Features

animation_duets

Covering animated short film in 2014 has been an exciting, often bizarre and always fulfilling experience. Doing it almost entirely from home, aside from an occasional festival, has been as fascinating as it is sometimes frustrating. Many of the best new animated shorts I caught this year were technically from 2012 or 2013, only recently making it off of the festival circuit and onto YouTube or Vimeo. This means that no definitive Top Ten Animated Shorts of 2014 is possible, at least not one that involves embedded video of entire films. However, the next-best thing is a sampling of some of the absolute best stuff that is available to watch, right here and now. Here are three of my favorites, standing in for some of the best ways to find brilliant, creative work as the year goes by.

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2014review_credits

Picture, if you will, the end credits for our 2014 Year in Review. Credits rolling. Perhaps a little incidental orchestra music from the soundtrack (or if this was a romantic comedy, “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers). We’re past the soundtrack credits, and the special thanks. Here’s the MPAA logo — clearly, we’re at the end here. Then, blackness. Then, a flash of color! We’ve snuck one more end-of-the-year thinkpiece in after the credits. And to think, if you had walked out during them, you might have missed it. The post-credits stinger is changing. As of 2014, they remain ubiquitous (though there’s always a sizable section of the audience in the opening weekend of any Marvel movie that leaves as soon as the lights come up; surely you’ve danced this dance before, people). Studios are keen to throw all kinds of crap in after the movie’s over — gags, teases, bloopers — anything to give you one last bite to end your moviegoing experience on. But they’re not as keen as they used to be.

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Staff Pick: Selma

The end of the year is upon us. So to is the end of our annual Year in Review, which ends today. Just as 2014 has zipped by, so too has our review of the best, worst and everything in between. We’ve analyzed everything from the biggest disappointments to the best horror movies to the older movies we discovered for the first time. If you’ve been reading all week, you’re probably a little exhausted. Don’t worry though, we’ve got a little more to share. As we’ve done every year since 2009, we’ve asked all of our regular contributors (“the staff”) to each provide a list of the 5 best films they saw during the year. They’ve all written little explanations for their choices and we’ve even put together a staff Top Ten. You know, because we can’t resist the urge to turn one list into another list.

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

This week’s edition of Movies to See is shorter than usual. I figure it’s the holiday season, we’re all busy with shopping and spending time with family. Also, if you’ve just watched The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, you’ve already used up a good amount of your precious December hours staring at the hobbits, dwarves, trolls, elves, orcs, wizards and a dragon all fighting each other over a mountain full of riches. And that’s it. There’s not much more to the third part of Peter Jackson‘s overlong “The Hobbit” adaptation besides the titular battle of five armies over a ginormous treasure. There’s not a lot I can do with that here. So, I’ve limited the recommendations to as many movies as there are armies in the film at hand. And they’re all pretty much various on the same theme.

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Muppet Christmas Carol

The holidays! They are stressful! Even moments that should be relaxing, like lounging in front of the television while the rest of your merry band of relatives putter around you, demanding ham or presents or whatever it is that your family likes best (I like ham and presents best, personally), can be fraught with issues, especially when someone asks that a family-friendly offering hit the tube. “Family-friendly”? What does that even mean? The last film that made a big splash when it hit Netflix was Wolf of Wall Street and, surely, that can’t be good for the lil cousins! Right? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, with a massive list of truly family-friendly titles that are currently available to stream on Netflix right now. This is your bible, people. Love it. And happy holidays!

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2014review_old

Like every December, FSR is devoting numerous posts to the very best and worst (but mostly best) that 2014 had to offer at the movies. But as movie fans, we don’t only see movies that were released in the year we see them – we might dig into classics and curiosities via online streaming, repertory showings, or simple chance encounters. Year-end lists may summarize the breadth of movies released in theaters throughout the calendar year, but they don’t necessarily reflect the yearly consumption of a dedicated movie fan. To many movie lovers, going to a movie theater can be surprisingly rare, and watching movies follows less of a calendar schedule and works a bit more like time travel: one day you’re in 2014, and the next you’re in 1940s war-torn Rome, followed by a brief stint in the 1970s Australian outback, and then back to the present again. For some of you, 2014 may have had little to do with your movie experience in 2014. So I’ve again concocted an alternative year-end list: the 14 most memorable movies I saw in 2014 that weren’t actually released this year. Not necessarily the best, but the movies that most surprised me – the movies that reminded me that no matter how many you’ve seen, there’s still another worthwhile surprise out there, and even an older film that speaks profoundly to our present. But rather than simply navel-gaze at my own movie habits and tastes, I want to hear from you: what are […]

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AMC

“Guess I got what I deserved.” Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” provided a fitting sendoff to arch criminal Walter White in the final scene of Vince Gilligan’s landmark television drama Breaking Bad. We guess that’s all the show had to say. All that remained was silence, and, honestly, a fairly formidable void. Where now would audiences go? What did we deserve? As far back as we can remember, crime films have been a staple of American cinema. From the roaring days of James Cagney and the Warner gangster movies to the golden age of Scorsese, it seemed evident that the one place crime almost always paid was at the theater. Still, when looking back over the year in film that was 2014, it can’t be denied that the genre took some rather interesting turns and indeed experienced an embarrassment of riches that would make Henry Hill’s Lufthansa heist seem like small potatoes.

