2014: The Year in Reviews (Part II)

It’s been another third of the year, so let’s check in with the films of 2014 that I’ve watched since April.

What I do over the course of each year is, every January, I do my Film Release Calendar. And then, over the course of the year, I watch everything that comes out. (Basically everything. Last year I was running something like 92%.) And then, in December, I recap everything I saw and didn’t see. However, over the course of the year, once in April, once in August and once in December, I throw up quick reviews articles that contain my reaction to watching the films shortly after I saw them. The idea being that I can use these reviews against what I think about the films in December to come up with a true rating for them.

The April article contained all of the films I watched over the first four months of the year, and this article will contain everything I’ve watched between May and August. This does not necessarily include all the films that came out during this time. It’s just what I’ve watched. I will first list (and rate and review) everything I watched during that time, then I will tell you what films I have, but have yet to watch, and then which films I’ve yet to see and haven’t been able to obtain a copy of. This is merely making my life easier come December, that’s all.

And then, just like last time (I won’t be doing this in the next article, just now), I’ll put up a list of what films are most likely to end up in my Top Ten article (either in the top ten, or 11-20, or tiers 2 or 3), or my Unforgivables article. Oh, and I’ll continue to inform you about which films I have deliberately skipped from the year and have no intention of ever watching.

So there we are. Here’s all the stuff from 2014 I watched between May and now:

About Alex — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

A low rent Big Chill with unlikable characters. That’s really the only way I can describe this. The characters are around my age/slightly older and talk like the characters of a first-time writer, which is why they’re unlikable. Also, this movie doesn’t kill the person who brought them there. Which is an awful representation of what’s happened to movies over the past 30 years. So rather than keep talking, I’m just gonna tell you all to watch The Big Chill and forget about this movie.

After the Dark — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I liked it. I mean, I figured I would, but I like the idea of it. Because it made me think. At first I was concerned, because all the students in the class were way more intelligent than your average class, but I settled in pretty quickly. Plus it doesn’t take place in American, so I just assume they’re naturally more intelligent. But the idea was enough to keep me invested. Basically, the idea is — nuclear annihilation is going to happen, here’s a bunker that can sustain just ten people. We have 20. So here’s cards with who everyone is, now decide who gets to go inside and who doesn’t. It’s a fascinating thought experiment, and brings about a very interesting second act for the film. Problem is, the ultimate purpose for the whole thing, once it’s revealed, really kills any momentum the whole thing had. Which is a shame. But still, I always like films that make me think of films that go down easy. So I was still quite the fan of this one, even if a lot of people won’t be. This is just one of those things I accept. Still, I’d say, while people should see this film, I’d recommend Ladybug Ladybug more, since that’s… it’s a different kind of movie, but way more satisfying and horrifyingly realistic about what happens to people, while this is more of a theoretical version of that. Still… I liked it.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn — * * * (3 stars)

He’s almost too angry. I mean, sure, the concept is great, but when you see how angry he is, it almost feels to over the top. There definitely are moments in this movie that are really entertaining and even funny, but overall, it feels like something that sounds better in theory than it is in execution. I’d say it’s worth a single watch, just because of the cast. But ultimately it doesn’t amount to much more than a, “That was all right.” Highlight probably goes to James Earl Jones. Nice little cameo he had there.

Are You Here — * * (2 stars)

Yeesh. I mean, granted, I’ve never watched an episode of Mad Men, but I hear it’s not bad. This… is not a good movie. It’s all about the tone. It’s not a comedy, it’s not a drama, and it doesn’t feel like a competent mix between the two. This seems to happen a lot with TV directors. Not to mention, the film is horribly cast. So, it goes down as a disappointing misfire from someone considered a very intelligent and creative type. Shit happens. Fortunately no one really saw how bad this was. So it’s almost like it never happened. But trust me… not a good movie.

The Art of the Steal — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

These are the kinds of movies I used to love. In the 90s, early 2000s. These B movies that are either heist movies or thrillers. I see no problem with a movie like this. If you think it through, you know how it’s going to end, but who cares, because it’s fun. I like heist movies. Some people like horror movies. I like what I like. And this was entertaining. I’m sure it’s only a 3 star movie, but give me one of these any day over half the other stuff that comes out.

Bad Country — * * * (3 stars)

Honestly… the cast is the only thing worth seeing in this. It’s a great cast, and a movie that’s just okay. It doesn’t amount to anything more than a movie you watch on Showtime one day and go, “Shit… look at all these people I like.” But that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that. This is a perfectly acceptable movie.

Bad Words — * * * (3 stars)

It’s fun watching grown people be mean to kids. It just is. I wish there was more of it. But this movie also does have a heart. Which, is kind of nice, and also not as cliche as you’d think. The way the competition ends is pretty funny. Ultimately, this is a movie that could have amounted to more, but I’m glad it didn’t amount to less. It’s perfectly acceptable and definitely has its moments. Funny enough to recommend. Not highly, but you’ll enjoy it.

The Bag Man — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This is definitely one of those B movies you watch on Showtime because Robert De Niro and John Cusack are in it. It’s — mediocre. That’s the best way to describe it. Not too good and not too bad. I am indifferent toward this. Not good, not bad. Just is. The most you’ll get out of this is, “Ehh… I liked it,” in that wavering tone.

Barefoot — * * * (3 stars)

It’s probably offensive, and probably not a good movie, but I sort of enjoyed it. I want to think this movie meant well. And I like Evan Rachel Wood. Otherwise — it’s an indie movie, and feels like an indie movie. So it hits the usual pitfalls. You probably won’t get too much out of this, but I’ll give it a moderate thumbs up.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball — * * * * (4 stars)

This is a documentary just waiting to become a movie. My god. The story is incredible. The doc itself is only 70 minutes and is basically just an excuse to tell the story. But it’s such a story that who cares? It’s on Netflix, so you can actually bang this out in just over an hour. Here’s the story: Bing Russell, Kurt Russell’s father, who was on Bonanza for a long time, bought an independent minor league baseball team called the Portland Mavericks for $500. It wasn’t affiliated with any team, he just bought it because he loved baseball. So, being independent, they couldn’t use a farm system, so they had open tryouts. And it turned into Major League. All sorts of crazy characters came out of the woodwork. And they fielded a team. And it quickly became the most fun team in all of baseball. They had all these crazy antics, everyone was clearly having the time of their lives, and all of the team members had their own thing. And the best thing about it? They were good. They would regularly beat the actual minor league ball clubs. To the point where, when the playoffs and stuff would come, baseball would send down bigger names just so they could beat this team, because they saw it as an infringing outsider. And they didn’t care. The team was so progressive, having the first Asian and the first female GMs in the history of baseball. And they ran for about four years, reigniting the passion for baseball in Oregon, were beloved by fans, and almost won the pennant in their final year. Which was the last straw. At that point, baseball said, “We’re coming back to Portland,” which meant that the team had to be sold, due to weird zoning rules. So they offered Russell $26,000 for the team, way above his investment. And he said, “Put a zero between the 2 and the 6 and you have a deal.” And they thought this was a joke. They didn’t respect him, and they laughed at him. So he took them to arbitration. And he won. So he made $200,000 for the team, and it was disbanded. And the best part? You’d think that everyone would have gone off and been killed or went to jail or whatever… not the case. The pitcher (who had been a baseball star earlier but was blackballed for writing a tell-all about what happened on the road) went back to the majors for a while. Two other guys on the team founded Big League Chew and made millions of dollars. The fucking batboy was Todd Field! Todd Field, Oscar-nominated director of In the Bedroom and Little Children. I shit you not. It’s insane how great this story is, and how tailor-made for a movie it is. I’m serious. Even if the doc isn’t brilliant filmmaking, the story itself is so good that you just need to see it. You watch this and want to see the movie version of this story. It’s so good. And like I said, 70 minutes. You’ll get more out of this than 75% of anything you watch this year. Trust me.

