Halftime Report 2014 – Part 2

(Read Part 1 here)

by Ken B.

Today’s list is more fun than yesterday’s. Now, we’ll look at the five best films I’ve reviewed so far in 2014. Once again, these aren’t necessarily 2014 films, just reviews published from January 1 to July 1, 2014.

Honorable mentions: Upstream Color, Edge of Tomorrow (come on folks, support good blockbusters, it’s still in theaters!), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

5. Barbara (2012, reviewed February 21)

Christian Petzold crafts an absorbing and engaging drama about an East German doctor (Nina Hoss) circa 1980 who is transferred by the government to a small hospital in the middle of nowhere. The film tracks her life here, as well as work at the hospital. It is deliberately paced, constantly fascinating, and both a narrative and visual treat.

4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, reviewed May 22)

Based on a true story, Julian Schnabel’s film concerns Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French magazine editor who suffers a stroke that leaves him nearly entirely paralyzed, only able to operate his brain and one eye. In this riveting and emotional film, he communicates through blink-induced means, dictating his memoirs and tracing his life.

3. Captain Phillips (2013, reviewed February 3)

Tom Hanks is at his best as Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates. Barkhad Abdi is fantastic as the head of the terrorists. Director Paul Greengrass has made a truly fantastic film, an unbelievably atmospheric and intense movie, with sharp cinematography, editing, acting, and writing. Captain Phillips is truly a triumph.

2. Life is Beautiful (1997, reviewed January 14)

Roberto Benigni’s magnum opus, Life is Beautiful tells the story of a charismatic man (Benigni) in World War II Italy. When he and his family are taken to a concentration camp, he makes it his goal to keep his young son from realizing the horrors going on around him, convincing him that everything is a simple and innocent game, stopping at nothing to keep up his child’s spirit. It is wonderful and poignant, and most importantly, never exploitave or disrespectful to the world’s still painful memories of the Holocaust.

1. Doubt (2008, reviewed April 24)

With a cast including Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis alongside a gripping story with rich characters, Doubt is some seriously good filmmaking. It tells the story of a nun (Streep) who believes that the head of the Catholic school where she works (Hoffman) has committed a serious breach of ethics, and her attempts to further the case, despite having no evidence. John Patrick Shanley has crafted one definite powerhouse of a movie.

Those are the top five films I’ve reviewed so far in 2014. Here’s to many more as we head into the second half of the year.

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