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2014review_missed

As I said in the intro for our list of the year’s best films, 2014 has been a fantastic year at the movies.There was a lot to love, and that means there were a lot of films that simply didn’t make the cut on our other “Best of 2014″ lists. The fourteen movies below didn’t get much love during the year and failed to make much of a dent at the box-office, but they’re very much worth seeking out on Blu-ray, DVD, Netflix, iTunes or anywhere else unloved movies go to rest.

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Source Code

This article is presented in partnership with Cadillac. This summer, Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenged producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants made a short film over a single weekend in late June, and you can watch the semi-finalists’ films at the Make Your Mark website. The 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards. Few names radiate the characteristics of that competition like Hawk Koch, a producer who appears in the credits for a host of enduring classics (think Heaven Can Wait, Wayne’s World and Primal Fear). He’s been the president of AMPAS and of the Producers Guild, and he was also a judge for this year’s Make Your Mark short film competition. If you’ve ever wanted a direct line into the mind of someone picking official favorites for an event that can jumpstart careers, this conversation is it.

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Simple Math MYM

This post is in partnership with Cadillac This summer, Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenged producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants made a short film over a single weekend in late June, and you can watch the semi-finalists’ films at the Make Your Mark website. The 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards. Luckily, we’ll be speaking with one of the semi-finalist teams, Ian Wagner and Michael Burke, whose short film Simple Math earned them one of the top spots and a chance to compete for the grand prize. They’ll talk about the challenge of coordinating a cocktail party film shoot with less than a day’s notice and explain how they both ended up in the pool. Plus, Geoff and I open up the viewer listener mailbag to cover questions about Canadian movie favorites, the current state of thoughtful film journalism (the Star Wars 7 characters have names, people!), and other subjects of engrossing interest. You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #80 Directly Or subscribe through iTunes

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Dreamworks

  This article is presented in partnership with Cadillac. This summer, Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenged producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants made a short film over a single weekend in late June, and you can watch the semi-finalists’ films at the Make Your Mark website. The 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards. One of those filmmaking teams was lucky enough to receive mentorship from Bruce Cohen, the producer behind American Beauty, Big Fish, Milk, Silver Linings Playbook and more. He has more than three decades of experience, and for semi-finalists Tim Wen and Chidi Onyejuruwa, all of that was a phone call away. Cohen speaks with us about his approach to mentoring aspiring filmmakers and shares some advice about finding a balance between the height of your creative imagination and the practical limits of putting them on film.

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2014review_imports

We made a point with this year’s “Best of” lists to only include titles that received a U.S. release in 2014, but I’m not going to stick with that here. Foreign language films in particular can be difficult to highlight and give attention to if forced to wait for a proper American release — 2000’s Battle Royale, for example, took over a decade before getting a U.S. release — and many titles only see festival screenings before leaving our shores for good. So while the majority of the films below have been released in some form or other here in the States five of them remain outside the system. The odds are that some of them will debut here in 2015, and we’ll spread the word if and when that happens.

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2014review_scifi

Thanks to the continued popularity of superhero movies and YA literature adaptations and now the reignited interest in monsters, the joined genres of science fiction and fantasy are giving us what seems to be more releases than ever. It helps that computer effects are cheaper and easier for the benefit of indies and that so many makers of shorts see simple yet impressively visualized stories involving robots, dystopias and alien invasions as the perfect calling card for Hollywood. The plethora of works dealing with the unreal and as yet impossible means that while last year a Hobbit movie made the cut, this year the final chapter did not. It means that a new sci-fi film from Terry Gilliam, my longtime favorite director, also fell below our limit of the top 14. And it also means there was just too much out there for me to get around to. Apologies to Space Station 76, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, The Boxtrolls, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Frame and many others. Some interesting trends to note about the year in sci-fi and fantasy before we get going: at least a few 2014 movies involve doppelgängers or doubles or clones or alternate versions of some sort; another bunch feature a plot similar to Groundhog Day; and a lot were not mere magic and space opera but rather emphasized the science side of sci-fi by at least promoting scientists and innovation (if not also always getting the tech or theories quite right). Also Scarlett Johansson.

