This is a summary of four underrated 2014 films I watched earlier this year: a Saturday Night Live alumni’s melancholic drama The Skeleton Twins; a sophomore project from the director of Another Earth entitled I Origins; a Mexican-infused animation that failed to compete in Oscar, The Book of Life; and an Australian time-travel paradox with touch of Ethan Hawke, Predestination.
The Skeleton Twins (2014)
Craig Johnson, in his sophomore projects, does not make it easy for his melancholy sibling drama, The Skeleton Twins. Even with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, double trouble from Saturday Night Live, this drama has never been too cheerful but never been too dry. It has the quality of producing good laughs that sometimes feel bitter. Hader and Wiig emanate fabulous chemistry in portraying the troubled siblings—the quirky brother with suicidal tendency and the married sister with her own issue. Both characters go so deep into the lowest emotional pond without being too dramatic; The Skeleton Twins goes like it is an ordinary life of some trouble people being filmed with the director refused to make the life easier—with no clear resolution but deeper thought that makes it even more emotional.
As a dark comedy that exploits human’s weakness, The Skeleton Twins offers no new insight, but it uses everything it has to befriend the emotion.
Drama, Comedy Directed by: Craig Johnson Written by: Craig Johnson, Mark Heyman Starred by: Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Luke Wilson, Ty Burell Running Time: 93 mins Rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use
I Origins (2014)
Another Earth is a beautiful indie work by Mike Cahill back in 2011 with depths of philosophy, sci-fi, and symbolism. In his sophomore, I Origins, he brings back everything he had in his previous project—including the casts and the theme. However, he takes it now more philosophical—confronting the believer and the non-believer through a peculiar science of eye. Yes, it tries to expose the belief of after-life through the media of eyes—sounds ridiculous in some parts but it has its hold to stay convincing.
The problem is, there’s too much of love-triangle drama involving the main characters that somehow blurs the focus of the film. The mid-act of this movie serves as its weakest point for the light of its philosophy, but somehow also its strongest part for the drama. Wish that it strips off little parts of the drama, I Origins is a better work, at least, it can keep up with the strength of Another Earth.
Drama, Sci-Fi Written and Directed by: Mike Cahill Starred by: Michael Pitt, Steven Yeun, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling Running Time: 106 mins Rated R for some sexuality/nudity, and language
The Book of Life (2014)
The Book of Life is a beautiful Mexican tale told in fancy-colored and exuberant-designed world of animation. It revolves around the Mr-and-Mr-Smith bet between two Mexican demi-gods, La Muerte and Xibalba, among the life of humans; three best friends—Manolo (Luna), Maria (Saldana), and Joaquin (Tatum)—get involved in a complicated love triangle because of that bet. Manolo is the zero and Joaquin is the hero, while Maria is the damsel in distress.
Though the whole story is predictable for older audiences, there’s still much of fun in The Book of Life: all the mariachi songs, the whimsical designs, likable characters, and strong voice performances from the voice actors make it a delightful animated movie experience in 2014 you have never seen before. Even though it didn’t make to Oscar, it’s still worth deepest appreciations.
Animation, Adventure, Comedy Directed by: Jorge R. Gutierrez Written by: Jorge R. Gutierrez, Douglas Langdale Starred by: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum Running Time: 95 mins Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images
When you watch Predestination, you might think that it’s this year’s Looper; that can be right, but that can be wrong as well. This time-travel thriller offers something that has never been in any time-travel movies before (although the time-travel issue is procedural). The best point in Predestination is its paradox—how the time-travel causes a complicated paradox to the main character in a clever way.
The thing is, Predestination tries to hard to alienate its audience from this paradox concept though it has already revealed the twist during the mid-act. For some audiences, this approach seems like an attempt to fool; yet, with such presentation, it still gets a nod in exploiting time-travel paradox as its main issue. And, oh, you can’t hate Sarah Snook for her nuanced performance here.
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller Written & Directed by: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig Starred by: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor Running Time: 97 mins Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language