Beauty and the Beast — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Mostly I didn’t care. Looks great though. And everyone knows the story. So you can get through it. Otherwise, this was done better twice before, once by Cocteau and once by Disney. Watch those. Unless you really love the story, in which case, this is perfectly acceptable.

Begin Again — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I get why people hated this. I get why people would be disappointed with this. But it’s not shit. I know there will be people who really loved this movie, and will continue to love this movie, despite most people being pretty indifferent and negative about the whole thing. And you’re right. It’s not a bad movie. I didn’t love it. But it’s not bad. The problem with this one, for a lot of people, is that they were comparing it to Once, which is a… Once in a lifetime kind of movie. (I regret nothing.) That movie felt organic. It captured two people making beautiful music who were in love at the time. That movie is more than the sum of its parts. Whereas this movie… is not that. It’s scripted, it has a finely cultivated soundtrack, and is kind of a version of Once made with more money, which is exactly what that movie wasn’t about. So I get why people feel this is disingenuous (especially considering the fact that it casts a member of Maroon 5 in a movie that’s supposed to be about music being made from the heart and not for the purposes of fame). You don’t cast the people they cast in this movie and be allowed to say how it’s about “real” music and all that. Half the cast is on a reality singing competition show. That’s complete horse shit. And that’s the king of stuff that works against what is ultimately a nice, pleasant little movie that’s not trying to hurt anybody. The only thing this movie hurts is itself, by doing exactly what it’s trying not to have its characters do, which is sell out. And that part is a shame. I’d have wanted more of them putting together the album rather than montaging through it. That’s where this movie feels disingenuous. It’s trying to tell the story with a plot than through the music. That’s where the issue comes for me. But ultimately, whatever. I’ll give it a good rating once, rather than watching it again and again. Watch this movie once and then listen to the Once soundtrack for the umpteenth time. But know, there is a better movie in here that wasn’t fully realized.

Behaving Badly — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I have no idea what this is and what it was supposed to be. I kept tracking it thinking this would be the Selena Gomez version of LOL, that Miley Cyrus movie only I was paying attention to that managed to become a memorable Unforgivable. But this isn’t Selena Gomez’s movie. And it’s really weird. It’s this bizarre screwball comedy. Or something. The kind of movie you’d see get made in abundance in the 90s. And it made me wonder how it possibly got made now. I’m sure the book was really funny. The movie didn’t turn out so hot. It’s actually pretty bizarre. And not that great. But I’ll ultimately say indifferent, because what I was expecting wasn’t nearly as bad as what I got.

Belle — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Great movie. And I bet you’ve never heard of it. I was all in favor of it when I heard it. It’s about Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was the daughter of a British naval captain and a West Indies slave. And she was sent to England and raised as an educated governess. And, partly because of this, her uncle, who was her guardian as well as Chief Justice of England, made some really important rulings against slavery. The dude ended slavery in England. Anyway, this is her story. And it’s an important one. And one I really wanted to see, because given who she was, she had a very unique and difficult social position. Plus it’s nice seeing black characters in aristocratic roles in this era. And I’m happy to say, the film is really good. And worth seeing. I am going to beat the drum for this film the rest of the year. Completely underseen, and it’s better than half the stuff that came out over the summer. Which is just unfair. Everyone should see this on principle, just so you can be better people.

Berbarian Sound Studio — * * * (3 stars)

This is a weird little movie. I recommend this one just for the experience. It’s like a Kafka novel mixed with Hitchcock mixed with Blow Out. The gist is — Toby Jones is a sound mixer who goes to Italy to do sound work for a movie. And it’s a glorified giallo film, only the director refuses to admit it. And slowly, things start to get very strange, and lines start to get blurred about what’s real, and what isn’t. And I really think it’s worth watching just for how they use sound design. Few films really use sound design artfully and as a part of the plot. And I’ll always speak highly of this film for that alone.

Best Man Down — * * * (3 stars)

This is apparently a 2012 movie, and got released late last year on VOD, and I had the chance to see it then, but didn’t. It just didn’t seem interesting to me. And then I had no plans to even see it this year, but then, for whatever reason, I did. I’m not really sure why. But as I watched it, it really wasn’t what I thought it would be. It really defied my expectations. For some reason I thought it would be more about what the first fifteen minutes are and not what the rest of the film is. This film really had a heart, and was really more than I thought it was going to be. So for that, I say good job. I liked this movie. It doesn’t rise above being an “indie,” quotes and all, but it’s still a movie that was more than I thought. And I like when that happens.

Best Night Ever — * ½ (1.5 stars)

Friedberg and Seltzer made this movie. Think of it as a female version of The Hangover, shot entirely as a found footage movie. So, if you thought there wasn’t a perfect trifecta of things I hate, you were wrong. I will give them credit for at least trying to make a movie with a coherent story, that’s not an assemblage of what they consider parody (I have no idea what it actually is). But after that — holy shit, was this movie awful. I mean… yeah. You know what you’re getting at this point. It’s just lowest common denominator humor. Nothing good can come of this movie. And you shouldn’t watch it. Unless you hate yourself. Because it’s bad. It’s not Unforgivable, because I don’t even know if I even want to waste the time on these guys anymore. Plus, no one but me even knows this movie exists, so it’s not like it’s worth berating too much. I bet at least a dozen people reading this thought this was Moms’ Night Out. But yeah. Enjoy it while it lasts, people. This is their “serious” movie. Now they’re going back to “spoofs” or whatever the fuck they call them, of Fast and the Furious and Taken. So if anyone’s looking for more ammo for that suicide note…

Better Living Through Chemistry — * * * (3 stars)

It’s never better living through calculus. Because math is evil. People say that science is ultimately a smarter career choice than trying to be a writer or a director, but the movie called Better Living Through Chemistry was made by a film major. Which is pretty ironic. But yeah… it’s fine. I should have guessed because they released it VOD and bumped it that it wasn’t going to be as good as the cast made it seem. But whatever. It was fine. I enjoyed it enough and it’s entertaining. Plus, like I said, it has a good cast. So it’s fine. Worth seeing for them and you get through it just fine. Totally decent movie.

Blended — * ½ (1.5 stars)


Blue Ruin — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I could have seen this last year, I think. But then I didn’t. Or maybe it was that I could have seen it for the last set of articles but didn’t. That seems more likely. But either way, initially I ignored this. And I sort of heard that people liked it, which still didn’t really sway me. I think I ended up seeing it just because I was in the mode of, “Fuck it, let’s just watch as much as I can.” Which was great, since I liked this movie quite a bit. It’s definitely a slow burn of a movie. Very simple story, unfolds very naturally, and doesn’t get too big. I mean, in a way it does, if you’ve seen the end, but it’s still a very small story. And I liked that. It tells what it wants to tell, and tells it effectively. And for the 90 or 100 minutes, you’re invested in it. That’s a good movie. Simple as that.

