Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sven's Ten Favorite Movies of 2014


  1. Every year, the Byting Reviews crew gathers to record a best-of-the-year episode for Sound Bytes. During this episode, we each list our three favorite movies of the preceding calendar year, and each year, I am dismayed that the cutoff prohibits me from recognizing more of the movies I really, really loved. Thus, this:

    Sven's Ten Favorite Movies of 2014

    10. Blue Ruin - When his parents are murdered, a young man named Dwayne becomes the opposite of Batman. He drops completely out of life and becomes an aimless drifter... that is, until the murderer is released from prison. Then, it's time for revenge. Blue Ruin is a tidy, elegant, violent, cool little revenge movie. The characters and actions are realistic and well thought out. Everything is exactly what it needs to be. Not a single word is wasted. The violence is brutal, arresting, and unglamorous, but somehow also very satisfying.

    9. Starred Up - British prison drama about a youth who is "starred up," or transferred to an adult prison ahead of schedule (a prison where his father happens to be one of the inmates). Starred Up feels like an honest, unsentimental portrayal of a world we never see. The setting lends itself to nonstop drama and violence, which keeps things moving nicely.

    8. Edge of Tomorrow - A great sci-fi actioner/summer movie. I have my quibbles with the last few minutes, but everything to that point is handled with mastery. Tom Cruise is so good. Seriously. The world takes him for granted. He's so perfectly adept and natural. And Emily Blunt is another effortlessly vivacious talent. I could watch her read a dictionary.

    7. Selma - MLK and crew plan and execute a march in 1960's Alabama. Selma packs an emotional wallop without falling prey to some of the pratfalls of other true story/biographical movies. There's no lame childhood flashbacks or cliffsnotes versions of major life moments. Rather, the movie focuses on a very specific timeframe and casts a wide net, giving time to many of the event's major players.

    6. 22 Jump Street - This movie isn't groundbreaking, deep, or original, but I can't imagine how a sequel to 21 Jump Street could realistically be any better. Entertaining as hell!

  2. 5. The LEGO Movie - Back-to-back Phil Lord/Christopher Miller movies! These guys really know how to squeeze the maximum amount of entertainment out of a concept. The LEGO Movie is incredibly joyous and exuberant. If you love LEGOs like I love LEGOs, this movie is a start-to-finish visual feast.

    4. Whiplash - Very good movie about artists, art, and the pursuit of greatness. JK Simmons and Miles Teller give killer performances. Whiplash also does a good job making jazz seem awesome/important (even if you, like me, don't normally care for jazz).

    3. Nightcrawler - Jake Gyllenhaal prowls the streets of LA at night, chasing (or beating) ambulances to grab news footage. This is a great character piece profiling the collateral damage (or byproduct) of a take-no-prisoners, success-at-any-cost America.

    2. Snowpiercer - The last vestiges of humanity hurtle around the globe on a high-speed train divided up between the haves and have-nots. The back of the train revolts against the front of the train, supplying the audience with the best/most exciting action sequences of the year. Snowpiercer does what the best sci-fi should; entertain while providing something interesting to talk about. This is very close to being my number one selection.

    1. Under the Skin - If the premise of Species was shot with the sensibilities of 2001: A Space Odyssey, you'd end up with something like Under the Skin. Scarlett Johansson stars as a... something that comes to earth to hunt people. Specifically, men. I love the music, I love the tension, I love the scenario. The reactions that Johansson’s creature gets (some of which were allegedly obtained from non-actors via hidden cameras) are absolutely fascinating. Take a look at the world through alien eyes.

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