film

Justin Kueber's Top Ten Films of 2014

It’s that time of year again! The time of year when critics from all across the globe compile their coveted “Best Of” lists...being as I’m a closeted critic, aspiring filmmaker, and opinionated asshole I figured I might as well share with you My Top 10 Films of 2014.

Besides the onslaught of comic book movies and sequels that should never been made (Transformers *cough*), 2014 was a good year for film. So good that it was extremely difficult to put together a Top 10 List. Unfortunately, some of the films I really enjoyed did not make the cut on my top 10 list but still deserve a mention. These films include:

The Lego Movie

Edge of Tomorrow

22 Jump Street

Ida

The Babadook

Chef

X-Men Days of Future Past

Guardians of the Galaxy

 

And of course, there were also some films I didn’t see (but really wanted to) because I'm a starving artist and I don’t get free passes to films when they come or special "critic" screenings. These include:

 

Whiplash

20 Feet from Stardom

Leviathan

Winter Sleep

Only Lovers Left Alive

Mr. Turner

The Imitation Game

Inherent Vice

Mommy

Citizenfour

Most Violent Year

Red Army

 

Now, the time you’ve (all three of you reading this) been waiting for. Here is my Top 10 Films of 2014:

 

10. Life Itself

 

I am a huge Roger Ebert fan. He was the one critic I could always count on – generally, if he liked a film, I would probably like that film as well. This documentary showcased and celebrated the extraordinary life of Roger Ebert. Ebert is a personal hero of mine and his legacy will forever be etched into the world of cinema. 

 

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Wes Anderson loves Wes Anderson more than Wes Anderson loves Wes Anderson. Huh? And, well, I love him for that! Grand Budapest is a hilarious little treat from the master of quaint cinema. TGBH isn’t my favorite Anderson film but it’s pretty damn close. Fantastic performances all around – especially from Ralph Fiennes – make it one enjoyable tale. Thank you, Mr. Anderson, thank you!

 

 

8. Gone Girl

 

David Fincher’s newest film, an allegory for troubled marriage and the increasing role of social media in today’s society, hits all the right notes and lasting effect….that effect being it made me never want to get married. Ever. But, nonetheless, Gone Girl is a smart film with excellent performances from Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and surprisingly, Tyler Perry, and has one of the most violent neck slash scene I have ever seen. Yikes! Fincher is spot on with his direction (like usual) and I would argue one of the best directors in mainstream Hollywood cinema today!

 

 

7. Snowpiercer

 

One of the more thought-provoking films I've seen this year. Packs the punch of a blockbuster action movie and also has meaning and heart - something sci-fi movies have been lacking lately. A good sci-fi film offers a critique of the current world in a new and exciting way and Snowpiercer does just that with its symbolism and a critique of the social class system in today's society. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you do so!

 

6. Nightcrawler

 

Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of the best performances of his career. Period. I would have said he deserved the Best Actor Oscar but that was before I saw Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher. Regardless, the film echoes early De Niro Taxi Driver and has this creepy tone that gnaws at your skin long after the film has finished. It presents a range of themes of corruption and greed but the one that jumped out at me was the shadowy nature of personal ambition; the lengths that one human being will go to make something of themselves – and it happens both in the newsroom and with Gyllenhaal’s character. Very smart film that will be talked about for a very long time.

 

5. Birdman

 

A great film that blatantly chirps comic book movies, social media and offers a good look into the role of the celebrity in modern society. The cinematography is fantastic; the entire film looks like it was done in one shot and I couldn’t see this film being shot any other way. Michael Keaton is superb and even Zack Galifianakis was great in a more serious role. Look for this film to clean up on Oscar night 2015.

 

 

4. Force Majeure

 

I didn’t really know what to expect when I went into this film. When I walked out I was a changed man! Force Majeure is funny, it’s smart and it’s a real treat from start to finish. FM has similar themes to Gone Girl but it is offered in a funnier, comedic way unlike the Fincher film. The aspect I liked most was the deconstruction of the “family man”/ male as the family protector. It looks at the preconceived notion that men are supposed to protect their family and then flips it on top of itself when the Man (Brady Corbet) runs away from his family during an avalanche. The rest of the film follows his struggle as he comes to terms with his family not seeing him as the protector they want him to be. Highly recommended film!

 

 

3. Foxcatcher

 

I don’t even know where to start on this one – it’s creepy, it’s frightening, it’s marvelous! Steve Carrell is terrifying, displaying one of the best performances of the year. If he doesn't win Best Actor I will be very surprised. I don’t really know what else to say on this one. It is a perfect film. Perfect in every aspect from the acting to direction and cinematography. I'm still shaking and I saw this film only a week ago. Very highly recommended! Perfection! 

 

2. Boyhood

 

Every now and then there comes a film that can only be described as special; that film, is Boyhood. I have never seen a film this ambitious, with this grand of a scope ever. Richard Linklater is a one of the most underrated brilliant directors in the game today. I recommended this film for everyone - especially the people of my generation as it is like looking into a time capsule of our youth. Boyhood is going to win Best Picture, mark my words!