Boyhood — * * * * (4 stars)

I think the best review of this movie is one I heard before I even saw it. Which is, “It’s great, but everyone’s sucking its dick too much.” Which I agree with. To start, the movies is great. It’s completely watchable, even at almost 3 hours long. Does it deserve to be a top 20 movie for the year for most people? Sure. The concept is brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant, and on that alone, this will stand the test of time as a movie that everyone needs to see. Now, will I have this in my top ten at the end of the year? Absolutely not. Will it be in my top 20? Probably not. Do I respect the hell out of it? 100%. It’s a really good movie. I really enjoyed it, and I think it is a really terrific film. But I’m not gonna go suck its dick like everyone else is doing and will do for the rest of the year. I want this to be known now, because I will judge everyone’s top ten lists at the end of the year based on how (because I already know the will) they include this film. This is going to be one of those marker films I have at the end of each year that tells me how pretentious a person’s film tastes are based on whether or not they’re in their top ten lists. Too many of them, and I stop reading. (And people will always have the same ones that everyone else has. Always.) Because it’s not exactly a deep film. They took a real kid and were like, “Okay, so what’s going on in your life this year?” And they just wrote a short film based on that. That’s all they did. There’s not really a cohesive story here. You’re just watching a kid grow up. And I know the people who grew up on cinema vérité are gonna talk about how great the whole thing is and how great the cast was. I just saw a good movie that’s all concept and a decent execution. And good for them. No one else thought of it. So I’m glad they pulled it off. Do I think this should be a major contender for awards? Absolutely not. Nominate it all you want, though. I’m all for it just because of the story that comes with it. But I’ll let you all know right now… you better talk a real good game when this goes on your top ten list, otherwise you’re going to sound like an asshole.

Brick Mansions — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I think I did know what this was back in January, but then I forgot about it. And when I watched it, I realized very quickly, “Wait… this is just an American remake of District B13?” Which made me disappointed. And then they just cast the same French guy in his part, just because he could do the parkour. And then they fucking dubbed over his voice with Vin Diesel! I mean, it’s so clearly Vin Diesel too. They didn’t even try to hide it. So basically I’m watching a lesser remake of a good movie, with the same actor, who doesn’t even speak his own fucking lines. I lost interest pretty quickly. And there’s no casino scene equivalent, which made me really lose interest.

Calvary — * * * (3 stars)

It was fine. I remember, with The Guard, I thought I was getting something funnier than it was. Not to say it wasn’t funny. It just was more serious than I figured. And then with this, there was no worry about that. This is a drama from the start. Man walks into a confessional and says he’s going to kill the priest a week from that day. Not for any reason. Not because he’s a bad priest. But because he’s a good priest. And that’s the film. And the rest is the week leading up to that moment. It’s a good film. Probably better than my rating, but my rating reflects how much I loved it. And I only moderately liked it. But it was good.

Chef — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Really, really liked this. For some reason I can’t bring myself to say 4 stars here, even though I’m feeling like this will become 4 stars over time. So we’ll let it become 4 stars. Either way, I really enjoyed this movie. I actually started liking it more after they got on the food truck, and almost wished there was more of that. But even so, it’s a really enjoyable movie, and everyone in it is really likable. Favreau was always a good actor with the right role, and he excels here. The cameos are nice and don’t detract from the movie, and it’s just a really pleasant movie. I don’t see how people could dislike this. You might think it’s not of much substance, but this is a hard movie to dislike. And, yeah, the “food making as movie” metaphor is pretty overt, but I don’t have a problem with it. He had a personal story to tell, as a reaction to his experiences of making the Iron Man movies. And it works. I don’t have a problem with it, because the themes stand on their own, even if you don’t know the subtext. This is looking like one of those tier 3 movies that could be a fringe tier 2 movie come year’s end. Big fan of this.

Coherence — * * * (3 stars)

This is a weird movie. I thought I was getting more than I got, but it was all right. Not too crazy to recommend, and not too out there to say to disregard. So it ends up in a weird place. I’m sure not many people will ever end up seeing this. But I imagine in the right setting, this could be very enjoyable. So, three stars, wasn’t bad, that’s all I got.

Cold in July — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Indifferent. Not a bad movie, I just… didn’t care. Not their fault. Just not entirely for me. It happens.

The Congress — * * * * (4 stars)

This movie was fucking great. It’s a weird one. Just watch the trailer and you’ll see how weird it is. But it’s a fascinating movie, and will definitely be one of my favorites from the year when all is said and done. I don’t even know what to say about it. I just recommend that you watch it. It’s worth the watch. Really good movie that will end up as one of the more underseen good movies of 2014.

Cuban Fury — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I got what I was expecting. I don’t really think there’s much more to say. This movie is exactly what you think it is, and that’s it. It is what it is.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — * * * * (4 stars)

I feel like I’m constantly underestimating this franchise. Going into the first one, I thought it would be a disaster. I guess it was because they pushed it from November to the summer. But that actually ended up being a sign of strength, and the film turned out really terrific. And, going into this one, I just had the mindset of, “I’m sure this will be solid, and be a decent sequel, but I’m just not sure of how much I’m gonna like it.” I guess I should continue going into these movies thinking that, since I liked this one better than the first one. It was so well done. Within the first twenty minutes, I was remarking to myself how much I loved the amount of apes time we got, the fact that they knew how to shoot in 3D and let shots linger for more than two seconds, the set design (I’m sure a lot of it was computer aided, but the locations and sets in this movie looked absolutely fantastic), and the fact that they had the balls to make a big tentpole action movie with actual complexity to it. Do you guys know how refreshing it is to see characters be more than one-dimensional? I figured it would be – apes hate humans, humans hate apes, Caesar understands peace can be had, Jason Clarke understands this as well. But each side doesn’t allow that to happen. But the motivations in this movie were way more complicated than that. Each side has its own goals, and each is wary about the other, and fear causes them to make some bad decisions. As I was watching it, I couldn’t believe they allowed the film to be this complicated without fear the audiences wouldn’t be able to handle it. They’re getting major kudos for that alone. Either way, I really loved this, I liked it better than the first one (the fact that Franco’s not in it helps too), and this will end up another solid tier two film come year’s end. I hope franchise continues to be this good.

Decoding Annie Parker — * * * (3 stars)

I’ve been tracking this for two years now. Possibly even 3. So it was never going to live up to the hype. But I still got an entertaining movie that I liked. Which is fine. But it’s one of those indie movies that barely got released, that no one will see, and is one that I can’t even recommend that strongly, because it’s not good enough to overcome a strong sell. So this will end up languishing on IMDB pages until people do that thing where they go, “Hey, I really like this person,” and go look up all of the movies they made. And you’ll be treated with a movie you never knew about that’s actually pretty good.

Deliver Us from Evil — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I mean, it had me marginally interested for the first 20 minutes, I liked the zoo sequence, but once we got to the exorcism stuff, I just didn’t care. And ultimately, since the film is more about the exorcism than the police work, I didn’t care. The characters were mostly caricatures (apparently all eastern European housewives carry cigarettes between their fingers at all times), and I appreciate that it tried to do horror more in the vein of The Exorcist and less like the shit they make now, but it just didn’t work for me. So, kudos for the effort, but ultimately I didn’t care.

Devil’s Knot — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

No. That’s really all I have to say about this. No to Reese Witherspoon, no to the subject matter. Just, no to everything. This movie was a chore to sit through, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it wasn’t a particularly good movie. Because it’s not. So we give it the ‘meh’ and move on.

Dom Hemingway — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I had pretty high expectations for this movie. And they were mostly met. I almost wish he did more drugs and drink more throughout the film, but the film is still pretty good. It works. Definitely would have been a better received movie if it were made 40 years ago, but that can’t be helped. While it won’t rate near the very top of my year-end list, it’ll probably make an appearance on there somewhere. I still enjoyed this well enough.

