Now that the halfway mark has hit between the dawn of a hopeful 2014 and the inevitable exasperated gasp of relief that another year of harrowing grief is finally over, we're inclined to look back on the past six months of cinematic glory. First, we set our sights to the best performances of the year, both leading and supporting. Next, we turn to movie scenes and moments — the funny, shocking, moving, and just plain weird instances that stuck with us long after we stepped out of the theater. Here's a quick list of some of the most memorable movie scenes and moments we've seen so far in 2014.
The evolution sequence in NoahDarren Aronofsky's account of the great flood jumped levels in progressive thinking when it included a scene that comfortably meshed creationist beliefs with the science of evolution. The sequence, which followed an aquatic amoeba as it grew into a fish, then a lizard, then a series of mammals, until ultimately becoming the impetus for mankind, is not just intellectually rich, but visually dazzling.
Gustave's prison break in The Grand Budapest HotelEvery chapter in Wes Anderson's latest film is terrific fun, but Ralph Fiennes on the run from the law (and the vicious Adrien Brody) is about as merry as it gets... even with the haunting undercurrent in an approaching World War.
The opening sequence in BorgmanThe mysterious Danish picture Borgman institutes an excitement, a levity, and a curious nature all at once with its terrific opening sequence, wherein the title character is drawn from his home underground for unexplained reasons and forced to flee the wrath of angry villagers, and help to liberate his friends from the same.
The "Spaceship, spaceship, spaceship!" gag in The Lego MovieServing primarily as a punchline to a long gestating joke, Charlie Day's Lego character's manic exclamation of his favorite word is the biggest laugh in a very funny movie.
Scarlett Johannson abducting a man with neurofibromatosis in Under the SkinJonathan Glazer's bizarre film is nothing if not evasive, but peaks in its enigmatic nature when the nameless hero/villain Scarlett Johansson, herself of mysterious origins, abducts and seems to warm to a man afflicted with a facial deformity. Cue the process of undress and cannibalistic black liquid floors...
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Ken Watanabe's big moment in Godzilla"Let them fight."
The end credits of 22 Jump StreetChris Miller and Phil Lord embrace their love of genre parody in the post-narrative moments of 22 Jump Street, in which they send their starring duo through a long line of false sequels (entailing their attendance at med school, military school, traffic school... there are a good dozen of these, all of 'em funny).
The statutory rape endorsement in Transformers: Age of ExtinctionLet's get this straight: we're simply in awe of this scene due to how god damn bizarre it is, not at all on board with its message (or even its artistic merits in a movie about robot wars). We can't help but think about Mark Wahlberg challenging the validity of 20-year-old Jack Reynor's romantic relationship with 17-year-old Nicola Peltz, only to see Reynor pull a laminated document from his pocket that exempts him from all legal ramifications of dating a minor. Weird as all hell.
The getaway scene in Night MovesNear unprecedented tension hits when Jesse Eisenberg and his two fellow eco-terrorists attempt to flee the scene after programming a time bomb to detonate an ecologically destructive dam. The trio sits on the midnight river, hoping to avoid both the eyes of passersby and the wrath of a deadly explosive. It's edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.
Liam Neeson grabbing a gun in mid-air while the airplane aboard which he is a passenger hurdles into oblivion as a team of hijackers attempts to take the whole thing hostage in Non-StopRight?
20th Century Fox Film
The Quicksilver scene in X-Men: Days of Future PastEvan Peters spends very little time onscreen in the latest X-Men picture, but his talents are milked for all their value when he is charged with dashing around a slow-motion Pentagon kitchen to the soothing tunes of Jim Croce.
The grade school scene in SnowpiercerThe most disturbing, macabre, and wickedly fun scene in a movie that has no shortage of any of those three qualities, a very pregnant Allison Pill's grade school seminar in the back half of Snowpiercer stands out as the film's most enjoyable achievement. Pill sells the hell out of lunacy in this sequence.
Paul Rudd walks into a bar in They Came Together Our favorite joke in They Came Together, narrowly beating out Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler's mutual love of fiction books, is Rudd's sullen conversation with a highly redundant barkeep who, let's just say, calls 'em like he sees 'em. Over and over and over.
