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Tim Lammers picks top movies of 2014

Agree or disagree, here’s this year’s Top 10 list — wedging in 14 of the best movies on the big screen in 2014. See you at the movies in 2015.

10. “The Box Trolls”/”The Lego Movie”“The Boxtrolls” proves why stop-motion is still the best of all forms of animation, and “The Lego Movie,” a computer-animated film that mimics the under-appreciated art form, proves why we need more.

9. “Unbroken”/”Fury” — Directors Angelina Jolie and David Ayer shine proper lights on the unsung heroes of World War II: POW survivor Louie Zamperini in “Unbroken,” and a Sherman tank crew forced to do horrific things in order to survive in “Fury.” What Jolie lacks in context of Zamperini’s sufferings in the PG-13 “Unbroken” is more than made up for in brutally realistic R-rated “Fury,” starring, oddly enough, Jolie’s husband Brad Pitt.

Bradley Cooper in 'American Sniper' (photo Warner Bros.)
Bradley Cooper in ‘American Sniper’ (photo Warner Bros.).

8. “The Imitation Game”/”Big Eyes” — The amazing tale of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is told on two levels: One about Turing the  genius mathematician who invents a pre-cursor to the computer to help the British break German’s Enigma code during World War II; and second Turing as gay man in a time where homosexuality was outlawed in the U.K. Since his covert efforts with Britain’s MI: 6 technically didn’t exist, not even saving millions of lives couldn’t prevent the persecution of one life – Turning’s own. “Big Eyes,” meanwhile, tells another true story about secrets – this one set in pop art scene of the 1950s and ’60s – through the unique cinematic brushstrokes of canvas and film artist Tim Burton.

7. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”/”X-Men: Days of Future Past” — While the wonderfully funny and action-packed “Guardians of the Galaxy” marked a departure to the light side for Marvel Studios, the latest film in “The Avengers” superhero saga daringly ventured down the complete opposite path with a ’70s political thriller twist, to boot. Though technically not a Marvel Studios property, “Days of Future Past” and star Hugh Jackman did its Marvel Comics roots justice by righting some wrongs from previous films in the “X-Men” series.

6. “St. Vincent” — Bill Murray is at his best in the feel-good movie of the year as a ne’er do-well with a heart of gold and chamber of heartbreaking secrets. Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher complete the joyous halo that encircles Murray in “St. Vincent,” a dramedy that’s every bit as poignant as it is funny.

5. “Gone Girl” – Director David Fincher is at the top of his game in Gillian Flynn’s complex crime thriller, expertly adapted by the screenwriter from her own best-selling novel. Featuring one of the best ensemble casts of the year (including Ben Affleck, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Missi Pyle and Sela Ward), “Gone Girl” is taken to a whole new level by former Bond girl Rosamund Pike in what’s easily the best female lead performance of the year.

4. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” – Director Matt Reeves pulls off the impossible by topping “Dawn’s” predecessor, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – a brilliant reboot of a classic film series. The apes continue to evolve in “Dawn,” and so does the story and Andy Serkis’ motion capture acting. Awards voters better soon get with the program and accept what Serkis does as a legitimate form of acting.

3. “Birdman” – Michael Keaton gives a career performance as a struggling big-screen superhero trying to reinvent himself on Broadway in “Birdman,” the most inventively staged film of the year. The only reason this film works is because of Keaton, who will no doubt enjoy a career renaissance with an Oscar nomination (if not a win) in his future. Of course, it helps to have Edward Norton in your cast, who is as brilliant as ever in a crucial supporting role.

2. “Whiplash” – J.K. Simmons gives the one of the best performances of the year as a conniving, vitriolic jazz conservatory instructor who uses mental abuse in an effort to try to bring out the best in his students – specifically an immensely talented but emotionally fragile drummer (Miles Teller). Simmons is so explosive in “Whiplash” that he makes Louis Gossett Jr. in “An Officer and a Gentleman” feel like a pre-school teacher.