The Double — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Two of these movies this year. This one was a lot of fun. Enemy is more serious, and has a much different tone. This one is just laugh out loud funny. It’s so bizarre, and the stuff that happens is just incredible. Really funny. Great performances. Eisenberg and Wasikowska are fantastic in this. And Richard Ayoade is two for two in movies I liked. This one will definitely (along with Enemy) be a movie I show people just to see their reactions to it. This will be a fun share for years to come.

Edge of Tomorrow — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I’ll start by saying, as I always do — Tom Cruise generally makes worthwhile movies. At worse, he makes movies that are miscalculated, or misfires, with good premises behind them. Like Valkyrie. Great idea, just an okay movie. Or Oblivion. Looked good, was just okay. Or Rock of Ages. Complete misfire, but I understand why he wanted to play the part. And he’s not the reason that movie sucked. You get my drift. So, with this, you hear the premise of this movie, and you think, “That can’t possibly suck.” The worst this was going to be was something that didn’t live up to his potential, but was still watchable due to its budget and Tom Cruise’s innate star power and dedication to trying to make a good movie every time. He’s more about quality and not money (though money is always in there, as it has to be with movie stars), unlike Will Smith, who is all about maximizing profit. And, honestly, this is a good movie. Very enjoyable, and very well done. I was worried about the original writer not even being credited, and the script being completely overhauled, but even that didn’t seem to ruin the premise. (Though I wonder if I read the original Dante Harper, All You Need Is Kill script, if it would be better than the movie.) I really enjoyed this, and my only issues with it were that there were points where I wanted to see more trial and error regarding the time loop, and then maybe a little bit at the end. The whole “destroying the mothership” thing. I think a lot of people had problems with that. It felt a bit watered down around the edges, since it could have been a little grittier, but that’s to be expected. Overall, I got a movie I quite enjoyed. And while it won’t end up as more than a tier 3 movie for me, that’s still good enough. It tells me that I can continue to trust Cruise for quality. That’s a rare thing nowadays.

Endless Love — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Yes, I’m going to mention the trailer. Did you see the trailer for this movie? It made it look like a horror film. It was completely bizarre. And then I saw the movie, expecting an easy 2 stars… and it wasn’t that bad. I mean, it wasn’t good, but they went the route of unabashed romance and drama. Which I’m totally cool with. The kind of movie where the love between the characters is the biggest and most important thing in the world. So basically the Romeo and Juliet thing. Which… no problem with that. The movie, though… it was just way too serious and overemotional for me. There’s a point where it just reaches overkill. It’s one of those movies that can only be released on Valentine’s Day, because only teenage girls are going to enjoy it. The rest of us are just going to be indifferent.

Enemy — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

What a weird, weird movie. This works as a nice double bill with The Double. The perfect “double” bill, actually. (I’m awesome. I know.) This is the more serious of the two. The Double is more farce, and absurd humor, while this is more meditative and a slow-burn. They’re not comparable outside of subject matter, and they’re both good movies. It’s hard for me to explain this, since… not much happens. And it gets existential toward the end. But it’s really good. Though if you liked Prisoners, do NOT go into this movie with that kind of mindset. This is a completely different movie. Gyllenhaal is excellent, as is everyone else in the movie. It’s just a really good little movie that works.

The Expendables 3 — * * * (3 stars)

I enjoyed the living shit out of this. I just do. These types of films are my guilty pleasures. Only, I’m not even guilty about it. I feel no shame about this. I was worried about this franchise after the last one, which was way too self-aware. This one, despite moving down to PG-13 (which is incredible that this is the first PG-13 entry in the franchise. It doesn’t feel any different), flows well. They do the “young blood” thing for a while, and that keeps it interesting, rather than retreading screen personas of past stars for cheap humor. They manage to tone down the cheesy dialogue for a while, which I liked. Of course it’s all generic, but what is this if not the definition of generic? It works. It’s a fun action movie, and they parade enough stars in there for it to work. I was worried I’d have to drop the guess rating for this franchise to 2.5 after this, but I can keep it as a solid 3. As long as they keep them like this, I’m cool with this franchise going for a couple more films. They’re not harming anybody. Just don’t have it get too full of itself, and I’m fine with it.

The Face of Love — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This is one of those spur-of-the-moment watches. I saw this two days after Robin Williams died. I was tracking it last year, and it never came out, and I went. “I don’t care enough to see this.” And then he died, and I saw that I had the ability to see it, and that he was in it, so I went, “Well, I’ve seen 90% of everything he’s done, so let’s see this.” So I saw it. And… meh. It’s just there. Adults with adult problems. The idea being a widow starts dating a man who looks exactly like her husband. It’s there. Good actors, but the movie didn’t do anything for me.

Fading Gigolo — * * * (3 stars)

I wanted to say, “It’s weird.” But I saw Romance and Cigarettes. That was weird. And I loved that. This was weird in a different way. It was more toned down weirdness. It felt like it wanted to be a John Turturro film and a Woody Allen film at the same time. Which leaves it a bit strange, tonally. There’s a lot of hasidic Jewish humor here. It can throw you off. Ultimately, the movie is okay, and watchable, but it just didn’t have that spark his last movie had. I’d recommend people see this just because Woody Allen plays a pimp in it, but otherwise, I’d say people should go see Romance and Cigarettes instead. Or, at least, before this. If you had to choose one or the other.

The Fault in Our Stars — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I actually liked it. I’m not gonna pretend like I thought it was just fine. I actually did like it. Maybe it’s Shailene Woodley, maybe it’s just the tone they took with her character. Maybe it’s both, I don’t know. But what I thought for sure would be a 3 star movie actually ended up making me like it quite a bit. And I’m happy about that. I’m sure it wouldn’t hold up on repeated watches, but the one time, I liked it more than I thought I would, and I’m okay with that. I didn’t mind your typical YA tropes, since it had a fresh perspective about things and just had attitude about it that I connected with. So good job. I’m happy for them and  their success.

Frank — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

It’s a movie not without its problems, and it’s by no means a perfect, or even accessible movie. But it is an interesting movie, and not for the reason you’d expect. It’s not a comedy, though it’s oddly funny, and it’s not a drama, though it has some really dark elements. There’s a lot of really fascinating things going on, from the opening section, inside the head of the main character, to the middle, which is a weird meditation on the creative process, and then the rest of the film, which is, in various ways, about mental illness. It’s an endlessly fascinating movie, and I think it’s so difficult in terms of tone and accessibility that a lot of people will be (and probably have been) turned off by it. Which is a shame. It’s one of those movies that will stick with you long after you see it. And not because it features a dude in a giant head the whole movie.

Frankie and Alice — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Weird history with this one. Halle Berry was nominated in 2010 for a Golden Globe for this. (I’m sure I recapped this in January, but it’s always worth mentioning.) Then it never really came out, even though I had a screener copy of it that I never watched. And then randomly it was on the release calendar for this year, and got a limited release this year. I have no idea why. It made no sense. The movie’s not very good, either. It’s an Oscar-bait type of role, but the movie’s no good. It’s kind of like The Soloist. Remember that movie? Joe Wright, Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx? It turned into the female version of that. Not a horrible movie (though I’m sure some might think so), just… there. So really the only thing I’m gonna remember this for is the weird release history of it. Which is something.

