Thursday, January 1, 2015

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2014



The Great, The Good, and The Interesting!

Eva Green, PENNY DREADFUL





"And...Action!"




FAVORITE MOVIES:





THINK




-CESAR CHAVEZ
A solid biopic with timeless truth about class, bigotry, labor, and humanity.


-BOYHOOD
Twelve years of a child's life, in real time, by director Richard Linklater.



-BELLE (UK) ⇧
A true story of a black woman in 18th century British aristocracy, and the path to the abolition of slavery.

-LOCKE (UK)
Dealing with a crisis while driving for 90 minutes equals better drama and suspense than any film around.
Tom Hardy is amazing.

-A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
Like a lost, understated classic from New Hollywood 1973.
Oscar Isaac channels his best Pacino.

-THE DROP
A razor-sharp crime thriller, layered mystery, and character piece.
A crack cast with James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, the breakout Matthias Schoenaerts, and the brilliant Tom Hardy.

-GONE GIRL
A wider canvas Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
There's wonkiness in the structure and performances, but it still generally works for me.



-THE GOOD LIE
A true story of four refugees from the Sudan massacres trying to make it in Kansas City.
A poignant film that flows with effortless grace, genuine warmth, and gentle humor.

-THE DANCE OF REALITY (Mexico)
Jodorowsky returns with a surrealist parable on his bizarre, brutal childhood.
Uneven but always arresting.

-CALGARY (Ireland)
A dark comedy or a wry drama, with odd turns, deft characters, and caustic wit.

-GET ON UP
A slightly off-foot bio of James Brown, kept on the beat by the performance of Chadwick Boseman.

-BIRDMAN
An unexpected and riveting dramedy, with powerful performances, askew surprises, and stunning cinematography.
Michael Keaton, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Emma Stone.

-THE IMITATION GAME
Alan Turing, codebreaker, computer-maker, lost soul.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Charles Dance.





SMILE




-FRANK
A bent comedy about music, madness, and fragile human connection.
Michael Fassbender is typically stunning. The end credits songs are worth the admission alone.


-SPACE STATION 76
A sly black comedy and surprisingly reverent homage to mid-70's Sci-Fi cinema.

-THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Stylish panache, slippery twists, and startling dialogue. Ralph Fiennes is excellent.



-WE ARE THE BEST! (Sweden) ⇧
Three teen girls conspire to be a punk band in 1982. Mayhem unleashes.

-THE TRIP TO ITALY (UK)
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon continue their comedic duel from THE TRIP by sailing abroad.



-THE ONE I LOVE
This comedy about marriage becomes something far more unexpected and surreal...






DREAM




-DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
The GODFATHER II of the Apes films.
Andy Serkis' performance as Caesar is nuanced and electrifying.


-EDGE OF TOMORROW
ALIENS meets GROUNDHOG DAY.
Everyone keeps telling you to see this underrated, fun, and sharp SF film because you missed out.

-LUCY (France)
Scarlet Johansson will kick your ass on her way to the next level.



-I ORIGINS
Director Mike Cahill and star/co-writer Brit Marling follow ANOTHER EARTH with more heady speculative fiction.
Imagine Shane Carruth (UPSTREAM COLOR) rethinking VERTIGO.


-INTERSTELLAR
Christopher Nolan's humanist homage and counterpoint to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
A rip current of good, great, and greatness.

-THE HOBBIT: The Battle of the Five Armies
Almost a 'carnage postscript' held steady by character moments and fine performances, particularly Martin Freeman.






NIGHTMARE




-THE BABADOOK (Australia) ⇧

This psychological horror movie is adrenalized by the shattering performances of mother and son.
A rousing debut by director/writer Jennifer Kent.



-UNDER THE SKIN (UK/Swiss) ⇧
A moody mystery about what lies beneath.
Scarlet Johansson does wonders with silence and implication.

-ENEMY (Canada/Spain)
Obtuse symbolist Kafka headgame.

-PREDESTINATION (Australia)
Can you right your wrongs or do your wrongs rewrite you?
Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook.

-A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (Iran)
"The first Iranian vampire Spaghetti Western". An assured debut by Any Lily Amirpour.






GRAPHIC IMAGES




-CAPTAIN AMERICA: The Winter Soldier

This superior sequel tributes Steranko, the countercultural Cap', and 70's political thrillers to perfect effect.


-AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
This film, to me, takes every wrong move of SPIDER-MAN 3... and course-corrects every one.
Haters may rail, but I still cried.

-X-MEN: Days of Future Past
Director Bryan Singer returns to take his crew to their highest high. Terrific.



-SNOWPIERCER (South Korea) ⇧
BLADE RUNNER was an ignored dud on release, and grew its sterling reputation and acclaim over time and word-of-mouth.
I think this fierce meditation on class wars and the human future will also.

-GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
This is a smartly fun film with impeccable craft.
It sets up the entire Marvel cosmic cosmology without breaking a sweat.



-AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (TV)
The second season, in the aftermath of "CAPTAIN AMERICA: The Winter Soldier", is full-throttle pay-off.






ARTFLIX





-BIG HERO 6
Marvel Comics' other left-field success.
The perfect balance of high craft and huge heart.

-THE BOXTROLLS
True stop-motion animation taken to higher levels by the Laika studio.



-THE WIND RISES (Japan, 2013) ⇧
Miyazaki.
The craft is stunning, but the story leaves me with very mixed feelings.

-THE LEGO MOVIE
All the creative chaos of kids at hyperspeed. Plus Batman!

-THE BOY WITH THE CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART ('Jack et la mécanique du cœur'; France)
Gets by on style and surprises.