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2014review_trailers

Movie trailers have become an odd business unto themselves. As the promotional budgets for blockbusters spiral upwards to ridiculous heights, we’ve recently seen the introduction of things like trailer teasers (ultra-brief trailers for trailers). Studios now want to build anticipation for things meant to build anticipation for other things. Where will it end? It won’t. Things will only get more ridiculous from here — just wait and see. Still, on their own, trailers make for addictive viewing. I reinforced that for myself in perusing every notable trailer that came out this year in order to make this list. They are made to suck you in, to be watched over and over; the hope is to create a void in the viewer that can only be satisfied by seeing the film proper. Taken independently of their films, trailers are curious beings. They are all potential, all speculation generators, even after their movies come out and we know whether their promise ends up fulfilled. Even though I didn’t end up enjoying the films that each trailer here promoted, I still come back to those trailers. They still stand alone as works of … perhaps not art, but something artistic, at least. So without further ado, here are 14 of the trailers I just couldn’t shake from 2014.

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20th Century Fox

Over the course of director Matthew Vaughn‘s career his love for James Bond has rang loud and clear. In Vaughn’s debut feature, Layer Cake, the suave anti-hero, XXXX (Daniel Craig), wields an old-fashioned gun with an ultra-cool pose that, for anyone who saw the film before Casino Royale, made Craig seem like an obvious contender for Bond. In the audio commentary for Layer Cake Vaughn mentions how XXXX, during that scene, “wants to be Bond.” Not only does XXXX want to be Bond, but Matthew Vaughn clearly wants — or wanted — to direct Bond. Now Vaughn has gotten his way by making a film that’s about as close one can get to Ian Fleming’s English spy. With Kingsman: The Secret Service, Vaughn has basically directed his own Bond picture, except without any self-seriousness, an anguished hero, or other modern Bond staples.

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2014review_rob

2014 has been a brilliant year for movies. We can talk all day long about the disappointments and straight-up garbage shoveled our way, but that’s a waste of time and effort when so much greatness is available too. So lets talk about the great ones. One quick note: There are always acclaimed films that slip by and go unseen before the year-end deadline, and this year is no different. So for what it’s worth, at the time of this writing I have yet to see Citizenfour, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice and Selma.

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Sony Pictures

Update: Since the publication of this article, Sony has announced that it will not move forward with the release of the film on Christmas day. This further proves that an online release would be the best option at this point. What is Sony Pictures going to do with The Interview? The film, which has been cited as the reason why an online group perpetrated a massive hack and subsequent leak of corporate documents, emails and even several films, is due to be released in the United States on Christmas Day. Those who follow the world of film closely know that it’s just another bromance comedy for Seth Rogen and James Franco, who decided to follow up their Hollywood-set apocalypse tale This Is The End with something based in the real world. It just happens to be about one of the world’s most ruthless and least humorous regimes. Early word about the film itself is that it’s pretty funny, albeit far fetched. And as Rogen (who co-wrote with Evan Goldberg) explained on The Colbert Report earlier in the week, they actually make North Korean dictator Kim Jonh-Un out to be “sort of adorable.” North Korea didn’t get the joke. Hackers took the movie too seriously and now we sit, following one of the most massive corporate hacks in history, wondering what will happen to the movie itself. In recent days, the hackers have threatened theaters with violence. And while the Department of Homeland Security has said that there is no evidence of a credible threat, theaters have begun to […]

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Paramount Pictures

When considering the value of a film, there are at least two ways to think about it. You can measure its impact on you as an individual, or you can think about what it might mean for society as a whole. Ideally, we would do both, but it is often difficult to weigh the two against each other – especially at this time of year when we reduce the totality of a year in cinema to a simple list of ten. So let us, for the moment, put a film’s purely artistic achievements on the backburner, and celebrate those films that impact our world in a positive way. These socially-conscious movies dramatize the plight of oppressed or marginalized communities, bringing light to issues that too often seem to get stuck in the dark.

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2014review_music

2014 has been an exciting and fun time for movie music with a return to the classically styled soundtrack full of popular music to scores going against convention by adding an unexpected element (vocals) or honing in on a single instrument (percussion). We also got a bunch of catchy new songs to sing along with (and get stuck in our heads) along with scores that moved us, upset us, confused us, or simply made us smile. As films and filmmakers stretch themselves to bring audiences fresh, new stories, those creating the music are starting to push the boundaries as well (or return to more “vintage” means) to mix things up and keep audiences guessing. The movies of 2014 had a very distinct sound that spanned a wide range of genres and musical styles. This year introduced us to some new talent, showed us a new side of familiar names, and had favorites working at the top of their game – read on to listen through the film sound of 2014.

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2014_review_action

There were some fantastically great action films released in 2014, but 2014 was not a great year for action films. The horror genre had no such shortage (as evidenced by the greatness occupying our list of the year’s best) and you can probably name several comedies that had you busting a gut in 2014, but action films? There weren’t very many, and what there was rarely impressed. But sometimes you find great action in less than great movies, and with that understanding I was able to find 14 movies that fit the bill as the Best Action Films of 2014. Well, almost.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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