Get On Up — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Really liked this. Chadwick Boseman is a fucking star. You could see it when he played Jackie Robinson, and you could even see it in Draft Day. The man is a fucking star, and this is his coming out party. Holy shit, is he amazing in this. The film ultimately lets him down, and I’m curious to see how far he gets in the awards circuit with it. Because the performance is fucking incredible. But as for him, no doubt about it. This man should be getting all the roles. Because he can carry whatever he wants. The film itself is too light around the edges to be great. The Help got away with it (which is a shame, because now this one won’t. This won’t get nearly as far as The Help did, awards-wise). There were also some strange choices made with it. Him talking to the camera and such. Just odd. No idea why they did that. Plus, your standard musical biopic narrative — flashing back to childhood, that whole thing — it would have worked a lot better ten years ago, now it just feels like a retread of other movies. So it ends up taking away from what the film could have been. As it is, the film is fine, but without Boseman, it would just be okay. He gives the movie a whole half-star bump. He’s that good in this. That’s why you need to see it. No other reason. The movie is good. But Chadwick Boseman is amazing.

God’s Pocket — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s got people in it, but it’s just all right. Mostly I didn’t care. I got through it. Almost 3 stars, but ultimately… meh.

Godzilla — * * * * (4 stars)

I was with this from the opening credits. Which, to get it out of the way — Alexandre Desplat wrote a hell of a score here. It’s big and bold, and not enough scores are like that anymore. I’m actually surprised he was the one who did it. Good for him. Anyway — this movie was amazing. I loved every second of it. Apparently people didn’t like it. Not sure why. But that’s not my concern. I loved this movie, and outside of Wes Anderson, this was my favorite movie of the first eight months of the year. Really hoping this holds on for a top 20 spot come year’s end. I saw this in the Cinerama Dome, too. That was fun as shit. Big movies deserve big screens.

Grace of Monaco — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Not to anyone’s surprise, this was pretty lifeless. I’m sure we all knew it when they bumped it out of the awards season last year, but then they bumped the March release date to put it in Cannes. And then that Cannes response… yeesh. And they were right. It’s a pretty lifeless biopic, horribly miscast, and it will go down along with movies like Diana last year as ones that just don’t do biopic correctly. Oh well. It’s not like I had any particular hope for this one. It seemed a bad idea from the start. So it comes and goes and we move on.

Guardians of the Galaxy — * * * * (4 stars)

I’ll preface this review by saying this might (and probably will) go down to 3.5 stars come December, but honestly, I had such fun watching this movie, I felt it deserved this. This movie was so much goddamn fun. It was just charming. And I’m a James Gunn fan. I didn’t love Slither, but it had moments I really liked. And I love Super. I think that movie is brilliant. So hearing he was going to direct this, I was extremely excited. Plus, it felt like it had the ability to be something different than the usual Marvel shit because it takes place on the other side of the universe. And all of that turned out to be true. The real part I loved was how entertaining the characters were. Once they got together, the whole thing felt really natural. Which is pretty great, since you have a human, a green chick, a raccoon, a tree, and a giant (of sorts). Not exactly the most natural cast of characters. But honestly, I was more invested in them than I was in the Avengers. Since Thor has no character, Captain America is pretty one-dimensional, and there’s only so many notes you can play with Hulk. Here, at least, I understood the characters and their motivations for being part of the group. And now I like the characters, so I just want to see their adventures. This is how you set up a movie. And I’m now very excited to see Guardians 2. Otherwise — other random comments: soundtrack was fun. A little more on the nose than I was hoping for, but they were fun choices. The Redbone track for the opening credits was a stroke of genius. Outside of that, I can’t fault them for any cliched choices they made after that. Also, Ronan felt very underutilized. Which I understand, since more of him would take away from the main characters. But still. He felt underdeveloped and there could have been more room there for him to be fleshed out. (Motivations also felt crazy underdeveloped. Mentioned once, “I want to fuck up this planet,” and never again. And we just go with it, because that’s what you do.) Finally, they explained that infinity stone bullshit. Was hoping Benicio Del Toro would have more to do. And I was hoping his “Liberace in space” comment about the Collector would actually prove to be more entertaining than it was. Thanos is interesting to me, mostly because he just sits on his floating throne and smirks all the time. Curious to see what they do with him. Hopefully they don’t waste him like Marvel loves doing. Really liked the idea of Nebula as a character. She looked fantastic. I’m glad they didn’t kill her but am upset she didn’t get more of a chance to have a full-on fight with Gamora. They cut away from most of it. Rocket was entertaining as hell. Vin Diesel, I thought, was a little bit of stunt casting, since they didn’t even vary his “I am Groot”s that much. They had a chance to really show range there, but they didn’t. Bautista was really nice to see. He did a fantastic job there. And Zoe Saldana is someone I like, and I felt Star Trek wasted her. But she did a terrific job here. So good for her. Also, don’t look now, she’s currently in three giant franchises (don’t forget the blue chick she’s about to play twice more). And she does great shit like Out of the Furnace. Good for her. And Chris Pratt — people are saying he’s gonna be a movie star, but he won’t. They’ll have him topline a few movies, and he’ll be fine, but it’s not gonna last. He’s one of those guys better-suited to the sidekick role. Really don’t see him as A-list movie star for much longer. But if he is, good for him. He’s charming as hell. (This is turning into a really long review, because I’m writing it immediately after seeing the movie.) Also, can we take “I am Groot” and set it to the “I’m a dude” song from Good Burger? Am I the only one who had that thought? Ultimately, the movie is a lot of fun, kind of a rock n roll Star Wars (also like the language and adult content for a Marvel movie), and is easily the second best thing Marvel has done. Still partial to the first Iron Man, but this is definitely up there. Even if it does follow your standard Marvel format all the movies have become (“This little thing is dangerous. And now everyone is after it. And here are a bunch of villains. Some of which will come back later. And here are a bunch of hints at other stuff that only longtime comic book fans will know that fake comic book fans will claim to know all about. And you’ll look up right after the movie to figure out what the fuck it was.”), I still had a lot of fun. So good for them. I’m glad they went to the other side of the universe, because I’m just about finished with the previous side. (P.S. Thumbs up to the stinger at the end.)

Happy Christmas — * * * (3 stars)

I feel like 3 stars is the blanket Joe Swanberg movie rating for me. It’s moderately interesting to me, but it will never go any higher than that because none of the dialogue is written and is made up in the moment. So half the things people say are dead words. Coming from someone who likes writing dialogue and listens to dialogue, when I hear mostly dead words, it’s grating to me. I tune out. I know some people think it makes movies feel more like real life, but ultimately, don’t you realize — you’re watching a movie. Something fictional created by people who do this for a living. So having lots of pauses, and people saying “umm” and “like” all the time… you don’t need that. John Cassavetes knew how to do this type of thing correctly. You can have a tight script and have your movie seem real and improvised. The performance should be improvised, not the words. And because that’s not the case with Swanberg’s films, I can’t imagine they will ever go higher than 3 stars for me.

Hercules — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

You know… I thought I was getting disaster… I got, “Meh.” Wasn’t worth the money, or the effort. I’m not really sure why they made this. It’s not like anyone wanted to see this movie. But The Rock is always watchable, and, you know… people get fucked up. So there’s that. So ultimately I didn’t give a fuck. Which is pretty much all I ever expected out of this. Not caring, going, “Sure, it looked good,” but ultimately ending on, “… why?” I honestly have no idea why anyone thought this was worth making. $100 million? On this? I could have gotten you three better movies for that price. But whatever. It is what it is. A generic movie.

