Not many films got the full five-stars in the second half of year three, but for those that did, all are worthy. The two most recent are still in theaters (Jurassic World and Inside Out) and I’d highly recommend seeing them if you haven’t already. Rounding out recent goodies, Ex Machina still has some life in theaters and will be out on Blu-ray/DVD next week. Whiplash was among my favorites of 2014’s Best Picture nominees and Training Day is a great classic (circa 2001) that was well worth the rewatch.
As I mentioned in my look back on all of year three, I plan on writing more concise and to-the-point reviews in the coming year which hopefully means I’ll also watch/review more films. While I matched year two with total number watched (85), it seemed to go more in spurts which really hurt my enthusiasm and energy for maintaining this site. I still have some fuel left in the tank, and excited for what year four has to offer. For now, a look back at some of the best of the past six months.
I could use a whole bunch of adjectives to try and describe Whiplash like electrifying, mesmerizing, exhilarating, fierce, fiery, vigorous… but this film is more than just a simple word to describe it. Whiplash is a journey to discover the untapped potential that resides in all of us. That journey has its fair share of happy moments and dark places. It has a passion and a drive to it that is unrivaled and it is a film that will make you feel the same discomfort and anxiety that Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) goes through as well as his triumphs and successes.
Selma is still a powerful film that conveys an important message about perseverance and standing for what you believe in. Oyelowo’s performance certainly lends a certain gravitas and credibility for what the film tries to convey. For whatever reason you decide to see this movie, if you decide to do so, you will be entertained, shocked, inspired, and above all, moved.
This is a film that has stood the test of time since its release in 2001 and will stick around for many decades to come. The performances from the entire cast especially Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington — Washington’s performance netted him the Academy Award for Best Actor — are instantly memorable and help bring the film to unique and exciting places. If you haven’t yet seen Training Day, go and watch it. If you have seen it already, consider watching it again — you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much more you can get from this film on a second viewing.
About Time is a movie full of heart, spunk, and a generally uplifting message to live in the moment and appreciate even the small things in life. You might dismiss the film as cheesy for using time travel, or for being yet another romantic comedy where everything works out in the end and all is perfect, but you’d be missing a big draw to About Time. I urge you not to take that route, as it will most likely be met with disappointment. Instead, take a page out of the film’s own playbook, relax, and enjoy yourself. There’s nothing wrong with feeling happy and optimistic about life and About Time provides you the opportunity to do just that.
It works on so many levels from a conscious awareness (performances by Vikander and Isaac) to unconscious manipulation (feeling uncomfortable as a result of editing and pacing). The story quickly draws you in and keeps you at the edge of the seat all the way through the credits. It is no average mystery or thriller film and many of the answers you receive aren’t even possible scenarios that cross your mind. You will be amazed, surprised, and engrossed in Ex Machina for the duration of the film and will come away both entertained as well as scared for what implications this may have on future technological developments.
While Jurassic World is not the best film there is, and normally I would have rated it four stars out of five, it is hard to beat in the pure entertainment, spectacle, and fun categories. You easily get your money’s worth seeing this in a theater on the big screen and is a perfect film to watch at almost anytime you can think of. Story or plot issues may exist, but the characters lessen their ill-effects and the action and stunning visuals all but negate whatever is left. You will probably enjoy the film more if you’ve seen and are a fan of Jurassic Park as it does bring back a lot of nostalgia, but for those new to the franchise you won’t be disappointed.
Pixar has always been able to make films that tug at our heartstrings and create worlds and characters that encourage us to explore our imaginations while still holding on to reality. Inside Out is one of the best films (definitely the most emotional) Pixar has ever made ranking up there with Toy Story, Up, and my personal favorite The Incredibles. Tissues will be nice to have but don’t worry, it’s not all sad and teary; there’s plenty of humor and uplifting moments as well. It really does span the whole gamut of emotions.
Best Comedy: About Time
Best Drama: Ex Machina
Best New Release: Ex Machina
Honorable Mentions: Still Alice, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and Pitch Perfect 2
Biggest Disappointments: The Rock and The Abyss