BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
Rockland County Times movie critic Vincent Abbatecola begins his annual Top 10 list. Here are selections 6 – 10 in reverse order.
10) Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy makes a superb accomplishment in his directorial debut, focusing on a story whose main character, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a sleazy and unlikable video journalist in Los Angeles who films grisly stories to sell to a local news station. With an impressively creepy performance by Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo’s stellar supporting role as Bloom’s ratings-hungry boss, and a stylishly shot, climactic chase scene, you have yourself a terrifically gripping thriller. Because of Bloom’s constant invasion of privacy throughout the movie, Gilroy gives audiences a film that is unnervingly voyeuristic, and I mean that as a sincere compliment.
09) Locke – One of the more daring films of the year came with this drama by Steven Knight. Its boldness comes with the story confining the audience to the main character’s car for almost the whole film. Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a construction foreman who, one night, must make an unexpected drive from a worksite in Birmingham to a hospital in London. For what reason? You’ll have to see the movie. The film is a fascinating and claustrophobic concept involving Ivan speaking on his car phone throughout the drive as he receives calls from his family and coworkers, having to deal with pressing matters on both fronts. This is a movie that, because of the unique plot, will have you completely invested in wondering where the story will end up, and Hardy’s performance skillfully displays the growing pressure that his character is facing. In the end, the movie’s confidence in its execution completely pays off.
08) The Skeleton Twins – Even though they’re not on “Saturday Night Live” anymore, we certainly can’t forget all of the times that Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig made us laugh with their abundance of comedic characters. In this film from Craig Johnson, however, he has this acting duo go for something very different. The story focuses on siblings Milo (Hader) and Maggie (Wiig), with the latter bringing her brother to stay with her to get his life back in order after his failed suicide attempt. Although the film allows its two costars to share some comical moments, their dive into drama is never overshadowed, but thankfully, it’s also able to refrain from becoming overly sentimental. The amount of time that Hader and Wiig have spent on “SNL” in the past certainly helps in providing them with the chemistry that’s needed to make this a well-acted sibling relationship. The two go into emotional territory that I wouldn’t have ever expected to see them try, but both actors are able to find the power to do so.
07) The Lego Movie – Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s animated romp was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of 2014 cinema. While at first it looked like a blatant merchandizing move to sell more of the famous building blocks, it took only the first few minutes of the movie to win me over. The film tells the story of Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), an ordinary construction worker who teams up with Master Builders Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) and Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman) to help save Emmet’s home of Bricksburg and other Lego worlds from the reign of Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell). With its hilarious visual and verbal humor, brilliant voice cast, stunning animation, infectiously catchy pop tune “Everything Is Awesome,” and a poignant third-act twist, this film offered so much more than I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
06) Gone Girl – As if any more evidence is needed to see why David Fincher is one of the most talented directors working today, he goes and takes Gillian Flynn’s twisted and addicting novel about a horribly unstable marriage and makes a rare film that is as good as its source material, maybe even a little better. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple living in Missouri. On the day of their fifth anniversary, Nick comes home to see that Amy has gone missing, and he’s viewed as the prime suspect. Although Affleck gives what is probably one of his best performances, Pike dominates the movie as Nick’s mysterious wife. Working with a screenplay by Flynn and using a first-class combination of editing, cinematography, and music to tell the story, Fincher manages to construct a film that continues to build, even after the big reveal halfway through. Just like any other movie with an ending that doesn’t offer any easy answers, this one will get filmgoers talking.
Watch out for next week when Vinny reveals 1 – 5 of his list.