Heaven Is For Real — 0 stars.

I mean, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. I’ll spare you the specifics for now, because they’ll be coming later. Which is in line with the themes of this movie.

Hellion — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Indifference. That’s really all I have to say about this one. Just… didn’t care. That’s it.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I moderately liked the first movie. This felt like a natural sequel. In that I just didn’t care. The parts of the first one that I liked were him bonding with the dragon. Here, they’re just telling a story, and giving you more. More dragons. Bigger dragons. I didn’t really care about any of it. I like that they’re not overloading us with pop culture references (though pop music seems to be a requisite for animated movies now), but otherwise — I didn’t feel any connection to this movie. Which is usually how I feel about animated movies. So that makes sense.

I Know That Voice — * * * * (4 stars)

I had sort of heard about this last year, but forgot about it. Then I saw that it had come out and immediately rushed to see it. I love voice actors. To me, they are one of the most talented, least appreciated, groups of people in the entertainment industry. There are few people who I’d actually aspire to be like, and voice actors are some of those people. I wish I could do what they did. Other things you can do with practice and study. Voice acting is more of a talent. So watching these people be able to do dozens (or even hundreds, in some cases) of voices is just awe-inspiring to me. Plus, if you’re not that knowledgable about the people who do a lot of these voices (and don’t know who Tara Strong, Jim Cummings, Kevin Michael Richardson and John DiMaggio are), you get to see them in person doing their most famous voices, and you’ll realize that you grew up with these people and have seen them do their thing many, many times, many times without even realizing it. And that’s a special feeling. Everyone needs to see this movie.

The Immigrant — * * * (3 stars)

I’ve been tracking this for a while. I mean, Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner… you keep an eye on something like that. And James Gray is one of those filmmakers whose work I do track, even though, of all his movies, I’ve never loved any of them. It’s weird. This one is no exception. I liked the movie. I respect the movie. But I didn’t love the movie. The best part about it is Marion Cotillard. I did not expect her to actually do full on immigrant. I thought it would be your standard “accent” deal. But she has like, 20 pages of dialogue entirely in Polish. Now, I can’t accurately speak to how good she was speaking Polish, but I do know that, to memorize 20 pages of dialogue in another language, that’s a feat. And I give her major props for that. She is the best thing about this movie. And Joaquin Phoenix plays a villain. And Jeremy Renner… kind of a glorified cameo. Interesting what they did with him here. Overall, I liked the movie, and, while I will think of it positively, my feelings for it aren’t so strong as to highly recommend it to people. This is more of a recommend based on the factors I stated above.

In a World… — * * * (3 stars)

I originally skipped this, because, while I knew it was about trailer voiceover artists, I figured it was going to be a shitty thriller. I have no idea why. The profession doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that genre. But because of that, I skipped this. Then I found out it was a comedy and went, “Okay, I’ll bite.” Because I saw I Know That Voice, and voice actors, as we all know, are my personal heroes. So I thought this would be an interesting light on a profession that gets no love. And it was all right. I was entertained. Nice cameos from alternative comedians all over the place. Nice to see Fred Melamed show up and get a juicy role. And overall, it’s a decent enough movie. I’m glad I saw it just because I like weird stuff like this that shows professions no one would ever think to do a movie about. I’d still say to watch I Know That Voice instead, just because of how amazing voice actors are, and how this really doesn’t show a glimpse into the life of trailer voiceover artists so much as it’s a story built around the profession, but the movie is still pretty good, and I certainly wouldn’t tell you not to watch it. So, really, you’re an adult, and you can make your own damn choices.

In the Blood — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Meh. Shitty action movie. The kind that goes on Showtime at 3:45 in the morning that you just kind of sit through because you’ve been awake and have nothing else going on. You know what I mean. You’ve been up all night playing whatever video game, and the TV was just on. And you had some movie on, but that was for white noise, and you’ve long since forgotten about it. And this came on afterwards. That’s how you see this movie. It’s pretty bad. It looks like it was shot on HD cameras you take with you on vacation, or attach to your helmet when you skydive. There’s no story, and it’s just a straight to video plot, and Gina Carano beating people up. I mean, sure, you’ve watched movies based on less, but I can’t recommend you go see this. This isn’t something you deliberately waste your time on. This is something you happen into because it’s 4 in the morning.

In Secret — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Been tracking this one for what feels like forever. Of course it wasn’t going to be that good. Mostly I was tracking it because — well, I have no idea why. The title change was a big hint that this was going to be forgotten and that I could have ignored it. But I saw it. And it wasn’t very good. Lower class girl marries sickly upper class boy because she’s known the family and no one else will marry him. Then she starts fucking another dude and plots to kill the husband. Your standard Victorian plot. There’s nothing good or interesting about this movie.

Into the Storm — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I want to give it more, but outside of nice-looking effects, the story was shit. Like, really shit. Cliched characters and bad writing…. no matter how good those effects are, I still was never more than indifferent about this movie.

Jamesy Boy —  * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Nope. Was really bored. They had me because James Woods and Mary Louise Parker were in this, but it wasn’t very good at all. That’s all I have to say. You don’t know what this is, and you don’t ever have to. Just move on and forget about it.

Jamie Marks Is Dead — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

They maintain an atmosphere, but ultimately… indifference.

Jodorowsky’s Dune — * * * (3 stars)

The movie (not this movie, the movie they talk about) is the stuff of legend. A film that was so ahead of its time, it couldn’t even be made. The stuff that would have been in the movie would have been more revolutionary than Star Wars, before Star Wars. Someone in the film says the stuff Jodorowsky wanted to do was stuff that Lucas wouldn’t even do with the prequels. It’s insane, the stuff he was going for. He had a murderer’s row of a crew on the film, had Pink Floyd for the music, David Carradine and Orson Welles and Micke Jagger for the cast — it’s crazy what he was going for. And this documents the film that he was going to make, which would have been about 14 hours long and be the most visually crazy thing possibly ever made. It’s definitely worth a watch, just to give you an idea of what might have been, and how different the film landscape would have been if this had managed to come out before Star Wars.

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I mean… obviously. Did you even hear about this when it came out? That’s how you know it wasn’t going to be any good. It opens like a thriller… everyone running around Oz, like, “We have to call Dorothy… shit’s getting bad!” Which is not how you want to start a kid’s movie, tonally. Then we go to Kansas, and there’s a fucking car driving up after the ruins of the tornado. So, remember… this is a day after the events of the first movie, and out of nowhere, there are cars. Oh, and it’s a boring plot and the songs suck. But if a kid is under five, they’ll like it. That’s the only audience for this. So unless you love The Wizard of Oz, have young kids, or really want to see it for the cast, you don’t need to bother with this.

Let’s Be Cops —  * * ½ (2.5 stars)

You know… I tried. I really tried. But midway through this movie, I found myself doing other things rather than watching it. Which is the sign of indifference. I tried to let it be 3 stars, but there was too much of them trying to turn a plot out of it. The Russians and shit. The girlfriend. Too much of that. I just didn’t care. And there weren’t enough laughs to let it pull a flimsy 3. So… it’s indifference.

Life After Beth — * * * (3 stars)

It was fine. Definitely not tonally what I expected it to be. I thought there would be more zombie time. Instead, it turned into a weird musing on relationships. I think. I don’t really know. I’m not really sure where the humor was placed, but it was there. I wasn’t sure exactly if some parts were supposed to be gross-out funny, or funny, or gross-out, or what. Hard to tell. But it was watchable. So that’s fine. Not really gonna remember this, but it was okay enough.