Nicolas Cage asking a neighborhood kid if he's still MMA fighting in Joe I have no idea why I love this so much, but one brief exchange in the sleepy, somber movie Joe has Cage chatting with a young neighbor in a bodega, asking about how his martial arts practice has been going. It's incredibly peculiar and charming, though I don't expect any of that to carry through here.
The Zola computer reveal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier Although we weren't crazy about the second Captain America movie, we have to tip a hat to the reveal that Toby Jones' Nazi scientist has been living on for the last 70 years in the form of a bulky yet surpemely efficient supercomputer. The sort of weird stuff that we love to see in the crevices of Marvel flicks.
Tickets for Toby Keith's upcoming Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert sold out in less than three hours on Friday (21Jun13). The 6 July (13) gig at the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman will feature performances by Keith, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Ronnie Dunn and Sammy Hagar.
After learning all 80,000 tickets had been sold, Keith went online and posted: "As of this time, there are no #TKOKrelief tickets avail (available). Once we finalize production, it is possible that there will be addt'l (additional) tix (tickets) released!"
Blake Shelton's televised Healing in the Heartland concert in Oklahoma City in May (13) helped raise more than $6 million (£3.9 million) for the recovery effort in Moore, Oklahoma, which was left ravaged by a deadly twister.
Kings of Leon and The Flaming Lips will co-headline another show benefiting victims of the storms on 28 July (13).
It was perplexing enough when the world decided to give one biopic to software engineer/documented oddball John McAfee. But perplexing enough just isn't perplexing enough: The Hollywood Reporter has linked Warner Bros. to a second developing film about the antivirus mogul and his various legal troubles throughout South America. News broke on Monday that the studio could be funding a cinematic project based on a Wired article ("John McAfee's Last Stand") about McAfee's alleged criminal activity. All this on top of December's announcement that McAfee would play the focal character in Running in the Background: The True Story of John McAfee, a film by Impact Future Media, to whom McAfee himself sold his life rights.
That's right, two John McAfee movies. The major studio exploit and the independent project with questionable objectivity, as it always goes. See, the dueling biopics phenomenon is not one unique to the case of McAfee. Recent years have seen competing forces vie for the presentation of a shared subject's life story — a couple of instances are even in the works presently. Is there always a clear winner to the showdown, or are we left torn between contrasting portraits of great figures? Take a gander at what we think:
The Studio Movie: John McAfee's Last Stand adaptation (no official title)
Source Material: Wired article "John McAfee's Last Stand"
Creative Forces: Unknown
The Independent Film: Running in the Background: The True Story of John McAfee
Source Material: McAfee's life rights
Creative Forces: Unknown
The Champion: Yet to be determined, although we can bet that the latter, which McAfee himself is at least marginally involved on a production level, might be a little skewed away from objectivity... which could, actually, be quite interesting.
The Studio Movie: Hitchcock
Source Material: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello
Creative Forces: Director Sacha Gervasi; stars Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson
The HBO Film: The Girl
Source Material: Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto
Creative Forces: Director Julian Jarrold; stars Toby Jones and Sienna Miller
The Champion: The Girl is a far superior, more intricate and compelling film to the bland Hollywood output
The Studio Movie: Steve Jobs
Source Material: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (authorized biography)
Creative Forces: Writer Aaron Sorkin
The Independent Film: jOBS
Source Material: Unknown
Creative Forces: Director Joshua Michael Stern; stars Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad
The Champion: As much as we like Gad in costume as the Woz, we have to bet on the Sorkin power for this one.
The Sundance Premiere: Lovelace
Source Material: Unknown
Creative Forces: Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman; stars Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, and Sharon Stone
The Muddling-in-Oblivion Machination: Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story
Source Material: Unknown
Creative Forces: Director/writer Matthew Wilder; stars Malin Akerman, Matt Dillon, and Harold Perrineau
The Champion: Another TBD, but Sundance provides us with some very favorable thoughts about the former.
And one from the archives...
The Studio Movie: Capote
Source Material: Capote by Gerald Clarke
Creative Forces: Director Bennett Miller; stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Clifton Collins, Jr.
