The year’s best movies

Monday film critic Robert Moyes asks: have you seen this year's best films?

With Marvel Comics dominating the cineplex – and teen-centric tales of dystopic future worlds running a close second – the movie menu has been both limited and lackluster these last several months. And just in case that fog of banality obscured some of the few original and impressive films that did roll through town, here are 10 recommendations worth pursuing via DVD rental or TV pay per view.

Anyone seeking a quietly dramatic acting tour de force should look for Locke, which stars Tom Hardy as a construction manager who is driving 90 minutes to London – and watching his life as a family man and respected professional go to pieces in the process. What is almost a radio play set inside a moving car is one of the most tense dramas of the year. The acting is similarly brilliant in the John le Carré political thriller A Most Wanted Man, which stars the tragically deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman as a German intelligence officer who struggles both with personal problems and the murk of lies and conspiracies in the post-9/11 world.

How about a jetlag-free trip to Europe? The immensely talented Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan are at the centre of Le Week-End, an acerbic romantic comedy-drama about an English couple traveling to Paris to try to recapture the romance of their long-ago honeymoon. Jeff Goldblum adds eccentric charm to this well-written squabblefest. More whimsical – albeit more violent – is The Grand Budapest Hotel, the latest film from the irrepressibly quirky Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom). Spanning decades, the story involves the exploits of a legendary concierge, played marvelously by Ralph Fiennes. The storyline is possibly odder in A Great Beauty, a love-it-or-hate-it film that uses a dreamily poetic style to explore the memories of a famed writer in Rome who is taking stock of his life on the occasion of his 65th birthday.

A literal journey transpires in the lyrical and absorbing Tracks, which stars Mia Wasikowska in the true-life story of a young woman in 1970s Australia who spent most of a year walking 1,700 miles through the Outback with four camels for company. And after snarking Marvel Comics in the introduction to this column, I must backtrack to heap praise on their jocular and entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy. Aside from plausibly using a “mix tape” of 1980s pop tunes as the soundtrack for a crazy spin across the Milky Way, this ensemble comedy was unpretentious, unexpected, and clever.

Ever yearn for those long-ago days when sci-fi films were mysterious and moody rather than just showcases of needless gore and endless digital effects? If so, check out the truly weird Under The Skin, which stars Scarlett Johansson as a space alien (maybe) who inexplicably lures random young men in Scotland into a disembodied death (maybe). Definitely for those who cherish their art films on the atmospherically enigmatic side. A very different kind of compelling experience is offered by Finding Vivian Maier, which had several sellouts at Cinecenta. This documentary tells the remarkable tale of a mysterious nanny who, after she died, was revealed to be a brilliant photographer who had secretly taken over 150,000 candid snapshots of people and architecture.

And notwithstanding competition from The Lunchbox and The Hundred-Foot Journey, the tastiest foodie movie of 2014 was undoubtedly Chef. Written, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau, this festival favourite is about a gourmet chef who can no longer compromise himself by working in a corporate environment. Chucking everything aside, he goes on a quest to reinvent himself as a man, a father, and a chef. Don’t watch this one when you’re hungry! And then there’s the unique Boyhood, the deservedly ballyhooed film by Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Before Sunrise). Shot in short bursts over 12 years, it uses the cinematic equivalent of time-lapse photography to portray the arc of a boy’s life from six years old to the cusp of maturity.

Oscar will be impressed!

 

 

Just Posted

Multiple Juno Award winning Arkells bringing new tunes to Victoria in 2019

Hamilton-based rock band proved hugely popular in city during Canada 150 celebrations

Bill Gaston, Monique Gray Smith capture Victoria Book Prizes for 2018

Butler Book Prize and Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize winners collect $5,000 each

Canada’s country music sweetheart brings The Gumboot Kids to town

Jessie Farrell to perform songs from her hit CBC TV series at McTavish Academy of Arts

VIFF wrap-up: Finely crafted films part of festival finale

Monday reviewer Kyle Wells puts a cap on his 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival experience

FILM REVIEWS: Race relations, refugees and racy romances featured at VIFF

Monday reviewer Kyle Wells presents round 2 from the Vancouver International Film Fest

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

CRUSH 2018: Fine wine affair benefits the Belfry Theatre

Patrons sample B.C. wines, bid on rare international treasures donated for fundraiser

Harry and Meghan travel in different style on Australia tour

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

INDY FILM FARE: 1970s hedonism and more at The Vic Theatre

From Studio 54 to Rocky Horror, there’s plenty of excess to observe this month

Shark-attack metal band coming to Victoria tonight

Shark Infested Daughters, a Calgary metalcore group, play the Upstairs Cabaret tonight, Oct. 13

STAGE AND SONG: Spotlight on Victoria arts groups

Learn about some of the city’s favourite theatre and musical entertainment options

Island lensman Jim Decker lands three top photography awards

During exciting photo trip to Yap in Micronesia, Cobble Hill man earns trio of firsts

Most Read