15. Room 237 – Even though I know most of them are implausible, I love good conspiracy theories. I also love The Shining. I also love movies about movies. Enter Room 237, a great documentary about an abundance of conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick and his film, The Shining. This doc is a great examination of how art, regardless of who makes it, becomes owned by the general public when it is released for public consumption. Is The Shinning Kubrick’s apology for helping to fake the moon landing? Is The Shining Kubrick’s take on the genocide of Native Americans? Is it a movie about the Holocaust? Is it all of these things and more, or just a movie that crazed fans have obsessed too much about over time? I think everyone has at least one film they obsess over and know way more about than they should. And even if it’s not The Shining, because of that, you can appreciate this documentary.
14. Before Midnight – I was very happy when I heard that collaborators Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy were getting together again to continue the story of Jesse and Celine as I was a big fan of the previous two films, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Before Midnight finds them in a very different place in their lives, struggling with the mundane day to day stuff of a relationship that has lasted this long. The conversational manner of the previous two chapters is here. But it’s also real, raw, and uncomfortable at times in a way I wasn’t expecting. But it’s better because of it. It’s not a fairy tale. Relationships require work. Julie Delpy is really the star of this movie for me. And Ethan Hawke seems to be becoming a better actor as he ages. I would love to keep checking in on these two characters and their story every nine years or so. I’m fairly confident I am not the only one with that sentiment.
13. Upstream Color – Easily the most uniquely challenging, abstract film of the year is Upstream Color. Shane Carruth finally made a follow-up to 2004’s brain-breaking time travel film, Primer. Lifting straight from its Wikipedia page (because the plot is so very hard to describe), Upstream Color is “about a man and woman [who] are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.” It’s a visually brilliant movie. Sound production is top notch as well. The story may require a second viewing. But the performances by Amy Seimetz and Carruth in the leads are really good. Seimetz is another actress whose name you should be looking for in the coming years. And I really hope we don’t have to wait nine more years for something by Shane Carruth, because he is truly a talented filmmaker with a unique voice and vision; something Hollywood always needs more of.
12. The World’s End – The final chapter of the Cornetto Trilogy/Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy is the most grown-up of the three movies, relatively speaking of course. I loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz more than this movie, but I still really loved this one, of course. There are still plenty of quick, funny lines of dialogue and hilarious antics and increasingly entertaining fight sequences as these five friends attempt to re-create their teenage years attempting a pub crawl they failed 20 years prior. Simon Pegg is great as the “leader” of the group who never really grew up and is rounding up the rest of the guys. Nick Frost has maybe his best role yet in the trilogy, and Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan round out the quintet hilariously. It’s a lot of fun to watch them, mostly begrudgingly at first, attempt this pub crawl, getting more and more drunk with each stop, and beginning to realize that all is not right in their home town. It’s fitting conclusion to the trilogy that Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have crafted and it takes its rightful place beside the previous two films as some of the most clever comedies I’ve ever seen.
11. This Is The End – As the build up to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 brought us a slew of end of the world disaster movies, it’s only fitting that the year after the “Mayan Apocalypse” that we would get the comedic push back to these movies. And it’s also rather fitting that there be “dueling” releases in This Is The End and The World’s End, as so often happens with blockbusters and disaster movies (Deep Impact & Armageddon, anyone?) The World’s End and This Is The End are equally funny, though in different ways. This movie uses the apocalypse as the backdrop for a comedy involving famous comedian actors playing themselves on screen. Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, and a host of other celebrity cameos play caricatures of themselves on screen with uproarious results. These kinds of movies can easily be stupid and egos can ruin a project like this, but everyone in this movie is game for just having fun, able to poke fun at themselves, and not take themselves too seriously. Two highlights, among many, include a Pineapple Express 2 sequel and a Rosemary’s Baby homage.
Coming next: 10-6