Trey’s Top 10 Films of 2014
Director Damien Chazelle woke up one morning and said to himself, “Man, I’d really like to make a film that guy Trey Elliott would love!” At least, that’s how I like to think it happened. After seeing That Awkward Moment earlier in the year, I’m a huge fan of Miles Teller; add a top ten actor for me, J.K. Simmons, and an appearance by Paul Reiser, then roll all these wonderful performances into a story about a passionate college drummer, and you have a film that was built to be my favorite of the year. As a musician myself, I can say that the film puts only the slightest dramatic flare on the college musicians experience, especially given the stakes. This is the kind of film I’ll watch year after year, and happily watch again with friends as they experience it for the first time.
Nightcrawler is a visually stunning film. The Cinematography and direction demand your attention, and rightly so. But my favorite part about any film is the script, and the delivery of said script, and I think this is where Jake Gyllenhaal demands even more attention than the visuals. His performance is strange, intriguing, and outright mesmerizing. It’s all in service of an interesting and original story that leaves you wishing the film was just a bit longer.
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
If you’ve listen to more than say, twenty minutes, of the Free For All podcast, you know one of my all time favorite franchises is Planet of the Apes. When Rise released in 2012, I could not have been happier with the results, and to say that Dawn was highly anticipated for me, is an understatement. Luckily, the film didn’t disappoint! With the best computer animation in the industry, and Andy Serkis providing a performance only a master of his craft can, Dawn is a special film and a welcome addition to an already great franchise.
People often throw around the term “Feel Good Movie of the Year”, and it’s usually just a lazy box quote, but with Chef, I can’t think of a better description, no matter how hard I try. I sat there for 114 minutes and did nothing but grin like an idiot (and occasionally tear up). I also related to this film on a personal level more than any other this year. As a working single dad who has to try to somehow balance a career he desperately wants to succeed at, a love life that’s a mess, and a son who he wants to make proud, I understood Favreau’s character better than I sometimes wanted. Also, I like food… a lot.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Oh, hello Star Wars meets Avengers with a ton of clever comedy, endearing new characters, and Kevin Bacon references. You’re my number five film of 2014, and it’s ridiculous that you’re not number one or two, but 2014 is on insane year for film, so I had to make some tough choices. But don’t feel bad, you were able to do something with your soundtrack that few films before you have, making it an incredible important part of your narrative, and you’re also just a hell of a lot of fun. So good on ya Guardians, you rule.
6. The Imitation Game
Alan Turning was an incredible man, and the unfortunate victim of a ridiculous and savage law that turned his sexual orientation into a crime. But despite his unfortunate end, which the film handles with as much grace as the terrible situation can contain, The Imitation Game tells a mostly positive story about Turning’s amazing breaking of Enigma, the WW2 German encryption device. Both Cumberbatch and Knightley deliver outstanding performances, with an equally solid supporting cast.
What do you get when you put Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, and Michael Peña in a tank? You get awesome, that’s what. Great performances all around, some amazingly directed set pieces that allows the actors to do what they do best, and maybe best of all, cool tank battles! As one of the best war-time films I’ve seen in a while, this one comes highly recommended.
8. The Babadook
Another favorite of mine is the horror genre. So how could the best horror film since Scream back in 1996, not be on my top ten list?! It’s brilliantly directed by Jennifer Kent, with a focus less on the scary monster and more on the the mother/son dynamic, and some of the best lighting and cinematography of the year by Radek Ladczuk. The film also has two performances by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, that not only work well apart, but are able to bolster each other in a way that makes them both better for it.
The greatest “coming of age” film of the last decade or more, Boyhood finds its greatness in the details. As the films last line will tell you, life isn’t like a film. Films spend all of their time and energy bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together for one epic, dramatic moment. They’re specifically manufactured to create something that evokes emotion. But that’s not what Boyhood does. Instead, it focuses on what makes our real lives, outside of film, so special. It celebrates the small moments, and in a way that makes you understand just how special they really are.
10. Young Ones
Young Ones is art. Giles Nuttgens, the film’s cinematographer, and Jake Paltrow, it’s director, are nothing short of genius in this film. Evoking much of what I love about the 1968 Planet of the Apes, the film makes bold choices about how shots are framed, it’s insanely long dissolves, and it’s use of an unusual but somehow still fitting score. If you want a lesson in awesome for your eyes, don’t miss this film.
Trey’s Top 10 Games of 2014
1. Far Cry 4
I didn’t play Far Cry 3 at all, despite hearing so many great things about it. So I didn’t really get too excited for its follow-up, and was more than a little surprised when the game got it’s hooks in me and wouldn’t let go. Never have I enjoyed just being in a game world. I’m only about a quarter of the way through the game’s story and I really don’t mind. I love running around with a buddy and taking over outposts and fortresses from the pilot seat of a Buzzer. It’s just… well, the best!
2. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Basically the opposite of Far Cry 4, this game is all about the story. Using World War I as the centerpiece for a tale that’s emotional hooks run deeper for me than any game that’s come before it. While it has a few gameplay mechanics that I could do without, it’s overall a ton of fun and brings history to a game in a way I’ve never seen before.
3. Forza Horizon 2
I don’t really like racing games. So when I lost an entire weekend in a blur of fast cars and loose women (ok, no, there are not really any loose women in this game… that I know of), I was just as surprised as the next guy. This game has a ton of cars, a ton of tracks, and a ton of fun. It’s a must play for racing fans and non racing fans alike.
4. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Welcome to the funniest game ever made! Sure, the turn-based RPG mechanics are basic and somewhat repetitive, but you’re usually laughing so hard it just doesn’t matter. I’m only a casual fan of the show, but I still enjoyed the game immensely, and I think that speaks volumes about the game’s design and writing.
5. Sunset Overdrive
Style. That’s the one and only word that comes to mind when you ask me about Sunset Overdrive. Insane traversal, great combat, and some of the best boss battle designs of the year, this game is just as fun to watch as it is to play.
6. TellTale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2
TellTale can still do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. They hit it out of the park last year with the first season of The Walking Dead, and with a shift to focus on Clementine this year, they we’re able to draw me in once again. The addition of a great villain in Carver, and using the group’s inner turmoil to cause some great conflict towards the end, this season only served to make me want more.
7. Monument Valley
There were too many amazing mobile games this year for one of them to not have a place on my list. Of all of them though, Monument Valley stood out the most. The puzzles are challenging but take care not to be frustrating, the art design is clever and careful, and the music is peaceful. It’s just a game that knows exactly what it wants to present to you, and then does so with little flaw.
8. Fantasia: Music Evolved
Harmonix has had my heart for a long time thanks to Rock Band, and now they’ve given me something that not only appeals to my love of music, but also plays like no game I’ve ever played before. Using the Xbox One’s Kinect, you’re able to mix three different arrangements of a tune together in some really cool ways, all while controlling the entire thing with sweeping gestures and punches. It’s just a really great musical experience and reason to be thankful that Harmonix stays true to the kinds of games they love. It turns out, I love them too.
9. Shadow of Mordor
The Nemesis system is one of the most innovative and interesting systems I’ve ever in a game. It makes what would be a good Assassin’s Creed and Arkham City clone, a truly unique game. The story lacks a bit at times, but the gameplay more than makes up for it.
10. Dragon Age Inquisition
If I’d played more than seven or eight hours of this game, I can almost guarantee it’d be higher up on this list. It’s an absolutely enormous game world with more missions then you’ll know what to do with and a satisfying, if not somewhat too simplistic, combat system. With the great world building skills of Bioware behind the scenes, this is one any action RPG fan should pick up without question.