Let’s get into the Top 10
10. The Place Beyond the Pines
There’s a lot to like in director Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to 2010’s Blue Valentine. The film is broken up into three parts, which are all connected and it really feels like an old school type of film. It is an epic saga that is in no rush to tell its story. While it’s not as great as The Godfather, it certainly has that feel to it. The film has many hits and some misses, but you certainly can’t fault Cianfrance for his ambition.
The biggest problem is that the first part of the film, which features Ryan Gosling, is the best part. After Gosling exits the film, it’s like the rest of the film and cast are playing catch up. The Gosling segment is also such an intense one which slowly keeps building. Once we move to the middle segment with Bradley Cooper, it’s almost like coming to a complete stop when you were just doing 100-miles an hour.
Now, the Cooper segment isn’t necessarily a bad one, just a big change of pace. It feels like the less connected of the three parts. Bradley Cooper plays a cop, and while he’s not a dirty cop, he’s also not really a hero either. I like the shades of gray presented here. It explores some interesting ideas, but it is the weakest segment of the three.
The final segment brings back some of that momentum from the opening segment and ties things up in a nice little bow. With the final segment, the film shows its intentions and becomes one about fathers and sons. The way we raise out children, the sins of the father affecting the life of the son is explored. I like that we get it from two perspectives: high and lower class. There is an absence of a father in both of the young men’s lives. While one is gone completely, the other is present but not really there.
It’s interesting to watch the effects that a father or parent has on their children. It’s such a strong absence to be without a father, especially being a male. When the man that made you isn’t there to teach you about life or wants nothing to do with you, well it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I felt like Cooper’s son was a pampered brat; a spoiled rich kid who tried to get attention from his father by being a bad boy. Still, it comes down to that attention from his father and so you can’t really blame him for the way he turns out. Gosling’s son seems less damaged but more lost. He just wants to know his purpose in a way and wants to find out who his father was.
The film seems to imply towards the end how we are doomed to repeat our father’s mistakes. While Gosling’s son seems to be on the same path that his father was on, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to have the same outcome. Like I said there is a lot to like and a lot to discuss about this epic saga. The Place Beyond the Pines shoots for the moon. While it is only a near miss from perfection, what we have is still a pretty great film.
9. Some Girl(s)
I really do love films that come out of nowhere. There’s some films higher up on this list that are considered small films, well they look like blockbusters compared to this one. I stumbled upon this film on Redbox, and it is as small as a film can get. You have Adam Brody talking to five of his exes in five different rooms; that’s it. The film is based on a play and it really carries over that feeling.
While most people would find the premise and so much dialogue boring, I love it. I really do love films like this. I can compare it to Major League Baseball. While most people love a high-scoring homerun for homerun game, I love a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel. It is not flashy in anyway and it mostly connects with you based on what you bring with it.
I don’t have too much in common with the main character, especially as the film unfolds, but I can relate to the overall theme of the film. The premise is that Adam Brody’s character, who remains unnamed, is getting married but before he does he wants to make amends with five women who he wronged in previous relationships. What is slowly uncovered is that these are all good women, and in each case the problem lies with the main character, who we find out is not really a trustworthy or even good person.
Jennifer Morrison’s character from Once Upon a Time is first up and the most recognizable yet she’s also the most forgettable. It is on purpose though since the reason he broke up with her on high school, before prom, was because she was so ordinary. He pictured her exactly where she is now, a loyal wife with kids. There is nothing wrong with that, but he says that the thought terrified him and he wanted more.
The main character then goes from Chicago to Boston from a hot fling to an older college professor. The similarities in both however are how easily he allows himself to be tempted and seduced, even if they are completely different scenarios, both women do it just to show that they can. Once we go back to Washington and Zoe Kazan’s character, things get a little more personal as we see the real damage this man has done.
I found the movie got better as it went on and the absolute frosting on the cake was the final woman, played by Kristen Bell. She knows him better than anyone and calls him on all his bullshit. He’s not trying to make things better before he gets married, he’s trying to see if he missed out in any of these past relationships and comparing his fiancé to his exes. He tells lie after lie even as we find out he’s recording these sessions for an article, telling these women things he thinks they want to hear.
The house of lies all comes down for the unnamed character at the end and we see him for the pathetic person he is. His fiancé of course will not see this side of him until he tires of her, but his exes know and he knows. After all, even if you escape everyone, you can never escape from yourself. This was such a surprise and a wonderful treat that was discovered towards the end of the year. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly made me reflective and was a film I instantly loved.
8. Saving Mr. Banks
This film had me at the trailer. I am a huge fan of Finding Neverland and I compare that film to this one. In both films some changes were made, but in both cases it doesn’t really bother me. People will nitpick on little things all day, but I say what matters is making a great movie. You have Tom Hanks as Walt Disney attempting to buy the rights to Mary Poppins, what’s not to like about it?
At its core this is another film about fathers and their children, only this time instead it’s between father and daughter. Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers and while the story is being told, we see numerous flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in Australia. The flashbacks allow us to see Travers in a different light and explain why she is so shrewd and guarded.
We see her father’s, played by Colin Farrell, demise and fall to alcoholism. Despite her father’s actions, Travers still idolized the man, even at her mother’s expense. It shows the relationship between father and daughter and how strong that bond can be. Travers does nothing short but worship her father despite how sloppy and reckless he becomes.
