Matisse has written 36 reviews for films rated ★★★★ during 2014.

  • Oculus

    Oculus

    ★★★★

    Well this was really a treat, and for more reasons than one. Not only is Oculus one of the freshest, most interesting horror films I've seen in a while, it was also really a pleasure to watch because it was filmed in Fairhope, Alabama, the town where I grew up. On top of that, the house that it takes place in is maybe four or five houses down from my best friend's house; I've driven past it more times than…

  • A Fistful of Dollars

    A Fistful of Dollars

    ★★★★

    A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1964

    Honestly, after such a recent viewing of Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars didn't pack as much of a punch as I was expecting. That being said, I really ended up enjoying it and can safely say that this is one of the few unnecessary remakes that actually works. Clint Eastwood's iconic Man with No Name, while not containing quite as much depth as the wandering ronin Sanjuro, is still a totally cool character with…

  • Batman Begins

    Batman Begins

    ★★★★

    The Dark Knight trilogy is easily my favorite superhero series. My girlfriend got me the special edition box set for Christmas a couple of years ago, so I do several annual rewatches. Unlike most people, Batman Begins is my least favorite of the trilogy, but I still love it. Nolan redefined the superhero genre, offering dark, gothic realism in favor of flamboyant camp. Also my favorite origin story, Batman Begins pays special attention to what makes Bruce Wayne tick, and…

  • Dr. No

    Dr. No

    ★★★★

    A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1962

    To start with a brief disclaimer, one of the rules of this challenge is that I can only watch films I haven't seen before, and it's been so many years since I've seen Dr. No, that I didn't even realize I had seen it until I started watching it, so I'm breaking that one small rule just this once.

    That being said, this was a huge nostalgia trip for me. I grew up on…

  • 13 Assassins

    13 Assassins

    ★★★★

    I'm incredibly surprised how much more I enjoyed 13 Assassins on a repeat viewing. I liked it the first time I saw it, but I got a little lost and bored in the first 70 minutes or so, just because there's a ton of characters to remember and a lot going on. So this time I definitely had more of an understanding, and it really brings this film together. Beautifully shot, well acted, and really exciting. That final battle scene…

  • L'Avventura

    L'Avventura

    ★★★★

    A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1960

    A tricky film to review, especially after the first viewing. Antonioni's classic L'avventura is certainly adventurous. Visually, it's very beautiful, almost painterly. Each shot is perfectly composed and lit, particularly in the first act, set in the islands of the Mediterranean. Antonioni is wonderfully successful at making the film feel grand, with its myriad of gorgeous settings and stunning cinematography. The story is a little slow and kind of dense at times, focusing on…

  • Punch-Drunk Love

    Punch-Drunk Love

    ★★★★

    Punch-Drunk Love is my fourth Paul Thomas Anderson film and the one that most surprised me. I was expecting another odyssey, something akin to Boogie Nights or There Will Be Blood, but what I got was something much more personal and intimate. Punch-Drunk Love is definitely PTA, but PTA miniaturized and dipped in surrealism. It feels more like an expression by a young auteur than anything else. I'll admit, I can't immediately determine whether that's a strength or weakness. It's…

  • East of Eden

    East of Eden

    ★★★★

    A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1955

    I haven't read Steinbeck's East of Eden, but I have read The Grapes of Wrath and seen John Ford's marvelous adaptation, so I went into this with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. Elia Kazan's adaptation of East of Eden is a beautiful film, both visually and thematically. Set in Salinas Valley, California, on the eve of America's entry into World War I, it follows Cal and Aron Trask, two brothers who compete for the…

  • Elephant

    Elephant

    ★★★★

    Gus Van Sant's Elephant presents a refreshingly unique retelling of the Columbine school shooting. It seems to be a pretty divisive film. I've read a lot of complaints of monotony and lack of character development and lengthy tracking shots making it a boring film, but in this case I must disagree. I watched Elephant for one of my film classes, and it came with an 18 page analysis of the film that focused primarily on the temporal complexity that Van…

  • The Big Heat

    The Big Heat

    ★★★★

    A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1953

    I would consider Fritz Lang's The Big Heat an essential when it comes to noir, but in a lot of ways, it sets itself beyond the genre. It's a lot grittier and darker than most noir (content wise at least), and it adds something to its protagonist that's a bit out of the ordinary: a family. Banion isn't your typical noir antihero. He divides himself between his loving family and his unforgiving job, and…

  • Blue Velvet

    Blue Velvet

    ★★★★

    Blue Velvet may be one of Lynch's most accessible works, and I think that may be part of the reason I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. In it, Lynch presents a rather straightforward story of a young man investigating a dark underworld of sexual depravity and violence, and while it has its decidedly Lynchian fingerprints, it doesn't descend into the nightmarish depths he's capable of.

    This being said, it's a beautifully made film. Lynch loves…

  • Oldboy

    Oldboy

    ★★★★

    I feel like I need to clarify immediately, that there is a reason I'm giving Spike Lee's "reimagining" of Park Chan-Wook's classic 4 stars, and it's not because this is a good film, because it's not. I think that there's an important distinction to make here, and that is that most people have been watching this the wrong way. They're watching it for what Spike Lee intended it to be, and not what it actually is. Spike Lee is a…