Life Itself — * * * * (4 stars)

The rating only says 4 stars, but in terms of documentaries, this is a five-star documentary. This was an incredible movie. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t give this five stars was because I didn’t want to have to explain why I put a five-star rated movie in my tier two and not higher. And it’s because I have a different system of rating documentaries than I do other films. I just do. So I explain that now so I don’t have to do it later. Either way, this was a perfect movie, and if you like film as much as I do, no doubt Roger Ebert’s words and reviews meant something to you. He was the only critic I read for the longest time. And even now, I barely read movie reviews, unless I’m reading them in bulk, and even then, it’s happening after I see the movie. His were the only reviews I read before I saw the movie. His words were the only that mattered to me. And it’s not that I even agreed with him all the time. And it’s not that I rushed out and saw all those little foreign films he’d gush over. It’s that I understood everything he was saying. I knew what he liked, what he didn’t like, and I could easily gauge that against my own opinion. Plus, even if I didn’t agree with him, he always had something worth saying about a movie. Usually, if he condemned something, he condemned it in a positive way. (Usually.) To me, he was truly the only critic who mattered, because he was the only critic who got it. I’m not sure what ‘it’ is, but his were the only reviews that ever engaged me as a reader. He had a style that I have not seen replicated with anyone else. And because of that, I don’t read anything else. And this documentary is a beautiful (but brutal — the suction scene is really tough to watch. But it’s great, because it’s punctuated by a text he wrote, saying how happy he was that they caught it on film) tribute to the man, and is one of the few documentaries I will make sure people see in the future. (P.S. I also think it’s really nice that Steve James made this documentary, as Hoop Dreams was the film Ebert chose as his favorite movie of the 90s as a decade. So that was a really nice touch as well.)

Life of Crime — * * * (3 stars)

A prequel to Jackie Brown starring John Hawkes and Mos Def instead of Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Aniston. I assumed complete and utter disaster with this. How could you not? And it wasn’t that. It was actually quite watchable. I was surprised at how okay this was. Not good. But fine. And I really thought this would be bad. I can’t believe this wasn’t terrible. That was shocking.

Locke — * * * * (4 stars)

Loved this. Absolutely loved it. I mean, when you hear it’s a movie that takes place entirely in a car, that’s right up my alley. But it’s a really well-done movie, at that. Tom Hardy gets in a car, and over the course of his drive, you figure out where he’s going, and why he’s going there, and we see the consequences of this play out by the time he gets there. It’s a beautiful movie. This is going to be one of the more underappreciated movies come year’s end, and I will end up being a real champion for this throughout. Everyone should see this.

A Long Way Down — * * * (3 stars)

I liked it. Based on a Nick Hornby book, which is why it has its base in some quality. And the movie wasn’t shit. I’m sure the book is better than this movie was, but the movie’s not bad. I like the cast. And Imogen Poots is awesome, as she is in everything. Pierce Brosnan is good as usual as well. Aaron Paul is just sort of there. And Toni Collette doesn’t get much to do until the end. But ultimately, it’s watchable. See it for the cast, if anything. Otherwise, it’s just an okay movie. Nothing more.

The Longest Week — * * * (3 stars)

It was all right. Not “I waited for two years for this to come out” all right, but all right. Trying to be Woody Allen with a dash of Wes Anderson, it completely fails. Yet somehow I got through it and enjoyed it well enough. Probably because the cast was all likable. I can’t recommend this, but I can say I got through it. And if you like vaguely pretentious (as opposed to actively pretentious) indies with overly educated characters talking about literature and the arts and going to gallery openings and things, be my guest.

The Love Punch — * * * (3 stars)

It’s a middle-age comedy of remarriage. With screwball elements. And British. Not for everyone. In fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of people are going to hate it. I’ll tell you this — the dude’s previous film, Last Chance Harvey, was really sweet and really underrated. Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman were perfect in it, and the film was beautiful. And here, he went for something completely different. And I don’t fault him for that at all. I mean, it gets really ridiculous toward the end, but that’s what screwball comedies to. So while it is… out there, when they go through with their scheme, it only seems crazier because it’s been about 70 years since those kinds of plots were featured in movies. I mean, sure, it is still a little more outlandish, but I’m willing to be okay with it. Ultimately, Emma Thompson is great in everything, and I always like Pierce Brosnan. So I was fine with this movie. It’s not great, but it’s watchable, and that’s all I need.

Lucy — * * * (3 stars)

This is Transcendence but with a woman. Or, basically, the origin story of God. It’s both of these things. I believe it was in Deuteronomy where God texted Joshua, saying, “I’m everywhere.” (What did you think the “G” stood for in “4G”?) But yeah… I had a different idea of what this movie was going to be than what it was. I’m actually impressed that this movie isn’t filled with action like the trailers made it seem. Good for them. And I was actually a huge fan of the conversation she has with her mother on the phone. That was a really nice emotional moment in the middle of this. In all, I think I’m all right with this. Didn’t love it, didn’t dislike it, enjoyed it for what it was, liked some things about it and didn’t care about others. So, three stars, and good for them, and I’ll move on, always thinking borderline positive things about this movie.

Maleficent — * * * (3 stars)

I should have known better. And I did. I knew this wouldn’t be as good as I was expecting. Or hoping for. But whatever. My problem with this movie is that it was pitched and advertised as something it’s not. This isn’t a movie about Maleficent. This is a remake of Sleeping Beauty as told from the point of view of Maleficent. That’s all it is. They pretended like it was about how she became who she was, but there’s really no backstory given here. That is to say… there is no real characterization for how Maleficent became evil. It just sort of tells you what happened, but you don’t feel it. This is a glorified Sleeping Beauty remake with 20 minutes of, “Oh yeah, here’s what preceded it, since the villain is our protagonist, just so we don’t have to say it’s a Sleeping Beauty remake.” And then they altered the third act. Because they could, I guess. They didn’t even have the decency to pull a Wicked and retcon. Here they just flat out don’t kill her. But that’s really all it is. We don’t see her turning evil, we don’t follow her on an emotional journey, we’re just telling the same story the 1959 movie did, only pretending it’s about someone else. Which is bullshit. Why is this movie only 97 minutes? (I mean, I’m grateful, but you can spend 2 hours here with a story like this. This movie is 97 minutes with filler.) If you really wanted to make “Maleficent,” you wouldn’t introduce Aurora until the 60-minute mark. The first hour should be entirely Maleficent. Anything else is a scam. And that’s what this movie is. A scam. This isn’t what they advertised. And that’s a shame. Because you could have made something good, instead of telling the same story to make money. And, to be quite honest, that might just make this movie Unforgivable. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that they essentially did what Hollywood (and especially Disney) nowadays does: forego an interesting or unique story for basically going back and redoing what was already done with some surface-level “twist” to it. And they just changed the ending, because, “Hey, we can start a new franchise.” Artifice.

A Million Ways to Die in the West — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This is not Ted. This movie actually tells a story. Ted sort of told a story, but it was a loose one built around a series of jokes and gags. This one tells a story, and the gags are secondary. To the point where, after they introduced the story, when they went back to the gags, I thought less of the movie. They didn’t need to resort back to them. Yet they did. And that was a shame. But ultimately, the movie was pretty funny, and I love westerns. So this ended up somewhere between 3 and 3.5, but because it’s a genre I love, it was going to get the benefit of the doubt. I do commend Seth MacFarlane for actually telling more of a story here. I wish that next time he has the conviction to go more down that route than doubling back to dick jokes.

