2014 is half over? What the? Yeah, we know you’ve just thawed out from winter, but we’re six months in, so time to count down the best films we’ve seen so far:
10. Edge of Tomorrow
Aliens meets Groundhog Day in the freshest way imaginable. Tom Cruise’s under seen summer thriller gives him a welcome, multi-faceted role, but Emily Blunt is the real draw. Casting Blunt is never a bad decision, but few could have expected her to turn in such an effective, no nonsense, badass performance. Humor, excellent FX and wise pacing helped to make Edge of Tomorrow the best summer popcorn muncher of the year.
9. Captain America: Winter Soldier
A witty, clever film that respects the past and keeps an eye on the complexities of modern life, Winter Soldier brings the surprisingly entertaining First Avenger very successfully into the present. Great action pieces, even better hand-to-hand combat, a heart and a brain – not to mention a pretty rockin’ cast – catapult Captain America: Winter Soldier into top spot for individual Avenger flicks.
8. How to Train Your Dragon 2
The original HTTYD remains one of the most impressive 3D films ever produced, and while this sequel to 2010’s fresh, fun dragon adventure may get a little darker, it loses none of the soaring, heart-pumping action or impressive visuals. Hiccup and Toothless are joyously together again, battling pirates and cementing the bond between man and beast.
Easily the best frat boy comedy since Animal House, Neighbors crams its visually arresting 96 minute running time with as much deeply flawed human comedy as possible. Rose Byrne conquers as a fully developed piece of the comedy puzzle, in a film that gives every character the chance to develop and tell some dick jokes.
6. Big Bad Wolves
Not for the squeamish, this dark fairy tale of predator and prey boasts brilliant performances, nimble writing and disturbing bursts of humor. It’s a hypnotic nightmare that dares you to look away. Big Bad Wolves offers a bold and brilliantly realized effort.
5. Under the Skin
This hypnotic, low-key SciFi thriller – the latest from filmmaker to watch Jonathan Glazer – follows Scarlett Johansson around Glasgow in a van. Light on dialogue and void of exposition, Under the Skin demands your attention, but it delivers an enigmatic, breathtaking, utterly unique vision of an alien invasion.
4. The Lego Movie
The worlds’ coolest toy benefits from a film that obviously loves Legos. Propelled by an upbeat, big-hearted energy and saturated with witty, age-defying sight gags, this is one film that promises to entertain every member of the audience.
A masterpiece of utter simplicity, Locke tags along on a solo road trip, the film’s entirety showcasing just one actor (the incomparable Tom Hardy), alone in a car, handling three different crises on his mobile while driving toward his destiny. It may sound dull, and it certainly can be challenging, but it may just restore your faith in independent filmmaking.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson returns with a film just as nostalgic for old glamour as the filmmaker himself. Bursting with cameos of deadpan glory, showcasing the most impeccable set design you’ll perhaps ever see, and boasting a delightful yet melancholy tale of Europe between great wars, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a triumph.
1. Only Lovers Left Alive
The great Jim Jarmusch reminds us that vampires are, after all, quite grown up and cool. His casting helps. The great Tilda Swinton joins Tom Hiddleston (not too shabby himself) as Eve and Adam, vampires hanging around Detroit. Only Lovers Left Alive is a well thought out film, a unique twist on the old tale, filled with dry humor, exquisite visuals, and wonderful performances.