14. Nymphomaniac – Lars von Trier
Lars von Trier concludes his Depression Trilogy (the previous two films being Antichrist and Melancholia) with the two-part drama Nymphomaniac. It tells the story of Joe, a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, who relays her life story to Seligman, an elderly hermit who saves her after finding her beaten in an alleyway.
Although this film is a part of Trier’s Depression trilogy, Nymphomaniac is surprisingly hilarious for its first half. Whether it’s the absurdity of comparing number of hip thrusts to the Fibonacci sequence, or a distressed housewife showing her all-too-young children where daddy has his affairs, Volume I makes Joe’s escapades seem fun, explorative, and as she herself puts it, trivial. If Volume I is the comedy, than Volume II is the tragedy. Joe begins to dabble in sadomasochism, neglects her child in pursuit of pleasure, and even exiles herself to a life of organized crime.
Trier has always been a centerpiece of his films for critics, as they ponder whether he holds the polarizing nihilistic views his films portray, and Trier takes pleasure in turning those critics on their heads. Nymphomaniac is no exception. While telling her story, Joe continually lambasts her insatiable libido, as she feels it left destruction in her wake, but Seligman assures her that she only feels this guilt because of her gender.
They both have well-formed arguments that display themselves throughout Joe’s tale, and one has to wonder which character von Trier is speaking through. It isn’t until the film’s last five minutes, that Trier shows he is aware of your probing critique, and gives one last middle finger to let you know that it doesn’t matter what he thinks. While the film stumbles through a few sequences, especially during the second half, its ambition and what it manages to achieve are commendable on their own.
13. The Raid 2 – Gareth Evans
The Raid 2 may very well be the perfect sequel. What makes The Raid 2 succeed both as a film and as a sequel lies in three key elements: it does not attempt to repackage its predecessor, it features a more complex plot while at the same time, includes greater stakes for the hero, and lastly, it tops the grandiosity of the originals action sequences. And yet, none of this dulls the blade of the first film. The Raid remains excellent for its simplicity and balls to the walls action. The Raid 2 is superb for its depth and balls to the walls action.
The story begins only two hours after the conclusion of the first film. It continues the all out barrage of fists, bullets, and whatever the hell Rama can find as he goes undercover to uproot corruption within his city.
For a modern martial arts movie, many might be anticipating the type of choreography they are going to see, but even going off its predecessor, The Raid 2 is fresh and inventive in the many ways Rama finds to destroy his enemies. It manages to have the fully fleshed three-dimensional characters necessary of any great crime drama, while it also appeals to your desire to watch an Indonesian chick take out a train car of guys with nothing but two hammers.
12. Interstellar – Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan’s space epic, is a homage to 2001 and it manages to nail most of the classic’s ideas. It’s set in the near future, in which humanity is losing its grip over agriculture as more and more kinds of crops become extinct one by one.
It focuses on the relationsip between a father (Matthew Mcconaughey) and his daughter, who get seperated when the first goes into space to find a new home for humans to live at, as the earth is dying out slowly but surely.
What Interstellar does, is use science such as Einstein’s theory of relativity and not only make correct use of it, but also explain it to the audience at the same time.
It’s not necessarily a movie that will hold your hand throughout and explain itself, although it does do that at times, and it’s up to the viewer whether they like that or not. For its first two thirds of its runtime it sticks really close to science only to take some artistic liberties, much like 2001, although for entirely different reasons.
It’s a great blend of action and science and it manages to create the most gripping docking scene imaginable, taking what 2001 had and speeding that up times 10. What is truly incredible, is that it all mostly holds up despite the fact that it’s a rather long film.
11. Fury – David Ayer
Acclaimed writer of films such as Training Day and The Fast and The Furious, and director of films such as End of Watch and Sabotage, David Ayer returns to helm Fury, a World War II film about a five-man crew in a Sherman tank. It’s as visceral and unrelenting as war movies come, where there is no patriotism or romantic heroics, only hell. The fantastic part about Ayers flick is that it does not feature blood and guts to disgust or shock, but it is instead an integral part of the character development.
The film is more than the sum of its parts, and despite its grotesque and grisly content, you’ll want to re-watch the film soon after just to experience the rollercoaster of emotions it imposes on you.
10. The Double – Richard Ayoade
Loosely based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name, The Double is as black as black comedies come. Richard Ayoade’s visual palette and tone heavily contrast his debut effort, Submarine, which, while being light-hearted, also featured Ayoade’s dark wit.
It tells the story of Simon James, a socially inept office drone who encounters James Simon, his charming doppelganger. As if Simon couldn’t blend more into the background, James begins to take over his identity by stealing Simon’s job, and seducing his crush.
Despite its bleak mood and setting, Ayoade’s offbeat comedic timing provides enough lightness to make his tale easier to swallow. While some of the character’s quirks feel contrived, Ayoade seems self-aware of this, as his world is portrayed through comic book quality colors and frames.
9. Calvary – John Michael McDonagh
Brendan Gleeson is the anchor in Calvary’s ship. He stars as Father James, a priest who receives a death threat in his confessional by a man who was molested by a priest as a child. The man states he wants to kill James because he is a good priest, and it will send a bigger message to the Catholic Church than if he killed a bad priest.
Calvary stars an ensemble of bizarre supporting characters that make up James’ congregation, each whom James suspects of being his would-be executioner. Featuring themes of forgiveness, the film explores how no individual is without fault or sin of their own, even Father James.
Gleeson’s character is a positive portrayal of a Catholic priest whose story doesn’t get watered down in proselytism, which, in this day and age, is refreshing. Although the film is tagged as a black comedy, it manages to take a few stabs at the heart before reaching its conclusion.
8. Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson adapts Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name. A sidesplitting ride of a noir film, Inherent Vice is filled with bizarre characters, marijuana, and subtle period detail. In many ways, Inherent Vice feels like a contemporary Big Lebowski, with the actors and characters that fill its frames reveling in their drug-addled state to the point of caricature.
It stars Joaquin Phoenix as private investigator Doc, who, upon his ex-girlfriends request, investigates the disappearance of her current boyfriend who is a property developer.
Many will walk away from Inherent Vice when they realize, about ninety minutes too late, that the plot is not going to be wrapped up nice and neat. Many others will walk away when they notice they just watched a Paul Thomas Anderson comedy without realizing it. Phoenix and Josh Brolin play Doc and Bigfoot immaculately, surprising with their tact for comedic timing. Whether you watch Inherent Vice with your thinking cap turned on or off matters not, it will be enjoyable all the same.