SE&L's Best and Worst Films of Spring 2014

by Bill Gibron

30 April 2014



#5 -  Journey to the West

Journey to the West makes a viewer wish for two things. First, that we see more of Xuanzhang and his newly minted demon fighting cohorts in future films, and second, that Chow himself comes back to the bigs, either as part of this franchise or in some other separate film. His gifts, so prominently on display here, deserve a more frequent film airing. Here, he’s in top form. While we don’t get to see him personally up there amongst the heroes and demons, his stamp is all over Journey to the West. It’s what makes this flight of fantasy so much escapist fun.

#4 -  The Lego Movie

The LEGO Movie is amazing. It’s a rollercoaster ride that’s all dips and loop the loops. It will have kids craving the latest play sets and adults smiling as they cough up the cash for even more interlocking fun. Set within a cinematic world of stop motion magic and CG/3D fills, it’s imagination infused with invention, resulting in an insane level of entertainment. Thanks to the premise and the possibilities it provides (a gold mine for anyone looking for culturally relevant targets), this is one of those experiences which seems to tap directly into your own sense of what’s clever and works the predetermined laughs out of you.

#3 - Nymph()maniac

For nearly three decades now, Lars Von Trier has been stirring the cinematic pot. Be it with his deranged no-frills film foundation Dogme ‘95 or his Hitler “friendly” rants at Cannes, he is good at keeping his name in the press while avoiding any direct critical impact on his films. While he’s always had a hand in his homeland’s burgeoning porn industry, his latest magnum opus wants to delve beneath the surface and flesh to find the true meaning in physical copulation. Instead, von Trier clearly intends to use perversion and the profane to same something quite profound about the human condition and he succeeds.

#2 - Jodorowsky’s Dune

It remains one of the great unrealized film projects of all time. It also has one of the more interesting enduring legacies. Throughout the remarkable documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, our charismatic subject celebrates the fact that he wanted to make a “movie as prophet,” creating something unseen by filmgoers circa the pre-Star Wars era. For him, it was all about the spiritual within the material and locating “spirit warriors” for support. In the end, Lucas and his dogfights in space won out, dooming this project to history. By revisiting and reciting said past, this film finds a way to release Jodorowsky’s vision directly into the mind’s eye.

#1 - The Raid 2: Berendal

Taking his preferred style of fighting and a real eye for excitement, Gareth Evans turns The Raid 2: Bernadal into his own gonzo Godfather. He loads on the operatic familial intrigue, sets up sons against fathers, gangs against gangs, and hired goons against hired goons for one of the most eye popping and mind blowing martial arts movies ever. If you thought the final confront in the first film between our unintentional hero Rama and the drug kingpin’s main hitman, Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) was amazing, you haven’t seen anything yet. In between the hand wringing and the blood betrayals, Evans offers up action sequences so staggering that they demand attention and future revisits.

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