Upon first screening (yes, I've seen it 3 times and it has yet to exist as anything less than awe-inspiring), this film had me in a full state of physical tension for its entirety. While this may sound dreadful, it was an intense, visceral reaction that I had not experienced from a film in a long while. As a masterful, but absolutely ruthless professor at a top-notch New York jazz academy, J.K. Simmons induces both laughter and sheer terror within the audience that makes you realize he has waited his entire life for a part like this. Miles Teller is equally as captivating as a drumming protege who will stop at nothing to become one of the greats, a breath of fresh air from his "lovable douchebag" character choices of the last few years. Note: Teller does not have a double for his drumming scenes (A.K.A. the whole movie), so come in with that knowledge and let the jaw-dropping commence!
This film had an extremely limited release, leading me to deem it the "hidden treasure of the year." Pseudo-based on the life of 80's indie music icon and radio/TV personality Frank Sidebottom (the screenplay is penned by his real-life band mate), this charming and poignant film follows the enigmatic leader of a rock band who lives day to day donning a cartoonish papier mâché head. Michael Fassbender delivers a truly heart-warming and genuine performance as this ever-mysterious Frank. The flick has all the quirk and wit of a Wes Anderson film with an edge of something you've never seen before...not to mention a killer soundtrack that must have been contrived from a hipster's dream.
3. Obvious Child
Most know comedienne (I can't believe I just used that term. Gender is a social construction, right?) Jenny Slate either for her infamous SNL F-bomb or the adorable YouTube sensation, "Marcel the Shell." However, with Obvious Child, Slate proves she can both win your heart and break it in this female-powerhouse comedy (written and directed by newcomer Gillian Robespierre). The film focuses on the realities of decisions regarding work, friends, relationships and pregnancy, that kicks clichés in the ass with it's sharp wit and captivating goofiness. Who would've thought an unwanted pregnancy could be the driving force for such a delightfully sweet film? On the down side, once you see it you'll never be able to date someone who doesn't warm your butter for you.
4. Skeleton Twins
It was one hell of a summer for Saturday Night Live alumni to show off not only their comedic ability, but their acting chops. Like Slate, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig were exciting and refreshing outside of their typical setting. The two play...you guessed it....TWINS, estranged since their rough childhood, that reunite and find themselves amid their battle with depression. While this sounds like a doozy, Hader and Wiig give the characters such life and hope that you can't help but fall in love with them. Whether you shed tears at one of Hader's touching monologues or giggle hysterically at some of their more unscripted exchanges, this film deserves to be seen (and, yes, I'm 100% biased as a hearty fan of them both).
Be warned now: this film is not for everyone, but it is on Netflix so there is no excuse for not at least giving it a chance. Written and directed by Joon-ho Bong (the mind behind the 2006 horror gem, The Host), [Snowpiercer](movie:35044) captures your attention throughout its entirety with highly creative action sequences and awesomely over-the-top (almost Tarantino-esque) villains. The exaggerated and extremely stylistic nature of the film can be a turn off for some, but who wouldn't want to watch an all-star cast (including Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, and Octavia Spencer) fight for their lives in a dystopian community set on a moving train? If nothing else, this thriller is worth a watch for Tilda Swinton's performance as Mason, the outrageous second in command on the train, who I would describe as a mix between Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia and...Hitler.
I have yet to fully develop an opinion on this film. Penned from a ridiculous story created during an episode of Kevin Smith's podcast, Podcast Smodcast, this movie features just about everything I would never expect to see. From an almost unrecognizable Johnny Depp (credited as the bizarre pseudonym, Guy LaPointe) as an over the top French-Canadian detective, to Justin Long as a WALRUS, I was continually surprised and (dare I say) impressed with the seriousness of this absurd film. There were some great moments amongst the chaos, and though I cannot put a label on my feelings toward it, this summer horror flick is definitely worth a watch for a bizarre mixture of artfulness and camp and you never knew existed.
Viewer discretion is advised for those with weak stomachs...or love for walruses