I loved the behind the scenes stuff and how the making of Mary Poppins came together. I have never even seen Mary Poppins, and yet it completely works. Watching the script come together and watching the Sherman brothers put together the songs is such a delight. Travers was a difficult person to work with, no doubt, but she also had legitimate concerns. Mary Poppins was her baby, and more importantly, the Banks family and especially the patriarch of that family, were like her own family.
Like she says in the film, Mr. Banks was not a bad man. He had good in him all along, but he was just trapped in that everyday struggle of life. He was an ordinary man who worked to provide for his family, and sometimes you forget to stop and enjoy things.
Then you have Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. I read in an interview someone who was close to Disney say how Hanks did not look or talk like Walt, and yet he somehow still became him. We only see small glimpses of Disney and only the public persona. I found Disney’s scenes to be the best part of the film. Disney wasn’t this dark and mysterious man in private but he did keep certain things away from the public.
Travers bursts into his office, and as we see Disney smoking a cigarette, Disney mentions how he doesn’t like people watching him smoke. It’s not a huge surprise that Disney smoked of course since the man died from lung cancer, but I just found it interesting how he kept certain things under-wraps.
I’m a sucker for all things Disney so I fall under this film’s target audience. I don’t think the film is about taking sides though. Sure, the film may not show things the way they exactly happened and it leaves some things out, but it works best that way for the final product. This is a very easy film to like, I can’t really put it any better way than that.
7. This is the End
This was always the wildcard going into last year. It was such an interesting idea that made you wonder if they could actually pull it off. This is the End was everything we wanted it to be and more. Beyond all the celebrity cameos, and all these stars playing crazier versions of themselves, you have a film about a friendship drifting apart.
Taking place during the apocalypse, the film is really about the friendship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel. The two have outgrown each other as they evolve into different people. Danny McBride calls out Jay during the film and states the obvious: how Jay thinks he is better than these people even though he is just like them.
Each character from Craig Robinson to Jonah Hill and even the smaller characters like Michael Cera, have their moments to shine as they all attempt to steal the movie from each other. The MVP in the film in my opinion however, is James Franco. The film takes place at his house, and it provides plenty of room for these men to act like children and have the time of their lives, despite the end of the world.
Even without the crazy premise of the world’s end, this film would still work. I would watch these characters bond and make each other laugh all day even if it was just a sleepover like Jonah Hill mentioned. Jonah Hill gets one of the better segments in the film, as we witness the exorcism of Jonah Hill. You can tell all of these actors are having a blast, hanging out with their friends and trying to outdo each other. They all get to play around with expectations and who the audience think they really are. I’m sure none of these characters are actually as crazy as they portray themselves on screen.
I like how much the film is able to do with such a small budget, well considering all of the talent involved. There are demons galore, there is fire coming out of the ground and burning the Hollywood hills, and all of it looks top notch. Whether you believe in heaven or not isn’t really the point. I’m sure you could enjoy the film whether you are a Christian or an Atheist. Well, as long as you’re not too uptight.
The idea of heaven in this film is portrayed as a non-stop party, or I suppose as whatever you want it to be. Either way, it works because it is hilarious and entertaining. The people who ‘survive’ the apocalypse makes sense within the movie, and just feels so right.
Watching this film in a packed theater provided a great experience, and more importantly, it provided non-stop laughs from start to finish. If you ask me, I don’t think this cast will ever again get the chance to be all in the same place at the same time, at least on film. So enjoy this one: laugh at it and embrace the insanity.
6. Man of Steel
I wrote a 3000 word review on this film when it came out so I think my thoughts on it are pretty clear. Still, I’m aware that the film divided a majority of the audience. Many people loved it without hesitation and many people also loathed it like it was the worst film of all time. While I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, the ones who think the film is horrible think so because the film isn’t what they wanted it to be.
It always comes down to ‘Superman doesn’t kill in the comics,’ or about all of the destruction that takes place. These people who believe the destruction occurs for no reason are the same people who believe that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio are glorifying or condoning the characters in The Wolf of Wall Street. It feels like they are watching a different movie.
This is not a comic book. Man of Steel is the beginning of Superman and a new take on the character. Why doesn’t Superman kill? It’s not like he’s had this code since birth. Now we are provided with background as we see the effects of killing Zod had on Clark. He had no choice and killing Zod was necessary and ended so much more potential damage he could have executed.
What did people really expect from the battle between Superman and the Kryptonians? Were they really expecting a small, intimate fight? This is nothing short of a battle between Gods so of course there would be this much destruction. This is all leading to something and will without a doubt be addressed in the sequel. I haven’t read any type of script but you can take it to the bank that people will use the destruction and death as fuel to turn the public away from Superman.
Despite that negativity, there was so much to like from Man of Steel. This is all treated very seriously, as it should be. This is a first contact story and the discovery of an alien being would be the biggest story in the history of the world. Director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer weren’t just going to gloss over the fact that Superman is an alien from another planet.
I’m excited for what’s coming next and not because the sequel will feature Batman, Wonder Woman and whoever else they have in mind. That’s a lot to get excited for, but I look forward for what comes next more because of how successful this first film was and the world it has set up. I really doubt that Zack Snyder and the creative team will suddenly throw away all that careful planning just to go for the home run. What people must remember as well as the people involved is that despite all of the huge names involved, the next film is first and foremost a Man of Steel sequel. Man of Steel is epic and exhilarating. It’s everything I wanted it to be and more.
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