave of neon, bright pigmentation, and dreary shades drown each minute making the film a visual feast. Not to mention the paced nudity, physical interactions, and explosiveness of the characters emotional diversity. Winterbottom leaves no stone unturned and captures the film’s limited brilliance with his usual style and exuberance.

There’s no denying that “The Look of Love” draws a substantial amount of its charm and effectiveness from its two main characters ability to bond. Portrayed by the aforementioned Steve Coogan and the lovely Imogen Poots, it’s safe to say the film didn’t suffer from a lack of talent and investment. The two might not have been able to secure the films flimsy structure, but did manage to salvage some treasure amongst the rubble. Imogen Poots rendition of “The Look of Love” is outstanding and continues to affirm her status as a star on the rise. Coogan once again proves that he’s got the chops to hang with the best in the biz and is undoubtedly one of the most underrated actors. He certainly hasn’t lost his flare for wit, humour, and strong emotional output. Sadly, it feels as if the film didn’t take full advantage of Poots and Coogan’s many talents, most importantly, hilarity.

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Although it could’ve been a lot better, “The Look of Love” has a striking cast, firm direction, and enough pull to appease fans of Coogan, Poots, and Winterbottom.

The Look of Love: 7.5 out of 10.

Top 10 Films That Give Me Goosebumps

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Now, before you jump to any conclusions about this week’s top 10, just bear with me for a minute. When I mention “goosebumps,” I mean these specific films listed provoke a profound reaction of euphoria, nostalgia, and wonderment in me, essentially any strong emotion. These feelings can be caused by breathtaking imagery, an ambient, sedating soundtrack, haunting dialogue, or simply a magnificent performance. I know this top 10 is rather personal and abstract, seeing as any film can evoke any reaction depending on the individual. I just think its time I put more of myself into these weekly posts. While the other editions of the top 10 segment are sorted and ranked by me and me alone, I do take other factors into account before concluding and publishing. You might think that this top 10 contains a lot of my all- time favourite films. Although it is a good indicator of what I look for and enjoy in a film, you’d be surprised at how many are actually considered to be some of my preferred films…but I digress…let’s just get into it!

For each film listed I’ll provide a brief clip for you all to check out. If you like what you see, I highly recommend all films listed, so give them a watch and be sure to let me know what you think!

Honourable Mention:

“The Trip” (2010) Michael Winterbottom.

 

10: “Melancholia” (2010) Lars Von Trier.

 

9: “Another Earth” (2011) Mike Cahill

 

8: “To the Wonder” (2012) Terrence Malick.

 

7: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) Michael Gondry.

 

6: Into the Wild (2007) Sean Penn.

 

5: “The Tree of Life” (2012) Terrence Malick.

 

4: “127 Hours” (2011) Danny Boyle.

 

3: “Take Shelter” (2011) Jeff Nichols.

 

2: “Moon” (2009) Duncan Jones.

 

1: “Sunshine” (2007) Danny Boyle.

 

Okay all, that’ll do it for this week’s top 10, hope you all enjoyed it! If you have any comments or questions about the top 10 or any of the films listed, don’t hesitate to ask. Everyone have a great weekend!

The Trip (2010)

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The comedy in The Trip is a lot like every other form of humour, dividing and opinion driven. This film is not for everyone. The laughs are evenly spread throughout its hour and forty five minute runtime, with breathtaking views of northern England anchoring a surprisingly melancholic theme. Starring Steven Coogan (Tropic Thunder) and Rob Brydon (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels)  as themselves, the two create tons of electricity thriving off of one another’s constant bid to outperform the other. The Humour is subtle and intelligent in this Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) directed dramatic comedy. You may or may not laugh out loud, but there is no denying the sorrow and artistic quality behind the hilarious back and fourths.

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Steve Coogan accepts an offer from The Observer, a sunday newspaper,  to tour northern England and review it’s top restaurants for their column. Coogan only takes this job on to impress his current girlfriend. However, when his girlfriend backs out, he is forced to invite his friend Rob Brydon along for the ride. As the journey begins, Brydon and Coogan start to partake in useless and hilarious competitions of creative feats. Throughout the trip, more and more personal details come to the forefront regarding Coogan and Brydon and we are allowed a glimpse into the tribulations of their lives.

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Boasting a highlight reel of precise impressions and awkward banter, The Trip is as funny as it is endearing. As well as shots of immaculate northern England, The Trip uses wit and aura to create a unique cinematic experience. Steve Coogan, in my opinion is one of the most underrated actors in film today and his performance in The Trip verifies my claim. A snippet, no longer then a few minutes of Coogan imitating his travel colleague in a mirror is one of the most honest realizations captured on film. Brydon seizes the chance to strut his stuff and performs admirably alongside Coogan. Winterbottom captures these two comedic men at their best while encompassing human flaws and our strive to do right despite them.

The Trip: 8.5 out of 10.