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7. Whiplash (review by: Rachel Katz)

Short, punchy, and at times anxiety-inducing, Whiplash is not a typical film. It centers on an aspiring jazz band drummer and the teacher who pushes him to the brink of insanity. J.K. Simmons is perfectly cast as the loud, abusive conductor, and in a much more subtle way, Miles Teller’s portrayal of the young drummer is just as well cast. From the film’s opening to its climax, their complex relationship plays out in a horrifyingly magnetic performance that stays with the audience hours after the film ends. The finale is satisfying, but unapologetically ambiguous in a way that respects the audience’s ability to imagine what could potentially follow the bizarre “happily ever after.”

Perhaps the most impressive element of the film is its runtime. Part of its effectiveness comes from the fact that an entire tumultuous year in the lives of the characters is played out in just over 100 minutes, leaving the viewer with the concise but undeniably disturbing feeling of whiplash.

6. We Are the Best (review by: Tomi Milos)

While Boyhood got all the credit this year, another coming-of-age film didn’t get the attention it deserved. We Are The Best! is a Swedish movie whose small release and the fact that it wasn’t shot over the span of 12 years probably worked against it. Lukas Moodysson focuses his astute lens on three pre-teen girls who make change rather than a fairly typical boy who passively watches as change sweeps him off his feet.

Bobo and Klara are two best friends who still cling to the notion that punk is not dead in 1980s Stockholm. Frustrated by their tumultuous home life, the two retreat to the community centre to do their homework but are stymied by the noise made by the loud (and horrible) practice of a band called Iron Fist.

Despite their lack of instruments, the two conspire to keep the disrespectful boys from practicing by reserving their own timeslot; thus, their own band is born. What follows is a heart-warming/breaking tale that sees them absorb another lonely girl into their midst and become a full-fledged badass punk unit.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (review by: Michael Gallagher)

When I first saw the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy I admit, I wasn’t very impressed. It looked like a rushed, cheesy film that would soon become indistinguishable from the countless other superhero movies that seem to be flooding movie theatres in the last five years. Worse still, I couldn’t help but question the fact that it had a talking raccoon, which – even now – is pretty damn weird.

Instead I found a movie with deep compelling characters, stunning visual effects, and witty dialogue at every turn that proved just how wrong my impressions were. While Guardians of the Galaxy may not be the movie of the year, it possesses a charm that left me laughing even after my first viewing, and is one superhero movie you just can’t miss.

4. Grand Budapest Hotel (review by: Chris Chiu)

The first thing you notice is the colours. Next, the gorgeous set design begins to permeate the senses. Long before you begin to even fathom the plot or the acting, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel already has you under his spell.

In a year where cinema seemed to be drowning in superheroes and dark storylines, Anderson’s witty and stylish film is a breath of fresh air reminding us that there’s more to the movies than just explosions and fight sequences. Beyond the vibrant plums and the electrifying fuchsias, Anderson weaves an elaborate cat-and-mouse tale that manages to explore the themes of love and unlikely friendships without ever taking itself too seriously.

Newcomer Tony Revolori holds his own as Zero Moustafa, and Ralph Fiennes’ shines as Monsieur Gustav H. (who knew Voldemort could be so adorable?) That said, the film is a constellation where all the stars create a spectacle much bigger than the individual parts.

The year is young and I’m sure you’ve made plenty of resolutions, but let me tell you something: The gym can wait, this film cannot. Make sure you see for yourself what all the buzz around Wes Anderson’s most recent masterpiece is before it gets buried in all of the treasures (fingers-crossed) 2015 has to offer.

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