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.



Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Calvary Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a small town priest in rural Ireland who receives an oddly unwelcome confession one morning from someone who calmly promises to murder him by the week’s end. The priest goes on with his business, trying his best to do right, but the next seven days are filled with frustration, eccentricity and an unsettling energy in those around him. Writer/director John Michael McDonagh‘s second feature is a slowburn character piece that weaves black comedy and mystery through a soulful rumination on the power of forgiveness. Gleeson is a quietly rumbling powerhouse and gives an immensely affecting lead performance, and the supporting cast is a stellar mix of aggressively engaging friends, strangers and suspects including Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s son) and Kelly Reilly. The script is filled with wisdom and wit, and it leaves you feeling drained and reflective on those who’ve passed through your own life. It’s my favorite film of the year. It’s the best film of the year. It will stay with you well into next year. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]


Marvel Studios

2014’s summer movie season comes to an end in a week or so, but while some folks will be editorializing about the box office being down 15-20% compared to last summer and others express surprise that a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy could be days away from becoming the year’s highest grossing domestic hit, we here at FSR have a different agenda. Simply put, we saw a lot of great movies this summer, and we hope you did too. The year’s best “big” movie (per me anyway), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, missed the summer cutoff as it opened in early April, but there were still some fantastic blockbuster-type flicks that entertained the hell out of us over the past four months. Of course, there were also some brilliant smaller films too. An informal staff survey revealed a mix of both to be our favorites of the summer. Keep reading to see which movies moved us the most from May through August.


Calvary Movie

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Must See Movies of August

When it comes to major releases, this summer was somewhat junky. Before this season is even over already A Million Ways to Die in the West, Malificent, Transformers: Age of Extinction feel like distant memories. This summer wasn’t packed with offensively bad movies, but a few too many middle-of-the-road ones. Thankfully, there was enough standout major releases to not make this summer of popcorn eating a total loss. We got Edge of Tomorrow, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, and, a real delightful surprise last week, Lucy. We also saw a slew of great limited releases with Boyhood, Coherence, The Rover, Obvious Child, They Came Together, Snowpiercer, and more. They also helped make us forget about the more underwhelming blockbusters that were released these past three months. At first glance, summer 2014 doesn’t seem so hot, but once you look at all the good films that came out, we don’t have too much to complain about. The same goes for this August, which begins with Marvel’s most fun movie yet. Here are the 8 must see movies of August 2014.


Fox Searchlight Pictures

Calvary. The place of the skull, wound through Latin into English from the ancient Aramaic name Golgotha. This is the place, outside the walls of Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified. It’s not exactly a light title for a movie, but writer/director John Michael McDonagh isn’t interested in levity. He opens with a quote from St. Augustine: “Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.” Referring to the two men crucified next to Christ, it’s an ominous declaration of ambiguity. This film does not aim to end on a note of simple closure. That said, this is not a sober and humorless cry of despair from the heart of Catholicism. That St. Augustine quote has cropped up once before in the work of an iconoclastic Irishman, Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot, in its god-killing irreverence, evokes the two thieves as an example of the unpredictability of paradise (we’ve all got a 50/50 shot at heaven) and the questionable nature of the bible (the second thief is only saved in one out of four Gospels). These weighty concerns weigh heavily over Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson), the grizzled hero of Calvary. What is the usefulness of a priest in a world where people have stopped waiting for God?


Brendan Gleeson and Chris ODowd in Calvary

When you become a priest, and you’ve done so for purely innocent reasons, you’re probably under the impression that you’re in the clear for the rest of your life. You’re doing the lord’s work and keeping to yourself, so there’s really no reason to be in fear for your safety or think that anyone would want to target you for a crime. But them’s the brakes, Father. Anyone who studies the Bible should have a firm grasp on knowing that life isn’t fair. The first trailer for Calvary presents Father James LaVelle (Brendan Gleeson) attempting to do his job, listening to confessions of the weary and the sinning all day long. For those unfamiliar with the Catholic practice, the priest sits on one side of the confession booth, shrouded from view of the “sinner” on the other side of the panel (and that person remains anonymous to the priest, as well). The churchgoer then confesses all of her sins since the time of her last confession, and the Father assigns a prayer repentance and she’s forgiven of her sins in the eyes of the lord. Being Catholic is super easy.

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published: 12.23.2014
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