 

1. Under the Skin

 

There are certain questions I ask myself when I am ranking my top films: was it intriguing? Did it make me think? Was it something unique?

 

Under the Skin is without a doubt the most unique, intriguing and thought-provoking film of the year and quite possibly the last few years. I’ve watched this film four times now and I finally have a good grasp at its meaning – I know, took me long enough hey? But, that’s what makes it a good film. It can be interpreted in many different ways. Under the Skin is like 2001 but multiply that by one hundred. It’s weird, it’s unnerving and just special. Scarlett Johansen is fantastic and very sexy as an alien – it’s kind of ironic calling her sexy because the film explores themes of beauty and coming to terms with our skin, our bodies. It isn’t about what’s on the outside but rather, on the inside….and in her case she was an alien! Who knows, maybe we are all aliens in one way or another? (Cue Twilight Zone music)

 

In all seriousness, this was my favorite film of 2014. It offers an interesting, realistic look into some serious issues and presents them in a unique and stimulating way. This film is going to be looked at and studied for a very long time! 

 

Happy New Year everyone! 

Justin Kueber's Top 10 Films of 2013

Over the past year I have watched over 300 films (yes I keep track of what I watch) and I have to say 2013 was a great year for movies—Films like Bullet to the Head, Scary Movie 5, A Good Day To Die Hard, The Lone Ranger, and Grown Ups 2, however, are NOT on that list…terrible, terrible films.

 

Anyways, I have compiled a list of my 10 favorite films from 2013. It was hard to choose just 10 films this year, but the films that I have chosen have captivated my mind, touched my heart and affected me in a way that only the magic of cinema can do. Without further adieu, here are my Top 10 Films of 2013.

 

Of Course, I have not seen all the movies that were released in 2013 (even though I would have loved to). Here are some films that I have heard great things about that didn’t make the list, simply because I have not seen them: Captain Phillips, All is Lost, Short Term 12, The Great Beauty, Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Past, Philomena, Filth, Prisoners, and Her.

 

Honorable Mentions: Sadly, some of the best films of the year could not make my top ten, but they still deserve an honorable mention. These include: Blackfish, The Conjuring, Gravity, Spring Breakers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Stoker, Trance, The World’s End.

 

My Top 10 Films of 2013:

 

10. Rush:

 The word “Rush” describes this film perfectly. It’s sexy, it’s intense, and it’s a pure adrenaline “rush” as Ron Howard takes us on a fast-paced journey following the rivalry of Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  Daniel Bruhl steals the show as Niki Lauda and Chris Hemsworth shows us he’s not just brawn and good-looks.

 

 

9.  The Act of Killing:

I have never seen a documentary like this before in my life; Director Joshua Oppenheimer takes us to Indonesia, where he tracks down those leaders responsible for the mass killings in the 1960’s and makes them reenact their real-life murders on camera in the style of their favorite American movie genres they love.  It is a disturbing journey following these leaders recollecting memories and facing the demons that are inside them.  This is a powerful documentary that explores the human condition and what humans are capable of—truly powerful stuff.

 

 

8.  Saving Mr. Banks:

When I saw the trailer for this film in theaters I believe I “Booed” it. Why? Because it looked like typical cookie-cutter Disney crap. But, I gave it a chance and here it is on my top 10 list. I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover…unless its author is Michael Bay.


Anyway, Saving Mr. Banks is a wonderful, heart-filled tale about Walt Disney fulfilling a 20 year promise he made to his daughters by making their favorite book, “Mary Poppins”, come to life.  Emma Thompson delivers an amazing performance as P.L. Travers the author of “Mary Poppins”, who really does not want Disney to obtain the film rights to her beloved story. It is an amazing journey filled with laughs, songs and superb performances from the entire cast including: Thompson, Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell who is no short of amazing.  The film will stick in your head, as I still find myself humming “Chim Chim Cheree”.

 

 

7.  American Hustle:

 This film is getting a lot of hype, which it rightly should. David O. Russell brilliantly tells the story of a con man and his partner who are obligated to work with an FBI agent and forced into a world of FBI, Mafioso, and everything in between.  American Hustle is built around a great script, a slick 70’s soundtrack, and strong, powerful performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Renner. It would be hard to single out any of them because they are all equally amazing in this film. If I had to make a bold prediction, most of them should see Oscar nominations in their near future… maybe even an Oscar? Only time will tell. 

 

6.   Only God Forgives:

 Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling follow up their 2011 hit Drive with this unforgettable, dark journey into life in Bangkok’s criminal underworld. When Julian (Gosling) discovers his brother has been murdered by Lieutenant Chang, Julian’s mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) flies to Bangkok to force Julian to take up revenge against Change. The look of this film is visually stunning with beautiful shadows, enthralling neon cinematography lighting up the city of Bangkok and Gosling looks pretty damn great as well. 

 

Refn takes his time building the story and characters—who are more metaphors than actual characters— and once you realize the true meaning behind this film, it really hits you in the face (which explains the polarizing reviews the film has received) and leaves you pondering well after the final credits have rolled. Only God Forgives might not be for everyone with its disturbing content and graphic images but if you take the film for one giant metaphor you will realize that this is truly explorative, innovative, masterful filmmaking that you will never see come out of mainstream Hollywood cinema.

