Posts Tagged ‘best movies of 2014’

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Nightcrawler (2014)

April 28, 2015

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed
Director: Dan Gilroy

Bottom Line: Nightcrawler is one of the best films of 2014. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a knockout performance as Louis Bloom, a sociopath that has absolutely no moral compass and will go to any length to reach his goals. In this case, the goal is to become Los Angeles’ most prominent nightcrawler – a job that requires him to listen to police scanners so he can be the first person on the scene with a video camera in order to take exclusive footage he can sell off to local news stations. And what do they want? White people in good neighborhoods – dead – and preferably killed by minorities. Or gruesome accidents. It’s a perfectly sleazy job for a seedy person like Louis Bloom. It’s amusing watching him flounder while figuring out the ropes of nightcrawling, but he’s sharp, so he quickly becomes adept at it. Of course, he needs just a little bit of help, which he gets by hiring a homeless man named Rick (Ahmed) for $30 a night to help him navigate to crime scenes. And it’s his relationship with Rick that best illustrates exactly how self-centered Louis is – this is a man that has no friends and truly cares about no one other than himself. Rene Russo checks in as the graveyard news editor for Channel 6, the company Louis exclusively sells his material to. Although it’s more subtle, she’s no less despicable than Louis – she cares more about putting out product than her own self-respect and she also appears to have no line she won’t cross for a scoop. And she’s certainly willing to air whatever Louis shoots no matter how questionable it may be. It’s a decent performance from Russo, but the character is more interesting than the acting is.

Director Dan Gilroy does a great job in his directorial debut. Watching Louis and Rick navigate the streets of L.A. really brings you into the city and almost makes it a character all of its own. He keeps Nightcrawler intriguing before reaching one of the most intensely suspenseful climaxes I’ve seen in quite some time. Nightcrawler really pulled me in from the opening scene and didn’t let me loose until the end credits. It was probably the most riveting film I saw in all of 2014. I think it’s borderline criminal that Gyllenhaal didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for his acting work here. While I haven’t seen some of the nominated performances (soon!), it’s pretty clear that he does better work here than Bradley Cooper does in American Sniper. He’s creepy. He’s unsettling. He’s a sociopath to the T. It’s truly great work from Jake here.

Nightcrawler is a great film with a stunning performance from Gyllenhaal. It’s as entertaining as any film I saw in 2014 and the climax is breath-stoppingly awesome. Much like the car crashes and murders Louis films, it’s a film so grimy you just can’t take your eyes off it.

Replay Value: Seen it twice… it’s probably worth owning. I loved it, but it does lose some of its suspense the second time around.
Sequel Potential: Not the kind of film that should have a sequel.
Oscar Potential: Nominated for Best Original Screenplay, but Gyllenhaal probably should have gotten an acting nom and I have seen Best Picture noms I liked less than this movie.

Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)

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Chef (2014)

February 9, 2015

Starring: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf)

Bottom Line: Maybe the next time I have a horrible poker session, I’ll come home and watch Chef and then listen to Pharell Williams’ “Happy” on repeat for 30 minutes. If that doesn’t cheer me up, I don’t know what will. Chef was definitely the feel good movie of 2014 – a film so charming I think I had a permanent grin the whole time I was watching it. Jon Favreau plays an aging, former top chef that has grown stagnant and comfortable over the years and finds himself shaken out of his stasis by a scathing review from a food critic. After a hilarious blow up that includes the best use of social media in a film to date, our heroic chef hits the road in a food truck to rediscover his love of cooking and reconnect with his son.

Chef was about as enjoyable as any film I saw from 2014. It’s funny, charming, and entertaining throughout. Jon Favreau continues to establish himself as one of Hollywood’s most underrated directors – and he’s a pretty good actor too! Chef is a slam dunk recommendation and one of the most enjoyable films of 2014.

Replay Value: A feel good movie worth watching multiple times.
Sequel Potential: I’m not sure there is more story here, but the characters are strong enough to consider pursuing further adventures.
Oscar Potential: No nominations.
Nudity: None.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Must See/Excellent)