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Best Films of 2014: Mid-year edition

Best Films of 2014: Mid-year edition -slide0
Sony Pictures Classics

2014 has offered tons of great films and the year is not even over. While there are not movies that would be considered Oscar contender (except for one particular flick), half of the year in cinema featured some of the most memorable moments on the silver screen in recent years from aliens in disguise to spectacular action sequences. Whether they are still in the theaters or at your local Redbox, here are the ten best movies of the year thus far.

10) “X-Men: Days of Future Past

After directing films that range from mediocre to god-awful, Bryan Singer returned to the film franchise that initially started the comic book film craze with “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” The movie reunites Singer with Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen while working for the first time with the younger mutants from “X-Men: First Class” like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. In the year 2023, humans and mutants are on the brink of extinction and it is up to Wolverine to travel back in time courtesy of Kitty Pryde. His mission is to enlist the help of a young Professor Xavier and Magneto to in order to save the future. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is now playing in South Florida theaters.

9) “Edge of Tomorrow

In what is Tom Cruise’s most entertaining and intriguing movie in year, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a fantastic and rare sci-fi film that is neither a sequel or based on an established comic book property. Based on the magna “All You Need Is Kill,” the movie takes place in the future where an alien race known as Mimics has invaded Earth. Meanwhile, a military officer (Cruise) unwittingly finds a way to travel back in time courtesy of close encounter with one of the aliens and enlist the help of a veteran soldier (Blunt) to stop them once and for all. This gave Cruise the opportunity to play a cowardly and unsympathetic character that slowly evolves into the prototypical hero Cruise usually plays. Emily Blunt also get to play a badass female character in the form of the Angel of Verdun, Rita Vratasky. “Edge of Tomorrow” is now playing in South Florida theaters.

8) “How to Train Your Dragon 2

The sequel to the Oscar-nominated film is an exciting and gorgeously animated film that is just as good as its predecessor. Five years since uniting both the dragon and Viking community, Hiccup and Toothless discover a hidden ice cave that is home to the mysterious Dragon Rider and hundreds of wild dragons. It is a movie that both adults and children will love as it tell a mature story that also has some dark elements. If you ever get a chance to watch this beautiful looking piece of cinema, make sure you see it in all of its three-dimensional glory. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is now playing in South Florida theaters.

7) “The Lego Movie

On paper, it looked as though “The Lego Movie” could be nothing more than an hour-and-a-half commercial for Legos. Just like they did with their interpretation of “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” and “21 Jump Street,” directors/writers Chris Miller and Phil Lord made a meta-infused, quirky and hilarious movie that feature an all-star cast that includes Chris Pratt as a simple-minded construction worker, Will Ferrell as a tyrannous businessman, Morgan Freeman as a crazy old wizard and Will Arnett playing Batman as a egotistical jerk. The movie is filled with a ton of gags in each of its frame and brilliant twist in the third act that the movie in a different perspective. “The Lego Movie” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

6) “Living is Easy with Eyes Closed (Vivir es facil con los ojos cerrados)

Set in 1960s Spain, “Living is Easy With Eyes Closed” is about a schoolteacher/hardcore Beatles fan (Javier Cámara) who travels with two runaways (Natalia de Molina and Francesc Colomer) to Almería where he hopes to meet John Lennon, who was shooting “How I Won the War.” Director-writer David Trueba’s latest movie, which was the recipient of six Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards) including Best Film, Best Actor and Best Director. “Living is Easy With Eyes Closed,” which made its South Florida premiere in March at this year’s Miami International Film Festival, is a funny and sweet character-driven road movie that is anchored with a great and endearing performance from Cámara. “Living is Easy with Eyes Closed” is now playing exclusively at the Coral Gables Art Cinema and the Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood.

5) “Only Lovers Left Alive

“Only Lovers Left Alive” is not only director/writer Jim Jarmusch’s best film, but it might also be his most accessible film to date. It is a funny and unique take on this vampire flick that was mostly shot in a post-recession Detroit and features one hell of an ensemble that includes John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and Jeffery Wright. As great as that cast is, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton delivers superb performances as Adam and Eve, the coolest vampire duo to ever grace the big screen. A depressed underground musician (Hiddleston) reunites with his lover (Swinton), but their relationship is tested when her wild child of a sister (Wasikowska) comes by for a visit. “Only Lovers Left Alive” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on August 19.

4) “The Grand Budapest Hotel

While director-writer Wes Anderson’s latest film may be his most ambitious film yet and the biggest hit of his career thus far, but it is also his darkest movie that also features a surprisingly large body count. Using certain elements based on history, the movie is set in the imaginary war-torn Europe and recounts the adventures of a legendary concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and the lobby boy (Tony Revolori) who would become his most trusted friend. What makes the movie unique aside from its quirky humor and tremendous production design, the movie changes aspects ratios depending on what timeline the film is taking place. A Wes Anderson film always features a tremendous cast including familiar faces from Anderson’s previous films like Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum and new faces working with Anderson for the first time including F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Saoirese Ronan and Tom Wilkinson. Even though Fiennes tasted the comedy waters with his role as a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered gangster in “In Bruges,” this film allowed him to dive headfirst into comedy. His role as Gustav F. is not only one of his best performances of his career, but it is the best performance in an Anderson movie since Gene Hackman in “The Royal Tenenbaums.” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

3) “Ida

Filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski (“The Woman in the Fifth”) works for the first time in his native country Poland for his latest film, “Ida.” Set in 1960s Poland and Germany where both countries are still haunted from the atrocities that occurred during World War II, a young Polish nun (Agata Trzebuchowska) on the verge of taking her vows is sent away from her convent to visit her only living relative (Agatha Kulesza). Trzerbuchowska, a non-professional actress Pawlikowski found waitressing in a local café, is a revelation as the novice nun who eventually discovers a dark family secret. Ryszard Lenczewski’s and Lukasz Zal’s beautiful black-and-white cinematography featuring some breathtaking composition shots. “Ida” is now playing at The Classic Gateway Theater.

2) “Under the Skin

While she kicked some ass and taking names in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Scarlett Johansson played type of Black Widow in visionary British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer’s movie adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel. In this haunting and visceral sci-fi movie, an alien (Johansson) disguises itself as a beautiful woman to seduce unsuspecting Scottish men and lure them back to her lair where a horrifying fate awaits them. With his first film in nine years, Glazer (“Sexy Beast,” “Birth”) used unsuspecting participants and hidden cameras to create another terrific entry to his directing resume. Once the end credits begin, the unforgettable images and Mica Levi’s otherworldly, yet fantastic score from “Under the Skin” will leave lasting impressions on your mind. “Under the Skin” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on July 15.

1) “The Raid 2

Forget about all the action-packed blockbuster movies you’ve seen thus far whether it is shape-shifting robots or muscle-bound superheroes because this is a movie that all movie buffs who love action must see. This sequel to the Indonesian martial arts action flick, “The Raid: Redemption,” is an action masterpiece. You do not even have to see the previous film to understand what happens in this movie. An Indonesian cop (Iko Uwais) goes undercover in order to bring down a powerful crime syndicate and expose police corruption. At the runtime of two and a half hours, the time will fly by fast and furiously with tons of intriguing plot twists and memorable action sequences including a lengthy car chase and a climatic battle that take place in a kitchen. “The Raid 2” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on July 8.

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