If I were to make a ton 10 list for my favorite movies of 2014 so far, this would definitely be on that list. "Begin Again" is a simple story that has been told time and time again. A guy(Mark Ruffalo) down on his luck finds someone(Keira Knightly) who helps him find success again. But what separates this is great acting and amazing music. Ruffalo and Knightley are both fantastic. Ruffalo is one of my favorite actors. I honestly can't think of a movie where he has disappointed. Knightley on the other hand is hit and miss for me, and this is a big hit. I would say this is her best performance yet, especially when you consider she sings the songs herself. I honestly believes she was lip syncing, but I looking into it, and that is actually her. She has an amazing voice. In a movie that features Adam Levine, it's hard to believe he wouldn't have the best songs in the movie. All the music in this was wrote by the lead singer of the 90's band New Radicals(whom I LOVE). Written and directed by John Carney(who also did "Once), so put them together, and you know you are in for a fantastic blend of movie and music. I already put the soundtrack on my spotify and listened to it about twice in the day since I watched the movie. Watched this around 9 at night and Emily made it all the way through it, and she loved it also. If she stays awake that long through a movie, then you know it's good! Reminded me some of "August Rush". 2 completely different types of stories, but both fuse music with the film perfectly. I have a feeling that come award season this will get a lot of nods for the music(hopefully for the film as well). Don't let this movie fly under your radar, you will regret it if you do.
"Draft Day" is much the NFL's fictional version of "Moneyball". A general manager wants to put together a team, and everyone is questioning what he is up to. Is he crazy? Will he fail or succeed? Kevin Costner plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns and has traded away the next 3 years of 1st round draft picks for the 1st overall pick. From there it follows the craziness that is draft day in the NFL. This movie has a lot going for it, but it also has quite a bit going against it. When it deals with football, it's very compelling. When it turns towards the melodrama of Costner's personal life(father's death, girlfriend pregnant) it feels forced and unnecessary. I get why it's in here, but it didn't need to be. Having said that, the movie has a lot of great performances and it never drags or gets boring. I will say though that being a fan of the NFL, the way the draft plays out is so unrealistic. It's like watching one of "Rocky's" boxing fights. It would never ever play out like that. But, it's a movie, what do you expect? Football fans should like it, and non fans should probably watch with a fan, because they may have a question or two about the inner workings of the draft. Decent flick.
Johnny Depp likes to play off beat characters. In "Transcendence" he plays an A.I. researcher who dies, who then has his mind put into an A.I. program and he ultimately wants to play god. This reminded me a lot of "Lawnmower Man", now I can be off with that because it's been forever since I've seen that. But it has a very similar vibe to it. There are flashes here of brilliance, but overall, the movie never works like it should. Can't quite put my finger on it as to why either. Has a good cast with Depp, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, and Rebecca Hall. The story is decent enough, but jump something about the execution of it all had me shrugging my shoulders going "meh". It's not something I'll probably ever feel an urge to revisit, but I can see how some people would enjoy it. Interesting movie, but just didn't work for me.
Jon Fevreau has been making nothing but big movies here lately in his career. So it's nice to see him go back to a smaller drama, especially one where he stars. I feel he is highly underrated as an actor, and anyone who has seen "Made" or "Swingers" should agree. Here he plays a fancy chef who loses everything and buys a food truck. There's more to it than that, but that is the main overall plot. Favreau has assembled an excellent supporting cast with Sophia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, and Robert Downey Jr. Very well acted movie. However, the movie runs nearly 2 hours long and by time you get to the end you'll be ready for it to be over. It starts out great, but it does fizzle. But, the acting is good, the food looks amazing, and it has a feel good story with it. Worth a one time watch.
Luc Besson is responsible for one of the best action/thrillers of the last 10 years, "Taken". Here he is just the producer, but you can see his finger prints all over it. Set in Paris, France. Aging CIA operative with an estranged relationship with his daughter. Only thing different is she isn't kidnapped and instead of Neesen we get Kevin Costner. Costner is a spy who gets cancer and only has a short time to live. So he is let go and moves to Paris to mend his relationship with his daughter before he dies. While there a woman with a drug guaranteed to prolong his life makes an agreement to give him the drug if he kills for her. From there bullets fly and the action picks up. It's not a bad movie, but needed some more intrigue than what it has. Costner and Hailee Steinfeld(his daughter in the movie) are great together. Steinfeld is a terrific young actress(she's the girl from "True Grit") and has a good sassy quality about her. The film does drag towards the end, and could have been about 15-20 minutes shorter. Emily enjoyed it, which was surprising because she usually doesn't like movies like this. Had this been R rated and had more of a thriller/mystery with it, it could have been better. But, then it would have been something completely different. Decent movie with checking out.