 

5.  Nebraska:

 I went to this film not really knowing what it was about.  I knew Bruce Dern was in it, that guy from MacGruber (Will Forte) was in it and Bob Odenkirk aka Saul Goodman graced us with his presence.  I got to the theatre and there were 13 people in their seats awaiting the movie; 4 of whom were my group of friends and the remaining 9 people had the average age of 65. I started questioning why I was in this movie and not in something like The Hobbit or The Hunger Games.  The film started and the first black and white images appeared on screen….they were beautiful! This is why I chose this film and not the mainstream crap Hollywood spits out at us.

 

Nebraska is a beautiful film about people and families; small town people in small town Nebraska—the way they act and carry out their day-to-day lives. And how they react to news when Bruce Dern’s character, Woody Grant wins 1 million dollars after receiving one of those sweepstakes letters in the mail.  The film has strong performances from the entire cast, including Bruce Dern, who is absolutely phenomenal (if he doesn’t get nominated for Best Actor it will be a travesty).

 

The film really hit home with me because I have a lot of relatives in small town Alberta and the way they talked and acted in the film was extremely genuine and relatable to my own personal experiences.  There are subtly funny moments and also very sad and reflective moments—these are as beautiful as they are heart wrenching.

 

 

4.  The Hunt:

The Hunt is one of those films that stuck in my head long after it was over. It follows the story of an innocent elementary school teacher whose life is drastically changed when a lie surfaces that he exposed himself to one of the students. It is heartbreaking seeing this simple, loving man, played by Mads Mikkelsen, get knocked down to rock bottom because of this lie.  This lie takes over his life and he can’t even go outside without having someone verbally or physically assault him.  The film asks difficult questions that are even more difficult to answer.  Mikkelsen is brilliant and rightfully deserved his Best Actor Award at Cannes.  This is a brilliantly haunting film that will occupy your mind and heart for a long time after viewing it.  The Hunt will be taking home the Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars.

 

3.  12 Years a Slave:

 12 Years a Slave is director Steve McQueen’s follow-up film to his previous two pictures Hunger and Shame. Going into the film I wasn’t entirely sure if McQueen was going to be able to incorporate his artistic visual style within a Hollywood production. However, he did and he succeeded masterfully. 12 Years a Slave follows Solomon Northup, a free African American who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. McQueen’s direction is no short of brilliant and the performances from the cast and crew are breathtaking.  The film is a brutal look at the psychological and physical effects of slavery and the inhumane nature of the slave owners. It’s a heart-breaking true story that will leave you feeling alone and heartbroken well after the final credits have rolled.

 

McQueen reminds us that slavery and racism are something that still exists in our world today.  He shows us the long-term affects of these awful, merciless acts of slavery and racism and ultimately, expresses that it should be our duty, as equal human beings, to be aware that these acts of evil still exist and we have to do our part, as inhabitants of this world, to make sure these heartless acts stop for good.  12 Years a Slave is a one of the most powerful films of the year and it is a masterpiece that will be talked about and studied for many years to come.

 

 

2.  Blue is the Warmest Color:

Blue is the Warmest Color, along with the aforementioned 12 Years a Slave, are powerful pieces of filmmaking. Blue is the Warmest Color explores not only homosexuality, but coming to terms with yourself and finding out who you really are while dealing with the outside and internal battles that come with finding your sexuality and finding what you want to do in life. Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) is a quiet high school girl that is coming to terms with her own sexuality. She meets an older girl with blue hair, named Emma (Lea Seydoux) and they instantly hit it off. We follow their journey as they fall in love, explore life, and explore themselves.

 

Blue is the Warmest Color does not make any sweeping statements about the intolerance of homosexuality in society but rather, it is about a girl discovering herself and coming to terms with who she is and what she wants in life, both with her career and sexuality. It is a marvelous love story that tugs at your heart-strings and takes you on a beautiful journey of passionate love and inconceivable heartbreak. Blue is the Warmest Color is an emotional rollercoaster that is truly masterful filmmaking.

 

 

1.  The Wolf of Wall Street:

 

Infectious. Destructive. Ridiculous. Brilliant. Madness. PURE INSANITY!

 

Those are a just a few words I can use to describe The Wolf of Wall Street.  Martin Scorsese shows he isn’t a sellout and stays true to his style and subject matter with this “balls to the wall” film about sex, drugs, money, corruption, crime, and everything in between.  Running almost three hours long, my only complaint would be that it isn’t 2 hours longer! I haven’t had this much fun at the movies in a long time. The Wolf of Wall Street is everything I wanted it to be and more. Leo DiCaprio shows us why he is one of the best actors in Hollywood today and Jonah Hill provides a great supporting role as Donnie Azoff.

 

The thing about this film is that it is very infectious. It is sheer brilliance on the part of Scorsese, who shows us why he is one of the best Director’s in the world and on the part of Leo for well, just being Leo.  I can’t say enough about the pure cleverness of this film and its long lasting effects it had on me.

 

The Wolf of Wall Street is my number one film of 2013,…now, “Sell me this pen!”