Oscars and more: Staley selects the best movies of the season


by Luke Staley, Lancer Media Film Critic

For some viewers, the Oscars are a chance to pick out a list of the best movies they should watch. Although this is definitely a way to catch some films you may have missed, not every good film gets nominated.  Here are my top ten films of the year in order, the only criteria of judgement being my assessment of quality and entertainment.

My Top ten Movies of the year 2014.

10. The LEGO Movie (PG)—Who says good family friendly movies aren’t made anymore. The LEGO Movie, anchored by the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Ferrell will have you laughing, as well as tugging on your heart strings as it is a very warm heartfelt film, not just a comedy for kids. The movie, although targeted towards children, humanizes each animated character with personality, and a sense of humour that will have you as rooting for them, as much as you would be for any live action character of any sort. The LEGO Movie is fun, enjoyable, earnest, and will really bring out the child in you. Because lets be real, LEGOs are awesome at any age

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel  (R )— Hipsters, Wes Anderson fans, and quirky movie lovers alike, Wes has done it again with his best film ever. And that is saying something considering his body of work. The offbeat, slightly dark at times humor, and multitude actors who nailed their roles perfectly (Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law to name a few), make this movie the kind that will provoke a strange combination of emotions in you as you laugh. But it’s one of the most humorous, smart and witty films of the year…if not ever

8. American Sniper (R )— Eight is actually lower than I would have prefered to put this film on my list, hey it’s a strong year for film. But never-the-less this film will move you. It’s more than a kick-ass, no holds barred war drama about the most lethal sniper in American history,(real life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle): it’s a complex character study on war, morality, and family. Director Clint Eastwood’s tone is realistic and tense, and Bradley Cooper Is phenomenal, flawless, and powerful in his portrayal of Chris Kyle.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)— If you asked me which movie was the most fun to watch in 2014, my answer would be simple, Guardians of The Galaxy. It has fantastically entertaining action, with out of this world sci-fi adventure, and clever humour that will have you laughing out loud. But the film is done with heart, as it will make you smile, laugh, and maybe even cry if you’re a softy. And not to mention the films awesome classic rock soundtrack, Guardians is the best Action/Adventure summer flick of 2014, and a tremendous amount of fun to watch, no question.

6. Edge of Tomorrow: Live. Die. Repeat. (PG-13)—The biggest surprise for me this year as a film critic was Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt’s Sci-fi Action film Edge of Tomorrow. The plot is sensationally complex and clever, (co-written by Hollywood screenplay hot shot Christopher Mcquarrie, writer of The Usual Suspects), and the battle scenes are mesmerizing. If you expect a stereotypical action film from Edge of Tomorrow, you will instead get one of the most original sci-fi experiences of your life. If you haven’t seen it, I HIGHLY recommend it, It’s like the movie Groundhog Day but with aliens and guns.

5. Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (PG-13)—The best Marvel stand alone superhero movie ever in my opinion, (not including ensemble movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or The Avengers). It’s Captain America, Nick Fury and Black Widow kicking ass like you’ve never seen them before, but it’s also more than that. Much like The Dark Knight (2008), which was a gritty crime drama that happened to be a superhero movie, Captain America 2 Is a slick, stylized espionage film wrapped in a superhero movie. It holds nothing back, and also has some of the best hand to hand combat sequences that I’ve ever seen. This film actually has one of the best one on one fight sequences in cinema history…that’s saying something. The fight choreography is almost artistic; the character development is spot on; and the entertainment is edge of your seat.

4. X-Men:Days of Future past (PG-13)—I have always loved X-Men movies, but this raises the bar. Combining the new and old X-Men characters seamlessly takes this film franchise to a new level. Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen are as quality as ever, Hugh Jackman anchors the plot, and the likes of Michael Fassbender, Jennifer lawrence and James Mcavoy entertain tenfold. The camera work and special effects are as good as it gets, and the comic relief is pure class. It’s more than a superhero film in the sense that it’s emotionally thought provoking, and offers social commentary on tough real world subjects like discrimination, drug addiction and identity. But yes, it’s also a darn good superhero movie.

3. Boyhood (R )— Into the top three we go. A director took a young boy named Ellar Coltrane, and over the next twelve years filmed the same boy growing into young adulthood, creating the ultimate coming of age tale. In oversimplified terms, that was the making of Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherlands film Boyhood. Coltrane, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette all embark together as characters are followed over the course of many years and one spectacular film. It is the first of it’s kind to try something so bold. And as an audience member, you are invited on a journey along side a boy as travels through life. Emotionally provoking, this film will stick with you long after you see it, which in my opinion is what good cinema is all about. With great performances From Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, along with visionary directing from Richard Linklater, this film is beautiful, and nothing less than inspiring.

2. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (R )—The most original film of the year, Michael Keaton delivers the best performance of his career in the comical, dark, and absurdly unique character study that is Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Edward Norton and Emma Stone both kill it as supporting characters too (both nominated for Oscars). This film about a washed up movie star trying to make it on Broadway is original, entertaining, creative, and of course, unexpected. If you have not seen it you are missing out on cinematic gold. Watch this film if you have not yet done so, trust me, you have never seen anything like it, and you probably never will.

Honorable mentions: Into the Woods,  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything, Locke, Interstellar, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Snowpiercer, BIG HERO 6, Gone Girl, Selma and The Babadook.

1. Whiplash (R) — It’s been a great year for film, but my favorite movie of 2014 is hands down Whiplash! It stars an up and coming Miles Teller, Who plays a young teenage jazz drummer. Teller’s character, Andrew Niemen, is a new student at a prestigious music school, Shaffer Conservatory, In beautiful New York City. Here, he meets music conductor Terence Fletcher, played by J.K Simmons. Rarely are we as an audience privileged enough to see a performance so epic, so injected with pure intensity.Performances like this only come around every now and then.  Whiplash is a study on ambition, drive, insanity, intensity and the pursuit of greatness. The film Whiplash is just that. It shows the lengths one will go to become the best. The character study never once diminishes thanks to stellar adapted screenplay from director Damian Chazelle. The acting is flawless, the quality of dialogue and storytelling are first class, and the end will leave you feeling speechless.  My number one film of 2014 is Whiplash, and if you have not yet watched it, do so immediately.