The Independent(ish) Film: Infamous
Source Material: Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Careerby George Plimpton
Creative Forces: Director/writer Douglas McGrath; Toby Jones (again!), Sandra Bullock, and Daniel Craig
The Champion: The Oscars were right on this one: Miller and Hoffman's rendition of the story was a dazzling feat — while Infamous, too, is a film worth your while, it doesn't quite live up to the spectacle that a character like Truman Capote deserves
Top Story: Batter Up for Miramax's Damn Yankees
Stick with what works. Coming off the hugely successful Oscar-winning musical Chicago, Miramax Films has bought the rights to remake the Broadway musical Damn Yankees, Reuters reports. The Tony Award-winning musical, which opened on Broadway in 1955, centers on a fan who sells his soul to the devil to help his hapless baseball team win the pennant from the unbeatable Yankees. Ray Walston won a Tony for his performance as Mr. Applegate, the devil, as did Gwen Verdon for her seductress Lola, whose signature song was "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets." Both performers reprised their roles in the 1958 film adaptation that co-starred Tab Hunter. "I see us updating Damn Yankees, modernizing it, and really having fun with the role of the devil," Reuters reports Miramax president Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. No casting decisions have been made as yet.
New Altman Film Debuts in Toronto
Director Robert Altman's newest film, The Company, will make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Associated Press reports. The film follows the world of ballet and stars Neve Campbell. Other films showing at the festival include Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions, which recently won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, and Lars von Trier's Dogville. The festival runs Sept. 4-13.
Gibson's Film Labeled Anti-Semitic
Although actor/director Mel Gibson has continually stated his upcoming film The Passion, about the last days of Jesus Christ, is not offensive to any race or religion, the Anti-Defamation League of America charged Tuesday that based an early draft of the screenplay, the project could "promote anti-Semitism." According to The Hollywood Reporter, a report that had been prepared by scholars associated with both the ADL and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and contained a long list of objections was leaked to the media this month. "When these kind of issues are raised and we feel concern, we speak out even before the film has been made," Myrna Shinbaum, a spokesperson for the ADL told The Reporter, acknowledging that the concerns are based on an early version of the screenplay. "We haven't seen it yet, so we can't speak to the film itself."
Spielberg Gets Richer Off Theme Park Rides
Steven Spielberg is getting in on the action, literally. Since many of the theme park rides at Universal Studios are based on films such as his Jaws, Jurassic Park and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the director has landed a highly lucrative deal with Universal, acting as a consultant and getting two percent of the park's gross from tickets to concessions, The Los Angeles Times reports. The deal was made for the company's two parks in Orlando, Fla., and goes along with a previous deal Spielberg made for the park in Osaka, Japan. It does not include Universal Studios in California.
N'Sync's Fatone To Wed
Joey Fatone, member of the boy band N'Sync and host of the new talent show search Fame, asked his longtime girlfriend to marry him June 18 in Orlando, Fla., AP reports. Fatone broke the news on Craig Kilborn's CBS show The Late Late Show. He and his girlfriend, Kelly, have been together for 10 years and have a two-year-old daughter.
Eminem's Feeling Generous
During a recent concert in England, bad-boy rapper Eminem stunned crowds by giving a diamond necklace worth nearly $450,000 to one of his fans, AP reports. "I'm going to give this to the sexiest woman I see," Eminem said on stage Monday, as 65,000 fans watched him lean over the stage and give the jewelry to a stunned girl standing at the front of the audience. "It looked like a huge, diamond-encrusted crucifix," a nearby member of the audience, Toby Friedner, told the BBC. "The girl he gave it to was blond, pretty, wearing glasses and 18-20."
Role Call: Tucker May Rush to Rush, South Park Creators Turn to Puppets, Kutcher and Mac Have Dinner
Funny guy Chris Tucker is in negotiations to reprise his role as Detective James Carter in Rush Hour 3, Variety reports. No word yet if co-star Jackie Chan is to join him … those wacky nuts Trey Parker and Matt Stone are leaving their South Park roots and developing a yet-untitled feature using marionettes. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the puppet show is about superheroes on a mission to eradicate things such as terrorism--and certain celebrities who have outworn their welcome in the public eye. Now, who could that be? … Another intriguing duo, Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac, are attached to star in The Dinner Party for Columbia Pictures. In a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner take, Kutcher plays a young man marrying a black woman whose father (Mac) is having a tough time accepting the marriage.