Top Three Films of the Year (So Far), and the Top Three to Anticipate

BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA

We’re officially halfway through 2014. Although I haven’t seen quite enough films to warrant a Top Five list, I’ve definitely seen enough to write a Top Three list.

Within the past six months, there was the surprisingly clever comedy sequel, “22 Jump Street,” and the enjoyable sci-fi adventure, “Edge of Tomorrow.” There were also some intelligent and endlessly exciting superhero films, such as “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

There were also some low points, such as Clint Eastwood’s dull adaptation of the “Jersey Boys” musical, and the unnecessary and neutered “RoboCop” remake.

So, the following are my top three favorites for the first half of the year:

1) The Lego Movie: It’s been four months since I saw this film (twice in total), and I still can’t believe how hilarious and brilliant this animated adventure turned out. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the story centers on a construction worker named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) who lives an ordinary life in Bricksburg, and must team up with the Master Builders to save the world from the reign of the evil Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). With an outstanding and talented voice cast, beautifully detailed animation, and a story loaded with smart humor and a third-act twist that deepens the film’s central theme, “The Lego Movie” is fantastic entertainment for both children and adults. Although there’s an age recommendation for Lego blocks, this film is for everyone.

2) Chef: In Jon Favreau’s latest project as a director, he plays Carl Casper, a chef who quits his job one night after a dispute with his boss and a heated confrontation with a food critic. Afterwards, he decides to purchase a food truck and goes into business for himself, all while trying to reconnect with his young son. Favreau gives his best performance yet, and is backed up with an accomplished supporting cast, with John Leguizamo as a standout, who appears as Carl’s loyal friend and fellow chef. The screenplay, also by Favreau, has memorable comedic scenarios, but also serious moments that are grounded in the main character’s family dynamics. If you’re an adventurer of different cuisines and need an escape from the big summer tentpole films, don’t let this one escape you.

3) The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson’s latest film tells the story of a teenage boy named Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who becomes a bellhop at the titular hotel. While working there, he finds a father figure in concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), and soon must help him prove his innocence when he is framed after one of the hotel’s most notable guests (Tilda Swinton) dies of unknown circumstances. The cast is wonderful all around, especially Fiennes in the lead role as the eccentric and philandering hotel attendant. As Anderson has done with some of his other films, he places literary characteristics into the story, an aspect of his movies that I admire very much. Similar to his films that have used this technique before, it works just as well for “TGBH” because, like a novel, it transports you to exciting and wondrous new places, and is filled with many interesting characters. A stay at this hotel is highly recommended.

Will any of these films appear in my top five of 2014? You’ll find out at the end of the year!

As for the second half of 2014, there are many films that are worth getting excited over. The remainder of the summer will bring the post-apocalyptic prequel-sequel, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and the next Marvel Comics adventure, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” For the fall movie season, there will be David Fincher’s adaptation of “Gone Girl,” sci-fi drama “Interstellar,” the continuation of the “Hunger Games” saga with “Mockingjay – Part 1,” and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” which will mark the end of the “Lord of the Rings” prequel trilogy.

Now, here are my top three to look forward to:

1) Foxcatcher (Nov. 14): Directed by Bennett Miller, this biographical film tells the story of champion Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and how his schizophrenic coach, John du Pont (Steve Carell), killed Schultz’s brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also an Olympic champion. Miller has only directed three other films up until now, which were “Moneyball,” “Capote” and the documentary, “The Cruise,” all three of which dealt with notable American figures. He has shown a talent for going really in depth with his subjects, so I highly doubt that his new film will be any less detailed. Miller won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival back in May, and “Foxcatcher” already seems to be becoming a significant Oscar contender. It might very well turn out to be one of the big indie hits of the fall season. The film also stars Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller and Anthony Michael Hall.

2) Gone Girl (Oct. 3): Based on the 2012 bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, David Fincher directs this film of a marriage gone horribly wrong. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) finds that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing, and he’s soon listed as the prime suspect. With Fincher having helmed strong thrillers such as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Zodiac” and “Seven,” I’m sure he will bring his signature dark atmosphere to this twisty narrative. The film also stars Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit.

3) Interstellar (Nov. 7): Director Christopher Nolan follows up the success of his “Dark Knight” trilogy and “Inception” with this new sci-fi drama. Many of the plot details are still being kept a secret, but what has been revealed is that the film will tell the story of a group of explorers who use a newfound wormhole to break the limitations of human space travel. Nolan is certainly not a stranger to making bold blockbusters, and “Interstellar” looks as though it has a lot of ideas to share. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine.