2014: The Year in Reviews (Part I)

That was a nice two months off.

The last thing I wrote on this blog, I believe, was an Oscar wrap-up. Oh, no, wait… it was How to Read a Hollywood Release. Either way, it’s gonna stay that way for a little bit. I’m in the middle of writing something, and I just don’t feel like throwing articles together at the moment. (Plus, this will eventually give me time to bank up some Fun with Franchise articles for the next time we do that. And I know that’s something we all want.) But I am stopping to throw this one up, if only to help myself for December.

In case you don’t know, over the course of the movie-watching year, I have in the past (outside of last year), posted an update of the year in film, and the movies I’d watched. I had always put up one at the end of April, one at the end of August, and one in December, just before the reviews articles go up. Though I guess this year, that one’ll happen at the end of November, owing to the articles going up sooner in December than they used to.

The reason these articles didn’t go up last year is because I didn’t start watching new films until September. I was busy doing nothing but Fun with Franchises that entire time. So there was no need to post anything. Nothing was watched. I watched about 230 movies between September and December. This year, I’m pacing myself. And, throwing out quick reviews helps me to remember what I actually thought of movies the first time I watched them, so I’m not just posting months-later recaps.

So here we are. I’ll start with the ones I saw, then I’ll list the ones I have, but haven’t watched yet, and then I’ll list the films I just haven’t gotten to see yet, but am planning on seeing, and end with the films I out and out skipped on purpose. And then at the end, I’ll throw up some final lists. You know, favorites so far, least favorites, etc. Maybe ones most likely to go up in rating, ones likely to go down. Stuff like that.

So here we are. The stuff I’ve watched from 2014 (and maybe a few from 2013) so far:

About Last Night — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I think it’s the cross-cutting in the opening scenes of the film. It made me go, “Oh, look… effort.” And that’s what kept me moderately interested enough to not drop this lower. Ultimately, though — I just didn’t care. I’m not the audience for this film, I don’t like Kevin Hart as a comedian, I don’t find him funny, and I was just indifferent throughout this entire film. It’s just there for me.

The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Very poorly made. They had like, no money here. It looks like one of those Librarian films CBS makes every so often. Remember those movies? Quest for the Spear? I do. They looked like shit. This also looked like shit. Which isn’t totally their fault. They had what they had. As it is, it’s a movie about kids. It could have been a Wishbone episode. The kids are the stars, and the adults are just there for star power. I get it. It wasn’t bad, either. I got through it and enjoyed myself well enough. Couldn’t bring myself to give them three, though, even though it was completely watchable. This is the kind of movie you’d expect to see on the BBC equivalent of the Disney Channel. This is their Luck of the Irish. And Xenon. Remember Zenon. The 21st century looks nothing like that.

AM 11:00 — * * * (3 stars)

This randomly showed up online and I looked at what it was about and said, “Sounds good.” It’s Korean, and it’s about people working on a time travel machine. And they get it to work, but haven’t yet tried it on humans. What it does is move objects forward one day into the future. So they decide to test it on themselves. They go forward one day, and when they get there, shit is chaos. Everyone is missing, and people are out to get them. That’s what got me in. As a finished product — it was okay. Nothing outstanding, but watchable. Typical time travel tropes. Interesting concept though.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Of course I saw it. I saw it ten days ago. And I’ll be honest — I went in hearing it was shit and expecting it to be shit, based on the trailers (they weren’t good). But I liked it. I was worried about the “too many villains” thing, but unlike Spider-Man 3, they don’t do the finite arc with them. They introduce them as part of a universe, and they do it believably. They do a little bit of plate-spinning (but not really), and manage to revolve the stories around Peter rather than just introducing all these villain subplots. It works. It’s not a perfect film (it’s probably not even really that good), but I was entertained and it reminded me why I enjoy certain superhero movies. The theme of the movie seems to be “Fuck Spider-Man,” since dude pisses off everyone in it. Also, apparently being the Green Goblin is hereditary. So you may want to get yourself checked for that. (Oh, and of course — final credits scene. Which I won’t spoil. All I’m gonna say is… they did it before Marvel. Ha ha.)

Blood Ties — * * * * (4 stars)

Loved this. This is the movie, for those who remember, that I put on my list of Favorite Posters of last year. #3. My reasoning was that it was technically a 2013 film. And now I get to treat this as a 2014 film for this list because I want to talk it up and don’t want it to fall through the cracks any more than it has. This film was incredible. One of the best soundtracks in years, a great ensemble cast (Clive Owen ,Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, James Caan, Lili Taylor, and a bunch of “that guy”s. Terrific 70s crime film. Do yourself a favor and seek this one out. It’ll be one of the better movies you see this year.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier — * * * (3 stars)

I’m gonna preface this next statement a lot, because the way everyone else says it and the way I say it are two very different things. In my mind, Marvel has really only made one great movie, and that’s Iron Man. Everything else has been varying degrees of entertaining (Captain America, Iron Man III), overrated (Avengers) shit (Thor, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2), or god awful shit (Thor 2). I’m so tired of their stuff by now. But I will say, given how the rest of those films are… this is the second best film Marvel has ever made. Because they actually told a story! A real story! This is a political thriller that just happens to include superheroes. And that’s the way these movies should be. Tell a fucking story and incorporate the stuff into it. Don’t just try to please the fanboys and expand a universe. Tell a goddamn story. That’s why Iron Man III and Captain America worked for me on the whole, because they focused on the characters and didn’t get to wrapped up in making everything connect. Thor 2 didn’t even tell a fucking story. It was ridiculous. And The Avengers was a joke. Come on now, people. So, on that note, this is the second best movie they ever made. Realistically, it’s still only a 3 star movie. Even if I did go 3.5 stars here right now, I’d have dropped it in December. It’s not that good. But they told a story, it was contained, they showed brief glimpses of the bigger universe (some better than others… they might as well have showed someone slowly jerking off when they flashed Stark Tower at the end), and didn’t take away from the story at hand. So for that, I commend them. That said… these assholes have a lot of work to do before they actually start making good movies. I’m hopeful Guardians of the Galaxy manages to break through and be really entertaining and overtake this for the second spot. I won’t hold my breath.

Cesar Chavez — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s generic. It was directed by an actor, and it shows. It’s trying too hard. It’s too broad and whitewashed. There’s nothing of interest in it. It’s a pretty marginal (albeit important) story, but ultimately doesn’t do much, despite the best attempts of its actors. So it’s just there. No need to crush it, but it’s not particularly good either. One of those “meh” forgettable films of 2014 that you see and forget about thereafter.

Date and Switch — * * * (3 stars)

I was tracking this at some point. I came across it and decided, “Why the hell not?” It was fine. It had your typical indie comedy moments where you go, “No one acts like that ever.” But I’m always going to be a fan of a film where they treat being gay like it’s nothing. Even when the best friend gets all weird, it’s mostly because he’s not used to his friend being gay, and he just wants to help him. So on that level, it’s a really progressive film. It’s not groundbreaking comedy or anything, but on a societal level, I’m a huge fan of this. I certainly enjoyed it more than I enjoyed something like Divergent.

Divergent — * * * (3 stars)

Meh. It was fine. In  terms of all the young adult franchises, I’ll say it’s about middle of the road. There were aspects of this that I was interested in, and others I just didn’t care about. I thought it was interesting  that 2/3 of this movie is her going into the faction and training to be part of the faction. Which is more interesting than the stupid political shit that happens in the last 20 minutes. But yeah… it’s fine. It’s not that big a piece of shit. It’s watchable. I guess. Not that I’ll be watching this again. But it was fine, the one time. These things always end up at 3. But I really barely remember much about it. Definitely was better  than The Host though.

Draft Day — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

From the first four minutes of the film, I knew it wouldn’t be as good as the script. And the reason for that is two-fold. The main reason — exposition. They took a tight script and made it more mainstream so people who don’t know football can understand it. Which was the wrong way to go. The amount of people who know football in this country is most of us. But also, the exposition is in completely bizarre places. It’s weird. If you really know football, just listen to the dialogue. It doesn’t sound like how people talk. Not even people in the league. People. If you talked football with your friends, it would sound nothing like how the people talk in this. There’s too much pandering to idiots in the film. The route they should have gone was the Sorkin route. Just have them talk shop and don’t explain it. People will follow. It’s about the drama and not following every little detail. And the second reason this isn’t as good as the script (which ties into the first) — poor directing. Ivan Reitman wasn’t the right choice for this. He just wasn’t. He doesn’t elevate the script. He broadens it out. (Which is two in a row for him. No Strings Attached was a fucking disaster. Not just because of him, but he didn’t help.) Overall, of course, the film is good and I did really enjoy it. I’m not even going to rag on the trades and stuff that happen, because — you don’t watch a poker movie expecting the hands to make sense. You expect embellishment. It works as a draft drama. It could have been better, but it didn’t do a complete disservice to the script. It’s almost entirely there. It really couldn’t have dropped below 3.5 for me unless they radically changed things. So it’s good… it just needed a better director at the helm, who would have known how to handle the lingo, wouldn’t have tried to make everyone understand it and just focused on the drama and let that carry the film, and maybe wouldn’t have cast Jennifer Garner and shored up that romantic angle just a little bit. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Filth — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I’ve been tracking this for a while. Been really excited about it. And it’s really fun. The first half of this movie had me laughing hysterically at times. Then it gets real serious and a bit weird toward the end, and they lost me a bit. It was holding 4 for a while, but I dropped it because the last twenty minutes just lost me. But it’s good. McAvoy does a great job with it. (And also adds another tally to that other streak he has going! … those of you who know me know what I’m talking about.) But yeah, it’s funny, and enjoyable, but it’s not one of those movies I’m gonna be real excited to show people because it gets weird at the end. This is a movie that, at best, makes the bottom of a tier three, but also is prime for being left off for films that leave an overall stronger impression on me by year’s end.

Gimme Shelter — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Ha ha. Vanessa Hudgens tries to ‘act’. Probably not a good idea when Brendan Fraser is in your movie. The best part about this movie is that it wants you to believe Brendan Fraser had sex with Rosario Dawson. All right. You lost me right there. This seems like it was based on the novel “Pull” by Sapphire’s less-talented sister. But James Earl Jones is in this. That keeps this from dropping to 2 stars. It’s bad, but it’s not awful. Well… all right, it’s kind of awful. But almost in a laughable way. They’re trying too hard, and it’s just completely misguided, from the casting on down. I mean — I’ll leave this at indifference. That’s the nicest thing I can say here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

It’s Wes Anderson. I know what I’m getting. This was amazing. From beginning to end. I don’t know how to rate this (especially now, when I know I’ll see it at least once more before year’s end) except for comparing it to his other movies. And on that level… I still put Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox as his best two. Moonrise is pulling a tight third. But this one, I think, I’ll put right after that. I’m curious to see how this one does against Tenenbaums for that #4 spot. But yeah… other notes… Ralph Fiennes was awesome. Great makeup job on Tilda. Anyone else notice how much… freer… I guess is the word… the camera was here. I felt that the compositions weren’t as strict and rigid as they were in Moonrise Kingdom. Maybe because he made it immediately after and didn’t have that extra time to perfect everything? Or maybe that was the point? This definitely felt both more and less precise than what I’m used to from Wes Anderson. Not that it’s a bad thing. I just noticed it. Though maybe that was just me. It’s also funny how unsentimental he is. He’ll just cut off from interesting or happy moments. Oh, and the other thing I really enjoyed was how he takes the same sort of character the actors in his stable played the previous time and basically gives them a variation on that, even if it doesn’t seem that way. For instance — Willem Dafoe is almost playing a human version of the rat from Fantastic Mr. Fox. Same character arc (basically). Edward Norton is the obvious one. When he’s in the hole, telling them he wants roadblocks and all that — same exact scene from when he was scoutmaster in Moonrise, looking for Shakusky. It’s mostly those two, but I enjoyed those revelations. Otherwise, it’s nice seeing all those cameos pop up. He was clearly having fun with this one. Rarely do we see Wes Anderson have fun. I appreciated that. This will definitely end up in my top 15 for the year. I can’t see how it won’t.

Hateship, Loveship — * * * (3 stars)

Yup. It’s an indie movie. You know what you’re getting here. Real solid cast on this, though. Big fan of that. Otherwise — totally watchable, you might even like it. Otherwise, if you know indies, you won’t even be mildly surprised here. Watch it for the cast and nothing else. Well… and the fact that it has a female director. Watch it for those two things.

A Haunted House 2 — * ½ (1.5 stars)

Come on, now. It’s a piece of shit. We know this. Let’s not waste time. Fucking terrible.

Haunter — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I was tracking this from last year, managed to find it. So here we are. It was fine. Broad concept is okay. Execution is pretty weak. Overall… meh. On a side note… here’s one of my movie pet peeves that never ceases to piss me off: when movies try to make you feel something toward a character or try to give a character extra characterization based on what bands they like. Which band posters are in their room or what band t-shirts they wear. Does anyone seriously do that? Are rooms littered with posters of trendy indie bands? And actors like to think its some sort of entry into the character, just because they’re wearing a shirt of a particular type of band. The scripts do it too. People write songs into the script. And they’re always some hipster-y music that the writer thinks is the coolest thing. It’s atrocious.

I, Frankenstein — * * (2 stars)

What the fuck was this? I mean seriously. Who thought this would be a good idea? Frankenstein’s monster is alive and immortal. There’s a weird demon faction that wants him to be on their team. There are gargoyles who turn into people who want him to be on theirs. They fight. Through eternity. I mean what? Someone thought this would be a good movie to drop $65 million on? They spent more on this than they spent on Jonah Hex. Seriously, this was an unholy (pun ridiculously intended) piece of garbage. It’s not that it’s laughably bad. It’s that you watch this movie, and not a second goes by where you don’t think, “Why would anyone make this?” I’m confounded that anyone legitimately thought this was a good idea. And believe me… in some way or another, you will be hearing more about this in Dcember.

In Your Eyes — * * * (3 stars)

It… was fine. People (the internet) went crazy for it when it was announced, because everyone has a huge boner for everything Joss Whedon does. And, as I say with anything the man makes — I’ve never been a fan, I’m not a fan. Of his work. Of him, he’s fine. But his work… never liked it. But the concept sounded too interesting to pass up. I thought it was about two women. Turns out, it’s not. So, less interesting, but it still works well enough. Though I will say… the writing here is really bad. The actual writing. Not the concept. I know people anoint Joss Whedon as some master writer, but… watch the scene in this movie where the two characters realize they can see what each other sees. It’s ridiculous. Nobody could make that sound good. It settles into being an interesting movie after the first 40 minutes or so, but it doesn’t get particularly interesting at any point. It’s one of those movies that feels like it wastes a good concept. A lot of the moments in this are based on cliche. You’d think they’d try something new. And a lot of that comes back to Whedon the writer. So, while I enjoyed it well enough… it’s too flawed for me to really like. Also, shitty indie soundtrack alert! This is one of those movies that loves using “montage” songs all over the place. It’s annoying.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit — * * * (3 stars)

I mean… we saw this coming. When they bumped it into January, quality was clearly the issue. (The release date never lies!) Because this is a bland movie. I like that it doesn’t become a mindless action movie ever. Problem is… it’s not particularly intriguing either. Not much happens of interest. It’s definitely no Hunt for Red October. I’m actually being nice when I give this 3 stars. But it’s fine. The movie’s fine, and it’s completely forgettable, and we can all forget this movie was even made by next year. That’s what it is. Sometimes things don’t work.

Joe– * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

It’s good. It’s one of those movies that’s more character study than where stuff happens, but it definitely works. It’s very watchable and has a particular low key charm to it. And it renews faith that people don’t have in Nicolas Cage. (Mine is unwavering, of course.) I’m not the biggest David Gordon Green fan, but this works. Overall, definitely a movie I can recommend strongly. Not gonna be a top ten or anything, but definitely a tier three, recommended movie from the year.

The Legend of Hercules — * * (2 stars)

Huge piece of shit. It just looks poorly made. The whole thing was just a bad idea from planning through execution. The script is terrible, it’s poorly written, no one in their right mind would find the story interesting, it looks like it was made for $20, the acting is bad, all the stars are C-listers at best… everything about this movie screams “terrible.” And it is terrible. We knew what we were getting here. Easy bottom 25-er for the year. This is one of those movies where I’m the only one who actually saw this because… why would anyone else? (And then I bring it up and people go, “You actually saw that?” Because of course I did.) Don’t ever waste your time with this.

The Lego Movie — * * * (3 stars)

I saw this coming as a blockbuster. I did not, however, see people’s crazy responses to this coming. People overrated the shit out of this. I mean, it’s just okay. The animation is nice, because they get rid of the motion blur and make it look like stop motion, but the story is awful. People try to explain this to me as, “Well the whole thing is supposed to be in the mind of a kid,” but that kid is fucking weird. When I was that kid’s age, I could have written a better story than that. So don’t give me that bullshit. The film is enjoyable enough, though. Let’s not pretend like it’s some masterpiece, though. I mean, really. It’s a fun movie that’s just okay. And if you think otherwise, you’re either under the age of 14 or delusional.

The Monuments Men — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Another one I saw coming. I heard rumblings right when they pushed it into February. They said it was because the film wasn’t done, but it was really because Clooney was struggling to find the tone of it. And you can tell. The film is all over the place, tonally. I’m not really sure what the point of it is supposed to be. I think he was originally going for one thing, but at a certain point, he realized it wasn’t going to be where he envisioned it was going to get to, so he skimmed over sections of the story and shortened the whole thing, hoping it would make it more commercially successful. And that worked. But also — the movie is really just all over the place. It really struggles to find the right tone and the right version of the story. And honestly, as you watch it, you see long stretches where he skips over story in favor of voiceover and montages. The whole thing just feels compromised. It’s entertaining enough, but based on the story and the cast, you really feel like this should have been better than it was. Definitely one of the bigger disappointments of the year.

Mood Indigo — * * * (3 stars)

I was curious to see this to see if it would end up like all of Michel Gondry’s solo films, post-Eternal Sunshine. That is — visually interesting, but devoid of an actual story. And that’s what it is. This movie is visually incredible. It’s off the wall, crazy and brilliant in a surreal way. The story — ehh, not so much. Though I like that it gets serious toward the end and does strive for something. So it’s not totally what I thought I was getting. I was expecting to say, “It seems he can’t make a movie without someone like Charlie Kaufman writing it for him.” And I’m sort of right. He does need a strong script in order to match his visual style. But he is capable of telling a halfway decent story. I liked the film. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. And I recommend that people see it. Because it’s so wildly visually inventive that it’s worth seeing. This will be like The Science of Sleep, a movie that some people really love and most people respect because of its visual style.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Ultimately, I didn’t care. But I don’t know what the fuck this was supposed to be. A dog adopts a baby and has a time machine? And they thought this would be a good idea? It’s a kids movie though. So whatever. My main question was — if  they’re going back in time and doing this stuff… how come no one thinks twice about a talking dog? It’s just normal for a dog to be doing stuff? There’s actually a line in the movie that says, “A boy can adopt a dog. I see no reason why a dog can’t adopt a boy.” I know you’re not supposed to really think about this stuff, but… nothing? No one has questions about this logic? Honestly, if you watched this movie really high, you’d probably spend the entire time asking all these questions. (I just do it normally.) But yeah, didn’t give a fraction of a fuck about this movie.

Muppets Most Wanted — * * * (3 stars)

It’s a Muppet movie. These are always enjoyable. It doesn’t have that extra charm the first one had, but that was a one-time thing. Plus, they couldn’t repeat that sort of thing for sequels. Though I will say — didn’t they do this same exact thing for their last sequel? But outside of that — the cameos are fine, the songs are pretty inventive, and it’s your typical enjoyable Muppet movie. You know what you’re getting, and that’s not a bad thing.

Need for Speed — * * * (3 stars)

I was really expecting this to be truly god-awful. I knew it wouldn’t be a good movie (I mean.. come on), but I figured at best I’d get what I got. But going in, I expected complete garbage. And I actually was able to watch this and enjoy it a little bit. It’s still not a good movie, but it’s fast cars, so I wasn’t so bored. Took too long to get going, but once it did, I was engaged enough. First thirty are rough though. But I’ll leave it at 3. It’s not really as good as that, but I’ll give it the 3. The one time, fine. (Also… Aaron Paul… definitely not a leading man.)

Non-Stop — * * * (3 stars)

It’s your standard Liam Neeson thriller. I will always have time in my year for one (or more) of these. This was completely engaging. He’s on a plane, someone keeps texting him that someone will die every hour, and he needs to figure out who. It’s not groundbreaking in any way, but it’s engaging, it’s Liam Neeson, and I’d prefer this to at least half the movies I watched in the first four months. Totally acceptable movie.

The Nut Job — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s terrible. But it’s a kid’s movie. So ultimately I didn’t care. I did think I’d hate it and that it wouldn’t even make it to indifference, but it did. It’s okay enough. Still though — don’t waste your time. It’s not a very good movie. Even non-discerning children won’t be too engaged by this.

Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I know what I’m voting for Best Sound Mix! Man… this was something. Within thirty minutes, she gave that guy on the train what looked like an unsimulated blowjob and jizz ran down her mouth. (Just like in Captain America.) I certainly commend the sound team on that one. It was uncomfortably realistic. But yeah… we’re dealing with a two-parter here, so a review is going to be tough. So I’ll just say that Part I is definitely the better of the two parts. It’s more engaging, and I found myself liking it more. On the whole, it’s a weird movie, but between the two segments, to me, this was the better one.

Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 — * * * (3 stars)

Kind of loses steam in the second half. Mostly because for the first hour she gets tied up and whipped and beaten by Jamie Bell. And I just was not interested in that at all. I mean, mostly it’s about her fucking up her family by continuing to fuck guys. I didn’t mind that it was the sad half, because obviously that’s what it was set up as, but I just wasn’t as engaged with this part as I was with the first part. Mostly because there was that weird section with her and the underage girl, and then she got peed on… and the black guy almost-double team… it just gets strange. I wasn’t totally invested in this part as I was in the first part. As an entire film, it’s good, but as just this second part, it’s not as interesting as the first half. And I don’t even mind the ending, because that made perfect sense to me. That’s really the only way to end a story like this.

Only Lovers Left Alive — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Absolutely nothing happened, yet I was riveted the entire time. Which I’m sure is the review to every Jim Jarmusch movie. I have no idea why I was so invested in what was going on, but I was. So I won’t question it. I liked the movie. It was really engaging, and not once was I bored. So there you go. Good movie, will be underseen come year’s end and may or may not make my list of most Underseen movies. This is a good one.

Perfect Sisters — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s there. No one else knows about this movie, and you don’t need to. It’s a generic indie. It has moments where it’s almost okay, but ultimately, you don’t need to waste your time.

Pompeii — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Welcome to the bottom 25, Paul W.S. Anderson. This movie was a piece of shit. The basis for the story is the eruption of Vesuvius. So you know where it’s ending. The rest of the movie — you can watch it with the sound off and know everything that happens. It’s Gladiator mixed with the standard trope of the lowly servant falling in love with the princess. You’ve seen every single thing that happens in this movie a dozen times. It’s ridiculous. I understand why it was made, though. Not necessarily for its budget, but why they wanted to tell the basic story. Of course it turned into a disaster (pun ridiculously intended), but that happens. But unlike I, Frankenstein, I can look at it and go, “I see why conceptually it was something they went for.” Still a huge piece of shit, though.

The Railway Man — * * * (3 stars)

They almost released this late December/early January and then VOD’d it in April (another failed Weinstein Oscar bait dump. They love those. Especially ones with Nicole Kidman). I mean… it’s fine. It’s not of too much substance. Dude was tortured during the war, is now a mess, and then goes back to try to overcome his trauma. That’s it. Probably could have used better directing and writing, but otherwise, totally acceptable. There’s a reason this got pushed, so you don’t need to rush out to see it, but otherwise, completely fine film.

Ride Along — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I was expecting utter disaster, and I got passable. Not good, by any stretch. I mean, Kevin Hart is the star of the movie. And Ice Cube does his one note straight man routine. So you know what you’re getting. But it’s watchable enough. I can confidently give this 2.5 stars despite most people expecting me to go surefire Unforgivable here. But that wasn’t the case. It’s indifference more than anything. It’s just there. Now… the second one… all bets are off. (It made a shit ton of money. There will be a second one.) But this one… fine. You get a pass. I didn’t despise it.

Rio 2 — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Nope. Did not care, did not care. Generic kids movie. The first one I barely enjoyed. This one I had to make it through. To the point where I’ll have to think twice about actually watching the third one. This has basically become Ice Age for me. First one is okay enough, second one is, “Ehh,” and the third one you just don’t want to bother with and eventually you just stop watching them. It’s fine if you’re five, but otherwise, why would you even bother with this?

RoboCop — * * * (3 stars)

Barely 3 stars. The first RoboCop was satire. This seemed to take the material seriously. It felt like one of those movies that was trying to say something about society, but ultimately was an example of what the first movie was talking about. It’s just… hollow. There was no reason to remake this. I got through it. But man… what an unnecessary movie.

Sabotage — * * * (3 stars)

This is what you think is a standard generic action movie, only directed by David Ayer, which gives it a weird gritty, dark twist. Making it a very bizarre movie. This will stand out for me among the generic action movies of the year purely because of that. Of course, it’s a lesser David Ayer, but a lesser David Ayer is still more memorable than something generic. Compare this to The Last Stand. You can see it. Ultimately, this doesn’t amount to much, but you have some memorable faces (mostly TV) and Schwarzenegger doing something different. Which makes it a weird little movie that some people are going to like. Ultimately, though — I’ll take memorable enough.

Snowpiercer — * * * * (4 stars)

I fucking loved this. I love the idea of a movie that takes place entirely on a train and works its way from the back to the front. The movie itself was probably more like a 3.5 star movie, but I gave it the extra half star because of all the possibilities it kept me thinking about while watching it. So I enjoyed this. It’s a fun movie. And it’s unique. And those stand out to me. So this’ll end up as being one of the movies of 2014 I liked best because of that.

300: Rise of an Empire — * * * (3 stars)

This was one of those movies where, at first, when I heard about it, I went, “Okay.” I really didn’t think much of it. I didn’t think I’d care one bit. And then I saw a trailer in 3D Imax in front of The Hobbit and went, ‘You know… that actually looks pretty entertaining.” And I got way more excited for it. Of course, the finished product wasn’t gonna be as good as that initial excitement. And I knew that.  But still… it was the same palette as the original film, and because of that, I was entertained well enough. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s entertaining. It’s a weird sequel/prequel hybrid. Clearly setting up for a trilogy. Like, “Hey, here’s this chick’s story,” but also it goes on the same time as the other film and just after it. And they set up to be like, “All right, now let’s kill this fuck Xerxes.” Works for me. I can watch another one of these.

Vampire Academy — * * * (3 stars)

I was too close to this one. I had read the script, seen the different cuts. So I can’t give a totally objective rating. I thought the script was a 3.5 star movie, and that it was edited down to (barely) a 3 star movie. It’s probably not even that at this point, but like I said, I can’t be totally objective about it. I saw it a bunch and I thought it was decent enough. But I’ll admit that the editing of this movie was compromised, and it diluted what was a really funny script. It is what it is.

Veronica Mars — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Never watched the show, didn’t care about the movie. Still don’t care. It was there, I didn’t care. That’s the perfect review. “It was there, I didn’t care.” This was made to be a 2.5 star movie from me.

Winter’s Tale — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Meh. I see why people hated this, but I don’t care. I liked it. I mean… it’s compromised. It has (many) problems. But I like a good love story. And this was fine enough. I mean, maybe tone down, or at least maybe explain a little better the whole demon/Satan thing going on. Maybe deal with explaining a lot of things a little better. But overall, I liked it. It’s not as good as my rating, but I like what I like. That’s the deal.

The Young and Prodigious Spivet — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This is Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I’m always down for his stuff. This is also his most toned down film he’s made in a while. It still bears a lot of his trademarks, though. It’s a very likable film. And I always enjoy films with children as their protagonists. Especially children who are smarter or talk smarter than their age. That’s my thing. I love that. So I was pretty much predisposed to liking this. And it’s a good movie. Not one that’s gonna resonate for all time, but definitely one of those hidden gem entries in a filmography. Everyone’s gonna look at Amélie, Delicatessen and A Very Long Engagement when they look at Jeunet, but this is a sneaky good film. As someone trying to watch filmmakers’ entire filmographies at the moment, I really enjoy finding movies like this. The ones you didn’t really know about or never saw that are really enjoyable, even if they’re not the iconic films of that director. This is definitely one of those. Really enjoyed it.

The Films I Have But Haven’t Watched Yet

12 O’Clock Boys — I remember seeing the trailer for this documentary last year. They called it “The Wire with wheelies.” Which sounded fun. Not that I’ve seen The Wire. So I downloaded it because I had the opportunity to. Mostly I enjoyed that it was about people who just fuck with cops and the cops can’t do anything about it. That amused me. So I have this to watch. I probably will. In my quest to give documentaries a shot, despite my dislike of them as a genre.

After the Dark — This used to be called The Philosophers. I was very interested in this all of last year, and they kept pushing it. It’s the one about the kids who are given the project of figuring out which of them would get to live in a bomb shelter if the world were ending. Reminded me of Ladybug, Ladybug, which I loved. So I’ve been very excited about this. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I will.

The Art of the Steal — I’ve been tracking this since 2012, I think. It’s a heist movie. Those go easily. So I’ll see this. I’ll throw it on as junk food one day.

Bad Country — It has people I like in it. Pure junk food film.

Bad Words — Bateman. I heard it’s funny. I’m sure it’s decent enough.

The Bag Man — Tracked film.

Barefoot — Tracked film.

Best Man Down — Completely skipped it last year, but for some reason (I guess because the fucking internet showed me this non-stop for four months), it wore me down. So now I have it. So I guess I’m watching this now.

Best Night Ever — Look who made this. You’ll see why.

Better Living Through Chemistry — Also excited about this. Been tracking it for a while.

Brick Mansions — Bringing in some more at the last minute. This’ll be an easy watch. I saw this movie before when it was called District B13.

Devil’s Knot — was tracking this one. It’s Atom Egoyan, and stars Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos, Kevin Durand, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer, Amy Ryan Alessandro Nivola and Bruce Greenwood. There’s class here. And it’s about West Memphis Three. It would be weird if I didn’t see this.

Dom Hemingway — Have been very excited for this for a year now. Glad it finally came out.

Endless Love — Yeah. This.

Enemy — Very excited for this. After Prisoners, this dude has earned my loyalty for at least two movies after this.

A Field in England — It’s supposed to be trippy as shit. I’ll give it a shot.

Frankie and Alice — This movie is from four years ago. Halle Berry was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2010 for this movie. Look it up. I had this sitting around, probably never to be watched, and then I saw they were releasing it theatrically. Okay. What, are they going for the Jessica Lange? Blue Sky sits on the shelf three years and then she wins an Oscar for it? (Mostly because she was overdue and Jodie Foster had the best performance for Nell and she was coming off of two wins within the past six years. Halle Berry is neither of those things.) Either way, this’ll give me an opportunity to watch this and clear up the space.

Heaven Is For Real — Ha ha. Ha.

The Immigrant — Been really interested to see this since they announced it.

In the Blood — Total-padding film. Nothing more.

Jamesy Boy — Total-padder.

Oculus — Am I really gonna go through with this? We’ll see. Not much looking forward to it, though.

The Pirate Fairy — Tinker Bell animated movie. No fucking idea why I tracked this originally or why I have it, but goddamnit, I’m going to watch this.

The Raid 2: Berandal — Mostly because it’s a small file. I want to get around to this, but I will. So it’s not like I need to rush it on. Then there are expectations, and I just want to start every film at an even keel.

Stalingrad — It’s the highest grossing Russian movie of all time. I figure that means I should give it  shot.

Sunshine on Leith — It’s a British musical. I heard musical and went, “I’m in.”

That Awkward Moment — Got it. Haven’t watched it yet.

Tokarev — Cage movie!

The Trials of Cate McCall — was, and still am, excited for this one. I must be the only one still (or who has ever been) tracking this, or who’s even excited to see it. But don’t worry, filmmakers. You got someone.

Venus in Fur — Roman Polanski’s most recent. No idea what it is, but it’s him, so I’m seeing it.

Zulu — Crime film. These are easy. Also starring Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker. What?

Films I Haven’t Seen Yet (But Am Planning To See)

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Fading Gigolo
  • In Secret
  • Noah
  • The Other Woman
  • The Pretty One
  • Transcendence
  • Under the Skin

Quick notes — I could see Noah, but I haven’t gotten to a theater and don’t want to see the shitty copy that’s online, so I’ll probably wait until it comes out on DVD. I’m in no rush there. In Secret is gonna be VOD within the month, so that’ll be seen soon. The rest either got tiny releases that make them technically count or came out real recently, which is why I haven’t been able to procure them. I’ll see a lot of these. (At this point, the only wild card is Beauty and the Beast. I really have no idea what I’m gonna do with that one.)

Films I Deliberately Skipped

Pretty good so far this year. Only three. And, if you know the types of films I usually skip, then they will all make perfect sense.

Devil’s Due — Shitty horror movie. Yawn.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones — I was done with this franchise after the third one.

The Quiet Ones — Shitty horror movie. I don’t do these.

Single Moms Club — Tyler Perry movie.

See that? One a month. Technically I’m on a better pace than last year. (Technically.) That won’t last.

– – – – –

Highest Rated Films from January through April:

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Blood Ties
  3. Snowpiercer
  4. Draft Day
  5. Only Lovers Left Alive
  6. Joe
  7. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1
  8. Winter’s Tale
  9. Filth
  10. The Young and Prodigious Spivet
  11. The Monuments Men
  12. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Lowest Rated Films from January through April:

  1. I, Frankenstein
  2. The Legend of Hercules

Films Most Likely to Make the Top Ten Article

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel — looking like an 8-10 at best, and almost certainly an 11-20. That’s of course based on one watch. We’ll see how/if that changes after everything else comes out and I get a chance to watch it again. I always lowball stuff early on. Last year, I thought Gravity would end up #3 or #4. Things just change when it’s time to make the list.
  • Blood Ties — tier 2. Of course I’ll have to wrestle with the whole, “Well it’s sort of 2013… but they only put it out here this year” thing, but it’s still a tier two film.
  • Snowpiercer — tier two. For sure. Unless this year turns out to be ridiculously strong.
  • Draft Day — tier 3. Possible tier two, but it depends on how everything else shakes out.
  • Only Lovers Left Alive — tier 3. Maybe tier two if tier two is weak and this jumps to the front of the pack of three.
  • Joe — tier 3. Good stuff.
  • Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 — tier 3. Also gonna have to decide if I’m counting this as one or two films. It feels like two.
  • Winter’s Tale — a fringe tier 3
  • Filth — might hold on for a tier 3. But also kind of a 2013 film.
  • The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet — might hold on for tier 3. Again, kind of a 2013 film.
  • The Monuments Men — low end tier 3. Not sure if it holds on.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — fringe tier 3. Doubtful, but it’s possible.

Films Likely to Appear in the Unforgivables Article

  • I, Frankenstein — oh, it’ll be on there. I doubt it’ll make the top ten, but it’ll be in that next batch. Because what the hell?
  • The Legend of Hercules — the 16-15 bracket was made for films like this.
  • Pompeii — Oh yeah, total bottom 25-er.
  • A Haunted House 2 — well fucking really.

– – – – – – – – – –

So that’s that. I’ll go back to disappearing for a little while. I’m making real good progress on this script. So if that gets done, I should be back within the month or so to start posting things again. If not, then that just means more Fun with Franchises articles for next time.

P.S. You can follow my progress on what I’ve been watching here. There won’t be a reviews article until August (ish), but at least you can look and see which movies I’ve watched most recently. For, whatever reason you’d want to do that.


3 responses

  1. Nice to see you back, and I love this summary of reviews!

    April 30, 2014 at 7:39 pm

  2. I’m huge von Trier fan, and I loved Vol 1 of Nymphomaniac, while Vol 2 was good up until the last half hour, when…I think it was the cutting. The 5 hour version probably works a lot better, especially in those sections. So I’m going to wait until I see that before I really rank it in the year as a whole.

    Can’t wait to see Snowpiercer. Cannot fucking wait.

    I’ve seen some of the films you haven’t seen yet:
    – Bad Words: It’s funny as hell. Gets a touch soft, but still, you can mostly just revel in how horrible the protagonist is.
    – Dom Hemingway: Law is great. The film…meh. It’s very average. But he makes it worth a watch.
    – Enemy: So great. Kind of a lark, which is fine, considering how bleak and heavy Prisoners was. I loved it, and Gyllenhaal was magnificent.
    – Noah: Yawn. Big letdown. Not terrible, but I expected something much more memorable.
    – The Raid 2: The action scenes are as great as ever. I found the story a bit tiresome (yeah, I wasn’t expecting a lot, but it’s so formulaic it was kind of annoying), but it succeeded where it counts.
    – Under the Skin: Saw it twice. It’s got some marvelous things in it, but unlike great abstract films like The Tree of Life or Upstream Color, it never seems to really let loose. It all feels kind of calculated, without really having much to say. So while it’s beautifully shot…I wasn’t thrilled with it.

    May 1, 2014 at 12:39 am

  3. Chinoiserie

    Nice that you are back. Is Ranking Disney Frozen coming soon? And I you did not do studio report for 2012 but it would be nice if you would do one for 2013 anyway.

    May 1, 2014 at 9:21 am

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