by: Benj Ramos
2014 has been an exciting year for movies. The first quarter kicked in with some films from the Oscars (American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave, Her), book adaptations ( Snowpiercer, Divergent, Diary ng Panget, ABNKKBSNPLako, Heaven is for Real), and sequels ( Rio 2, Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men DOFP).
Pinoy films are also rockin' the big screen, and local indies too. In just 5 months I have seen 33 movies which is crazy and expensive. I wanna share with you my list of the best films that I have seen so far this year. Personal biases included:
10. DIARY NG PANGET - Andoy Ranay
This is the only local film that made it to my midyear list. FYI, so far this film is in the top 5 highest grossing Pinoy film of 2014 to date (Wikipedia). This wattpad story adaptation is surprisingly funny. The kilig moments are not forced even though there wasn't enough time for the characters to develop. It stays committed until book 3, which is also the Wattpad releases. And Nadine Lustre looks like Kathryn Bernardo. In the battle of cliches, DNP is way better than ABNKKBSNPLAko (2013) which is also from Viva. Pinoy book adaptation is now becoming a trend because of the positive response from the Filipino audience, hence the upcoming She's Dating A Gangster and Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin.
9. GRAND PIANO - Eugenio Mira
Just like a concerto piece, this movie is a continuous rising and falling of suspense. The scenes are mostly happening in real time and it'll keep you on the edge of your seat all throughout this thrilling yet entertaining film. I love the Hitchcock-esque feel of this seemingly Phonebooth meets Speed in a concert hall film. Thanks for this movie now I can tell who is Elijah Wood and who is the Harry Potter guy. Elijah makes a good hand actor because of the choreography of his fingers dancing at the top of the piano keys. The cinematography is stylish. You wouldn't forget the ending. When I saw it, I was like, what the heck just happened??
8. DIVERGENT - Neil Burger
You just can't convert a book and compress it in a 2-hour movie, so do not expect it to be identical with the book. Just like Hunger Games, this is one of my favorite dystopian stories on screen. The world was created that is visually appealing. For non reader like me, the movie is easy to follow and well explained. From the beginning till the end I was hooked. Pacing is just fine, compelling and action packed with some intense scenes. Before Hazel Grace and Augustus became lovers in The Fault in our Stars, they were siblings in this movie. I know right? In some moments I was thinking about incest. Nonetheless Shailene Woodley (as Tris) makes a perfect feminist role model while Theo James (as Four) strains masculinity and strength.
7. NON STOP - Jaume Collet-Sera
It's not like Taken, but it's still great. This Liam Neeson thriller will blow you away. With a great classic mystery plot, the film will keep you guessing right up to the end. It has a plot with so many twists and surprises which keeps every scene intense and interesting. I have seen so many crashing airplane movies and this one's skyrockets to one of my favorites. And yes, Lupita Nyong'o was there. I was so tired when the movie was over.
6. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 1-Marc Webb
SPOILER ALERT. I haven't seen Sam Raimis trilogy so no bias or comparison considered when I watched Webb's. Somehow, Andrew Garfield's reboot stays committed to the comics. Villains are very good. The visual effects and the fight scenes are awesome plus the soundtrack is a killer. Very seldom we see multiple villains in a superhero film thus triple treat for Spidey fans out there. I kinda felt sympathetic to Electro though. And then, Harry reminds me of the young Leo DiCaprio. The movie's action and humor stood out. Sad ending for Emma Stone. My heart broke.
5. SAVING MR BANKS - John Lee Hancock
Sometimes what happens behind the cam would make just as interesting as what happens in front of the cam. This Oscar snub shows the dark story behind "Mary Poppins". Truly a great funny, touching and sad movie. I'll never look at Mary Poppins the same way again. Got teary eyed watching this. Tom Hanks did a brilliant performance as Walt Disney. I also enjoyed the end credits while they played the actual audio tape recording of Ms. Traverse and Mr Disney's convo.
4. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL - Wes Anderson
Flawless is an understatement to describe this Pink Panther-ish film. I love the style and cinematography. This multi-layered film is a mix of funny, smart, violent, exciting and ridiculous scenes. Settings are visually stunning.
3. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - Bryan Singer
Definitely a must watch. It's a great entertainment and was even better than expected. Great to see old and new faces come together in a movie. Magneto is such a brilliant character. That slow-mo kitchen scene with Quicksilver is my favorite. That's how you do Quicksilver right. Just an observation, if the Sentinels were created in the 70's why weren't they ever mentioned or shown in the first X-Men series?
2. THE LEGO MOVIE - Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
The animation is amazing. It is so good you can hardly tell if it's CGI or stop motion. Or could be entirely CGI but they made it look like a stop motion. I love how the special effects are made with lego fire and water. I was so pumped because everything was awesome. Thanks for this unique experience, now my childhood is haunting me.
1. SNOWPIERCER - Bong Joon-Ho
You can never go wrong with Korean film makers. Horror, suspense, drama and even comedy, they are excellent in their craft. This film is probably the most underrated movie of the year. Fantastic concept which makes it kinda weird. The subtext is superb -- politics, ego, fear, nature, entertainment, human nature, class system. Intelligent and entertaining with scenes that will make you say, "WTF is that??!". Great acting from Chris Evans. It's like Hunger Games inside a train.