|Emily Blunt as the "Full Metal Bitch" in Edge of Tomorrow.|
As a rule, this writer doesn't go in for "best of the year" lists. When it comes to movies, the exercise verges on the pointless, because many of most prestigious releases don't even arrive in local theaters until early the following year—and who wants to read about "the best of 2014" in March of 2015? Nor do the 35-40 movies reviewed here in a typical year amount to more than a tiny fraction of what should be considered.
But what's a rule if it isn't worth being broken? Here's a list of some of the movies I'll remember from this otherwise forgettable year:
Edge of Tomorrow: This Tom Cruise vehicle with the deathly dull title was a truly pleasant surprise—clever, fresh, with a wicked wit dwelling beneath the action. As a pair of mismatched soldiers coping with an invasion by time-bending aliens, Cruise and Emily Blunt make an appealing pair. And at least the producers got to fix the title when they started calling it Live, Die, Repeat.
Nymphomaniac, Part 2: Certified bad boy of European cinema Lars von Trier explores the wilder shores of sexual monomania—albeit more memorably in Part 2 of this epic than in Part 1. If lead Charlotte Gainsbourg were an athlete, we'd say she left everything on the field here. And she's a pretty terrific drummer too.
Fed Up: Stephanie Soechtig's exposé on America's true drug of choice—sugar—may not be the most artful documentary released this year, but it may be the most consequential. The short version: it's not your fault you can't exercise off those extra pounds, and it's not an accident.
Snowpiercer: This preposterous, outrageous, hurtling mess of a movie may carry the heaviest load of allegorical meaning of any film this year—but Korean visionary Joon-ho Bong pulls it off—right up to the last scream of metal-on-metal.
Gone Girl: David Fincher delivers the twists in this tense, almost faultless thriller. The film makes perfect use of Ben Affleck's congenital smugness, twisting it around his neck in a way that is virtually impossible to dislike. But the real story is Rosamund Pike as his wife/nemesis. If she isn't nominated for an Oscar, expect NYC cops to turn their backs on the Academy.
Interstellar: Christopher (Batman Begins, Inception) Nolan is known for turning out popular but overcooked thrillers. This time he's on the side of the angels, as he gives us a heartfelt, visually-stunning poem to the promise of a future among the stars—if we're rational enough to choose it.
Force Majeure: This double-diamond Swedish family drama came out of nowhere to sweep this critic away with its powerful story of failure and (maybe) redemption.
© 2015 Nicholas Nicastro