1. “American Sniper” – Director Clint Eastwood places you in the thick of the battle in the Iraq war while Bradley Cooper puts you in Chris Kyle’s conflicted mind in this brutally honest portrayal of the most lethal sniper in the American military. Sienna Miller is also heartbreaking at Kyle’s wife, Taya, a woman suffering the residual effects war has on families. To say the film is riveting is an huge understatement, especially given the tragic fate that awaits Kyle as he finally finds his peace and tries to help other veterans adjust to life on the home front.

Most over-rated movie of the year: “Boyhood” — It’s a clever idea no doubt, filming a child’s life over a 12-year period and there’s no deny the effort and planning director Richard Linklater put into the project, but ultimately, “Boyhood” feels like a gimmick because of a mostly uneventful story. Perhaps critics were ultimately more fascinated with the idea of making a movie over 12-year period than the film itself. Besides, haven’t we seen characters grow up on screen before with the films in the “Harry Potter” saga?

Worst movie of the year: “Inherent Vice” — The film’s top-shelf talent is completely wasted by Paul Thomas Anderson’s pretentious writing and direction, and a nonsensical script that’s virtually impossible to grasp. Don’t pay attention to the film snobs who pretend to understand what’s going on in this bloated heap of “I’m smarter than you are” filmmaking, because they really don’t. Dreadful and disappointing, this movie should have been called “Incoherent Vice.”

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Reviews: Tim Lammers talks ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ ‘Blended’ on KARE-TV

X-Men Days of Future Past
Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (photo: 20th Century Fox).

Tim reviews the Marvel superhero adventure “X-Men: Days of Future Past” with Bryan Piatt on KARE 11 TV (NBC) in Minneapolis.  See the review of the film, starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, below, as well as a review of the new Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore comedy “Blended.” You can also read the print version of the reviews on BringMeTheNews.com. Also, click HERE to read Tim’s interview with Hugh Jackman.

Tim also reviewed the films with John Williams on WCCO AM 830 (Click HERE to listen: audio begins at 3:30) and Rider and Eric Perkins on 96.3 K-TWIN. Listen to the K-TWIN audio below.

The Wolverine Marvel Sixth Scale Figure

Interview: Hugh Jackman talks ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’

Whether he’s sporting adamantium or bone claws, Hugh Jackman is no doubt as sharp as ever as the Logan/Wolverine in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” But perhaps no performance of the legendary character prior to this new chapter in the “X-Men” and “Wolverine” film series stands out more than his three-word cameo in 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”

It’s a brief, but memorable scene, where the young Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) walk into a bar to recruit the grizzled mutant for a new initiative. After briefly introducing themselves, Logan, sitting at the bar and chomping a cigar, says unflinchingly, “Go f–k yourself.”

“I remember (director) Matthew Vaughn pitching the idea to me, and I asked, ‘Is anyone else swearing in the movie?’ and he said, ‘No.’ So I said, ‘I’m in,'” Jackman told me, laughing, in an interview for the theatrical release of the film. “I literally went in for a half a day, and when I left, I hoped that I’d get a chance to work with these guys again. They were awesome. Michael was in the makeup chair, telling jokes the whole time. We got on really well. Both guys are phenomenal actors.”

Hugh Jackman plays Logan/Wolverine for the seventh time in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (photo: 20th Century Fox).

Of course, at the time, Jackman had no idea at the time that he’d get his wish to work with Fassbender and McAvoy again, much less in an “X-Men” movie — until the director of the first two films in the “X-Men” franchise, Bryan Singer, approached him about the unique idea of playing the central character in a film that showcased mutants in their past and future incarnations for “Days of Future Past.”

“When he sent me a one-pager of the idea, I got about halfway through it, knowing I’d say, ‘Yes’ to the movie. It was such of an awesome idea,” Jackman recalled. “It was such an organic way to bring everyone together.”

