July is a great month in many ways, not only for reflection on the first half of the year and how it has gone, but also for looking forward to the rest of it. In the spirit of this grand reflection, below are a list of the best films I have seen so far in 2014 and reasons as to why you should watch and engage with them.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson`s latest opus is a charming, frightening and melancholic piece of work that is daring in its reach, pointed in its comedy and in love with cinema in every frame. The main character M.Gustave says part way through the film- “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity” To reverse engineer that quote for present purposes, The Grand Budapest Hotel holds tiny sparks of hope in the massive commercially, cynically driven cesspool that was once called the cinematic experience.
Under the Skin
Out of all the films, I have seen this year, Under the Skin is the one that has fascinated and haunted me the most. It is richly seductive in its filmmaking, perfectly cast and ever expanding in its thematic power, a fact I look forward to unraveling more and more upon future viewings.
Spike Jonze`s Best Original Screenplay Oscar Winner is a poignant love story that fundamentally explores the concept in our technological age. With a great central performance provided by Joaquin Phoenix, a slick, bright visual look and a great experimental score by Arcade Fire, Her stands tall in its presentation of emotions and ideas.
The Raid 2
Gareth Evans`s followup to the Raid is a brutal, effective and efficient exercise in great action cinema that manages to provide its audience with incredible set pieces that they have not seen at all. Additionally, it fits together nicely with the genre that the film is primarily steeped in which is Crime Drama. Furthermore, it is admirable in its exploration of themes such as violence begets violence and the psychological implications of working undercover.
Stephen Knight`s 80 minute directorial debut is an interesting and lingering character study that is fulfilling in its dramatic presentation of a man`s life collapsing in the space of one night. With a strong and effecting performance from Tom Hardy and visual motifs that evoke Drive and Taxi Driver. Locke is a great reminder of contemporary British independent filmmaking.