The Lego Movie
I cannot recall the last time a major Hollywood studio put out a movie this funny and original. The Lego Movie is visually stunning, meaningful, and a great time. The film invites you into the creative world of Legos (Transformers take notes) and makes you feel like a kid again. It has some of the best lines in a film that you will hear all year, and a creative screenplay that will surprise you in the final act. My five year old loves this film, but its not just for kids. The Lego Movie is a great film for all ages.
This is a beautiful film and is visually pleasing in a much different way than The Lego Movie. Ida is shot in black and white and is not afraid of long takes. It is a reminder of films of the past and what the beauty of film can be. Too often nowadays films do not allow the viewer to stay in a shot long to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the image on the screen. Films are shot to entertain the masses who have very short attention spans, instead of being shot as a work of art. Ida is a work of art. It is also a brilliant film about a young girl’s journey into the outside world and her allegiance to the faith she has grown up with. It is an intriguing movie about faith that should not be missed.
I saw Snowpiercer the same weekend Transformers: Age of Extinction opened and I wanted to stand out in the lobby and usher everyone into this film rather than have them watch a two and a half hour commercial. Snowpiercer is the summer action movie that we deserve! It is smart, action-packed, and full of great performances. Tilda Swinton, in an Oscar-worthy role, plays one of the best bad guys you will see all year. Snowpiercer will have you on the edge of your seat, and after all is said and done you will be wondering why they even make something called Transformers when there are films as good as this.
Mistaken for Strangers
I love rock & roll documentaries and I have seen a lot of them, but I have never seen a film like this before. Mistaken for Strangers is one of the funniest films you will this year. It’s Don’t Look Back meets This is Spinal Tap. I love The National and would have watched a documentary just about them, but this is so much more. It is the story of two brothers who could not be more different. Matt is a good looking successful lead singer of a critically acclaimed band. Tom is a train wreck waiting to happen. You know this from the beginning. It is obvious what is going to happen, and yet you cannot take your eyes off the screen. There were times I was literally laughing so hard I could not stop.
The Fault in Our Stars
I did not know anything about The Fault in Our Stars going into this film. My wife had read the book and I know many other people had as well. I was a clean slate and I loved it. It reminded me of some of the great teenage films with great music that I have come to love. There are plenty of bad teenage films that come along every year hoping to make money off of this profitable viewing market, but I’m talking about the good ones. Films like John Hughes used to make. The Fault in Our Stars reminded me of these films. It is a story about kids with cancer (How they sold this to a major Hollywood studio I’ll never know), but it quickly becomes more than this, even though this remains the focal point of the film. It is a funny and engaging movie about mortality and the deeper questions of life. Shailene Woodley is absolutely brilliant once again. She carries the film and that is not a bad thing.
Noah has easily been the most controversial film so far. I understand some of the backlash. Some of it was just, but much of it was completely uncalled for. I wish Christians would take a deep breath and watch this film again. If they did I think they would discover two things. It is a really good film, and it is a film that takes God and sin seriously. Noah is not Scripture and it never claims to be. It is good midrash. It takes a story from the Bible with very few details and attempts to fill in the gaps. People of faith have been doing this for thousands of years. I hope major Hollywood studios are not put off by the reactions of some Christians. I hope they don’t wait another 60 years to make a Bible based movie. If we could get some more films like Noah, that take a seriously look at sin instead of simply celebrating it, then we would be better off.
Ernest & Celestine
This is the second “kids” movie on this list, but they could not be more different. Ernest & Celestine is a wonderful film about friendship. I enjoyed it because it reminded me of some of the movies I saw growing up. It was more invested in the story it was telling than the flashy visuals displayed on the screen. In fact, there are no flashy visuals in this film. It looks more like a children’s book than the latest computer generated attention grabber. It was nice to see a children’s movie slow down and be something different, and my five year old was entertained just the same.
Begin Again is the latest from Once director John Carney. This time Carney has a cast full of well known actors, actresses, and musicians. Like Once he has made a modern day musical that feels natural and has a flow that does not feel forced by the music within the film. The movie takes a look into the problems with the music industry and some of the issues they face, but more importantly it is a human story about two down and out people who choose to press on. This charming film is not perfect, but it is better than most of the cookie cutter productions that are spoon fed to us by Hollywood. Begin Again is like a breath of fresh air in a smog filled city.
Roger Ebert is the reason why I review films. He was an important voice in American society not just on film, but on many things. Since his passing there has been a void in movie criticism. Ebert, whether you agreed with him or not, was the source everyone went to first. Still to this day if you click on critic reviews on IMDB Roger Ebert’s link always pops up first. Life Itself is a wonderful tribute to a man who inspired many. It is an insightful glimpse into the life of a man whom many people read, but few knew. Life Itself explores Ebert’s entire life but especially gives the audience a revealing look into his last days. Roger Ebert instilled in many people a love for movies and it is only appropriate that he is given a film tribute as fine as Life Itself.