New on Blu-ray and DVD, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” begins in a dystopian future where Wolverine, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and a host of other mutants are clinging to survival. The world has become overrun by Sentinels — giant robots infused with mutant DNA — which have not only decimated the mutant population, but targeted any humans sympathetic to the mutant cause.

As it turns out, there was a key event involving a mutant 50 years earlier which led to the creation of the Sentinels. In the hope of changing the course of events, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her powers to enable Wolverine’s mind to travel back to 1973, where his consciousness would be implanted in a younger version of himself to find the young Professor X, Magneto and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in a desperate attempt to avert disaster.

While Jackman has been heavily involved in the X-Men universe since the film franchise kicked off in  2000, the actor admits that he was only vaguely familiar with the fan-heralded “Days of Future Past” storyline from Marvel Comics’ X-Men  canon.

“I had heard about it, but had never read the comic book. So the idea of doing it on film never even crossed my mind until I read the one pager, actually,” Jackman explained. “It was really great for all of us. Everyone really loved getting back together again, because we’re all like family now.”

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As Jackman found, however, the storyline turned out to be a double-blessing in a sense for the filmmakers: With a narrative that examines the idea of altering the course of history, it gave them the opportunity to right some wrongs in previous “X-Men” movies that raised the ire of the fan base.

“The fact that it came from a part of the X-Men lexicon only helped give this new movie some credibility,” Jackman said. “It’s a brilliant device to clear up some of the inaccuracies we had before, and to make it feel like a fresh beginning. It’s very, very clever and Wolverine feels more complete now. It was great playing him and doing something a little more out of the box for my character. It’s also sort of a wonderful throwback to the first movie, but now it’s a complete reverse of what Professor Xavier was doing for my character. Now I’m doing it for his.”

Secret weapon
There’s no doubt an immeasurable amount of brutal training and commitment for Jackman that went into the creating the incredible physique of Logan/Wolverine for seventh time with “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” But the vital element that’s often overlooked in Jackman’s physical transformation into the character is an unseen weapon that doesn’t necessarily happen while he’s preparing to play the character for a film, but what transpires in the theater.

The actor’s Weapon X, if you will, is called stamina, and it’s all thanks to Jackman’s three turns on Broadway, and he’s soon heading back for a fourth with “The River” (after hosting the Tony Awards for the fourth time, no less) to stay with the flow.

“I often feel after being on stage and going to fill that I feel sharper. It’s a great discipline,” Jackman enthused. “You have to do eight performances a week and hit it 100 percent. You have to be there at the top of your game. Nothing’s harder than eight shows a week. There’s performing, dancing, singing. I think the hardest I ever worked was doing ‘The Boy from Oz’ (which earned him a Best Actor Tony in 2004). I can still tell you the finish date of the production, which was the 16th of September, because it was kind of like crossing a marathon finish line.”

Giving it his all, after all, isn’t a choice for the Tony winner and Oscar nominee – it’s a way of life, and he’s committed to being all there all the time. He’s keenly aware of the fact that people spend their hard-earned money to see him, and he never, ever, wants to disappoint.

“For any member of the audience, it could only be the once-a-year thing for them. The theater could be a special outing for somebody, as is the movies. Hey, I know. I have two young kids, so getting to the movies is not so easy,” Jackman added.

With any luck, Jackman will continue his trek as Wolverine and entertain audiences for years to come. Of course, in the age of franchise reboots, the fact that role will go to another actor someday is inevitable. At age 45, Jackman admits the idea is definitely weighing on his mind, but he’s not going to preoccupy himself with it.

“There’s got to be an end date, but I think I can do 21 or 22 more movies, something like that,” Jackman told me, laughing. “I just want see the party finishing before someone pushes me out the door. You need to help me out there. Just call me up and say, ‘Buddy, this should be our last interview for this character.'”

Wolverine - X-Men: The Last Stand Sixth Scale Figure