-THE SIMPSONS, S26E06: "Simpsorama"
The Simpsons meet Futurama!

-TOY STORY That Time Forgot (TV special)
Every time they sequel TOY STORY, it only improves!

-THE LEGEND OF KORRA
How else to end an excellent series but with the bravery of compassion?








FAVORITE DOCUMENTARIES:



-CITIZENFOUR
You know it's a corrupt era when we punish the whistleblower instead of the criminals.


-THE UNKNOWN KNOWN
Donald Rumsfeld is a lying war criminal.


-LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM
The fall of Saigon and the abyss of impossible choices.



-FRONTLINE: The United States of Secrets
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”
― George Orwell, 1984

-THE ROOSEVELTS (PBS mini-series)
Ken Burns.

-COSMOS: A Space/Time Odyssey 1
Neil deGrasse Tyson.









FAVORITE TV:



(The season number follows each title.)




NEWS




-LAST WEEK with John Oliver


-THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart

-THE COLBERT REPORT with Stephen Colbert

-The Rachel Maddow Show




DRAMA




-RECTIFY 2 ⇧
✭✭✭✭✭
The unsung best series of last year is finally getting the acclaim it deserves.


-MASTERS OF SEX 2
As if excellence hadn't been enough before, this season took bold chances and only improved with each move.
A fine cast, sophisticated depth, and a progressive sensuality more relevant than ever.

-MAD MEN 7.1






WONDER




-GAME OF THRONES 4 ⇧
A great season that leaves even more bruises than before.


-AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 2
In fine form.

-GOTHAM 1
An odd brew of great cinematography, slow-burn plot, weak dialogue, and standout actors (Bullock, Penguin, Riddler).

-FLASH 1
Like a CW/Peter Parker take for tweenies, but wins over with its enthusiasm and mythos-building.

-ARROW 3
The best Batman TV show Christopher Nolan might have made.

-CONSTANTINE 1
This is a pretty faithful version of John Constantine on USA TV. None of us saw that coming.


-HELIX 1
Trading on every SF trope, or putting a new spin on them?
Derivative of everything, but just interesting enough.






UK




-PENNY DREADFUL 1 ⇧
Eva Green. ✭✭✭✭✭
A parallel to Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books, in every right way.
(Or perhaps a League of Universal Monsters.)


-ORPHAN BLACK 2 (Canada/BBC)
Tatiana Maslaney finds new breadths and depths to amaze.

-DOCTOR WHO 8
Peter Capaldi is sharply demented, and Jenna Coleman comes into her own.



-OUTLANDER 1.1 ⇧
This stealth favorite is giving the best shows a hard run for their money.

-AKTA MANISKOR 2 (a.k.a., Almost Human; Sweden)
The constantly interesting and perplexing Android series unfolds.



-BLACK MIRROR: "White Christmas" (holiday special) ⇧
The Twilight Zone for the tech era returns.
This blistering critique of the worst dangers of digital identity is the most chilling yet.



SLEUTH




-RIPPER STREET 3 (UK) ⇧
All bold risks and startling turns in this underrated and first-rate detective show.
Consistently ranks among the best dialogue -and its delivery- on any screen.

-THE FALL 2 (Ireland)
Gillian Anderson leads a grim, uncompromising, mature procedural with grace and edge.

-HAPPY VALLEY 1 (UK)
A sergeant fighting local crime, corruption, and a dissolving family in a Yorkshire valley.
Sarah Lancashire is stunning as the tour-de-force lead.

-GRACEPOINT
David Tennant reprises his Broadchurch series for the USA.

-SHERLOCK 3 (UK)
So fired up on its popular momentum it seemed to be spinning out of control, storywise.
But Cumberbatch and Freeman.



-ELEMENTARY 3 ⇧
The US parallel to Sherlock steadily delivers inventive mysteries, evolving character, and forward progress unabated.

-TRUE DETECTIVE 1
Very good with some great moments, held aloft by Matthew McConaughey.

-THE KILLING 4
Despite haters and dropouts, this series only got darker, deeper, and better as it went.
In the long run, the total quality of it will stand the test.

-BATES MOTEL 2
Confident, expansive, twisty.

-HANNIBAL 2
More moody magnification from the Red Dragon prequel, despite the twin dangers of rote formula and a hideously campy rival.



-FARGO 1 ⇧
Nearly perfect. Fans of FARGO (1996) and Twin Peaks will love it.




COMEDY



-BROAD CITY
2 bonkers young women take on New York.
Sacrilegious, awkward, horny, crazed.








THINGS TO CATCH UP ON, Dept.



Hey, who has time to see everything?

(or, 'The DVD Was Not Available At Press Time')


(Drama)
-ROSEWATER
-LOVE IS STRANGE
-THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY


(Comedy)
-TOP FIVE
-WILD TALES
-THEY CAME TOGETHER


(Animation)
-THE BOOK OF LIFE
-GIOVANNI'S ISLAND (Japan)
-WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (Japan)
-THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA (Japan)









See also:

BEST MUSIC: 2014

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2013
BEST MUSIC: 2013


BEST MOVIES & TV: 2012
BEST MUSIC: 2012
BEST COMIX: 2012

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2011
BEST MUSIC: 2011
BEST COMIX: 2011

BEST MOVIES: 2000-2010
BEST COMIX: 2000-2010
BEST MUSIC: 2000-2010




"Cut!



2 comments:

john ohagan said...

Cheers for that Tym -Perhaps 2014 was a better year than I thought initially at least cinematically - I have a better idea what to look out for on the box too -nicely put together.

Tym Stevens said...

Thank you, John!