A look at the finest international films — some of which haven’t yet released in India — from the first half of 2014
Every calendar year has its highs and lows in terms of movies that garner commercial success and critical appreciation. English language films, which are churned out of the USA and the UK, are not an exception. However, it is safe to conclude that American cinema had more reason to celebrate — thanks to the movies' variety and bold themes — than lament. With six more months to go before the end of this year, hitlist takes a peek at some noteworthy efforts that hit the marquee.
The Raid 2
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra
Lowdown: If you thought Raid 1 was epic, then this sequel is sheer delight. Indonesian in thought and global in approach, Evans has single-handedly revived the idea of raw bloody action by keeping it as real — agonisingly real — as possible.
The Lego Movie
Director: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks
Lowdown: This particular comic adventure is reminiscent of Toy Story from the '90s for a reason. Its wonderful plot coupled with easy humour and a warm message has made us eagerly wait for its sequel in the year 2017.
The Grand Budapest hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric
Lowdown: Anderson has effectively created a world of his own and every now and then, he lets us take a glance. If it was through Moonrise Kingdom in 2012, this year it's via this magnificently crafted, quirky comedy which leaves you delighted as well as intrigued.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston
Lowdown: At last a movie that could actually match up to its massive title!
From the word go till the credit rolls, the tension and the impending disaster keeps you glued despite the sloppy patches in between.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender
Lowdown: Michael Fassbender has made it a habit of stealing the limelight from his co-stars. Even the fact that his eponymous character in this film wore a papier-mâché head throughout couldn't stop him from stealing the attention.
Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt
Lowdown: Just when we were about to wonder whether Tom Cruise is a spent force as far as the action genre is concerned, he (along with the steely Blunt) delivered this mind-boggling fare. By now, Hollywood clearly knows how to deal with aliens.
Director: Jon Favreau.
Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, Scarlett Johansson
Lowdown: When the news broke out that Favreau was casting himself in this food comedy, there were murmurs of disapproval. That buzz instantly changed for the better when the film released to both commercial as well as critical success. After all, a movie passionate about cooking couldn't be ignored.
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O' Dowd
Lowdown: Cinematically speaking, McDonagh and Gleeson are made for each other. This is their second venture together after the highly-appreciated The Guard (2011) and they've hit the bull's eye again. In this film, the bearded Irish actor plays a Catholic priest facing a death threat — guess where? — in confession box.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender
Lowdown: The highest grossing film of 2014 so far could have been a massive failure given the scale of not only the budget but also the stretch of characters involved in the main plot. Regardless, the two-hour-long saga proved to be the greatest ever reunion of mutants.
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane
Lowdown: An exceptionally well-written screenplay follows the growth of a boy in a typically American broken house — a life switching between divorced parents — without taking sides. It picks up from the same spot where the Iranian masterpiece , A Separation (2011) ends.
Better Living through Chemistry
Director: David Posamentier and Geoff Moore
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan
Lowdown: If a list were to be drawn of the most underrated actors around, Rockwell will easily feature in the top five. He carries this snappy film with his performance as an unethical chemist who also happens to be severely henpecked. Oh yes, he finds a way out.
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron
Lowdown: There has been no dearth of comedies this year. Some have been repetitive. But not this party movie. Made at a modest budget of USD20 million, it rolled in a lot of moolah (read: north of USD 250 million) owing much in parts to trigger-funny dialogues and impressive onscreen acts.
Along with feature films, there has been a surge of documentaries, too that released to acclaim and interest during the first half of 2014
Seldom do we come across a film made on a movie critic. Fortunately, this one on Roger Ebert is a pleasant watch about a man madly in love with cinema.
Those who often wonder whether there are poor people in the USA, this film might be an eye-opener. It follows three underprivileged youngsters.
20,000 Days on Earth
This film highlights 24 hours in the life of Australian musician, actor, songwriter, author, screenwriter and composer Nick Cave. And his views on life and art.
Every revolution has a motive. The uprising in Kiev had, too. At least that's what this revealing documentary says while exploring the anti-government protests.
The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
When 26-year-old Swartz committed suicide last year, he left behind a questionable legacy as well as loads of unanswered questions.
The Hornet's Nest
Seen through the eyes of journalists, this film is a humane take on the repercussions of war and why it is wrong — no matter where it takes place.