Moms’ Night Out — * * (2 stars)

It’s not this movie’s fault that it sucks. But it sucks. It never really had me to begin with, but it definitely lost me the moment it purported a reality where every family goes to church on Sunday and meets each other like a community. After that, I was gone. The wives have book clubs, everyone has too many manners, so no one calls out the assholes for being assholes… this is not a reality. And it’s supposed to be a screwball comedy, so everything is heightened. In the wrong way. Basically… it’s a really shitty movie, and we all knew that. So who’s the idiot here?

Neighbors — * * * (3 stars)

This was funny. I laughed. But ultimately, once it was all over, the only thought I had was, “Yeah, that was good, but there wasn’t too much more than what I saw in the Red Band trailers.” The Red Band trailer was two minutes of really funny stuff packed together. This was a movie of slightly more funny stuff spread out over 90 minutes. It dilutes the product. So, while I did think this was funny, that’s all it was. This is my standard comedy rating. Even getting this is a sign of respect for a comedy nowadays. So let’s leave it at that and move on.

A Night in Old Mexico — * * * (3 stars)

Not a great movie. But I’ll take Robert Duvall in anything. Ultimately, it was watchable. And that’s all I need. It’s nice to see Duvall still acting. Especially in something that was clearly a passion project of sorts, since he’s been trying to make this movie for near a decade. So good for him. 80 and still doing it.

Night Moves — * * * (3 stars)

I can always count on certain directors to do the exact same thing almost every time and for me to feel the exact same way about their films every time. Kelly Reichardt is one of those directors for me. All of her films… they’re okay. I’m not in love with them. I respect them. I think they’re perfectly good movies. I don’t think they’re masterpieces and I don’t think they’re shit. I think of her as the hipster Terrence Malick. Which isn’t so much a knock against her so much as my way of saying… hipsters fucking love these movies. I know they do. I saw Old Joy… fine. People I saw it with (mostly hipsters and pretentious film majors) thought it was some revelatory experience. I was glad it wasn’t longer, otherwise I’d have turned on it rather than going, “Sure.” Wendy and Lucy — fine. Woman loses her dog and then loses her shit. Cool. Meek’s Cutoff — looked great, nothing going on there at all. This movie? Allegedly more of a plot this time, but same thing. Didn’t care, got through it. Same as always.

Noah — * * * * (4 stars)

I have very distinct feelings about this one. Despite how it would appear at the surface, with my definite thoughts about religion as it is defined in the world we live in and the majority of religious people in this country, I am, and have always been, a fan of biblical stories. I think the Bible is a treasure trove of great stories that can be told. Of course, to tell many of them, there has to be some artistic license, which the religious in this country will not allow most people. Hence whatever “uproar” or controversy this film met upon release. People hold the words of that book sacred as if they actually happened, which brings me back to my definite feelings about religion, specifically in this country. Now, that said, I was very, very excited for this movie. I am willing to watch any movie Darren Aronofsky wants to make (even that Wolverine movie he was going to make for a while). I wasn’t going in hesitant against this because of the subject matter. I was totally embracing it. Because Darren Aronofsky has proven himself a very visually interesting filmmaker, and what is the story of Noah but a visual spectacle waiting to happen? So I was completely on board (pun ridiculously intended) with this from the start. And, after seeing the movie, I can honestly say… it’s good. Not great, but it’s really good. It looks amazing, and is totally watchable. Now, the subject matter itself is a double-edged sword. And I don’t even mean the fact that it’s biblical. Because he deliberately says The Creator and not anything else, which I feel was a deliberate attempt to not turn this into those other, bullshit religious movies. He’s making a movie that happens to have religious roots and overtones. That’s not its purpose. So my critique has nothing to do with that. I also have no problem with Aronofsky using whatever language he wants to tell the story. I don’t care if he quotes word for word from the Bible. To do so would be stupid. However, because this is the Bible, the story wasn’t completely interesting, since we know what happens, and the extra space is filled up with scenes that help tell the story, but don’t grip me the way other movies would. It’s hard to explain. Mostly it’s scenes of “wow, people are pieces of shit,” and family stuff. It’s good and all, but it’s not, “I want to watch this over and over” good. The way Black Swan is. The way The Wrestler is. And especially the way The Fountain is. I’ll watch The Fountain five times before I think to turn this on. Which is not a knock against the movie. This is the story Aronofsky wants to tell and he tells it well. And it’s extremely watchable. And for that, I’m grateful. This will end up being better than 80% of the movies of 2014 for me. So really, all I needed to say was that. But it’s still one of those movies I’m strangely detached from. I love the visuals, and I’m interested in watching what’s going on, but I still feel a disconnect from it, which I’m guessing comes back to that core of those feeling of religion I have. Oh well. Maybe it’ll grow on me as I get older. Still really liked this quite a bit.

Oculus — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Nope. I’m trying to give horror movies a shot, but nope. I’m just not interested. I thought the premise might give me something to like, but ultimately, I still didn’t give a shit. This just isn’t my genre. No matter how much I try to watch them.

The One I Love — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This is a weird little movie. I saw it, wasn’t really planning on seeing it, but then for some reason decided to go for it. And I’m glad I did. It was really interesting and engaging. A little relationship Twilight Zone that becomes aware of itself. It gets a little weird after it does that, but it still remains more engaging than the average movie. Which I’m counting as a win.

The Other Woman — * ½ (1.5 stars)

Jesus. I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I will by the end of the year, though. A certain article dictates it.

Palo Alto — * * (2 stars)

Did not like this. I will not elaborate any further, because looking at this, there was absolutely no reason for me to ever like this. So this comes as no surprise to absolutely anybody at all.

Parts Per Billion — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Interesting movie. Execution didn’t interest me, but conceptually, I was in. A giant epidemic happens, and an airborne virus slowly spreads, killing most, if not all people. And we watch a group of people dealing with it. Pretty sure everyone ends up dead, and it’s depressing as fuck, but whatever. I was almost interested, but ultimately I didn’t care. It’s got a nice cast, but it’s just a movie that’s there. Maybe you see it, maybe you don’t.

The Pirate Fairy — * * * (3 stars)

Why the hell did I watch this again? I guess because Tinker Bell is my favorite Disney character and I thought this would be more of that. This… is not. Tinker Bell is nothing like the way she is in Peter Pan. Which is a shame. But somehow I ended up still enjoying this well enough. So I guess there’s that. I am, after all, still a child. It stands to reason that I’d enjoy this. The day I don’t enjoy this kind of movie, even a little bit, that’s when I know I have a problem.

Planes: Fire and Rescue — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Okay, we’ve reached the point of indifference with this franchise. I think I reached it at the moment when Dane Cook airplane (named Dusty Crophopper, which sounds like something vaginas get) put out fires, set to “Thunderstruck.” At that moment, I was less concerned with the film than I was about the fact that I finished all the booze in the house. I mean — this was always for kids, and I barely cared about the first one, mostly because it was about a race that takes up 75% of the film. This one, they pull a Rocky V and are like, “You can’t race anymore!” So now he has to put out forest fires. I don’t really care. Though they did get Hal Holbrook in here. So there’s that. And Ed Harris is here too. Otherwise, I got nothing to say about this. Though they do make Hal Holbrook do a fart joke. Which just feels wrong.

The Pretty One — * * * (3 stars)

This concept was interesting as hell to me. Twin sisters. One is plain, one is charismatic. The charismatic one dies, but they think it was the other one, so the other one takes over the other’s identity to try to be more like her. Interesting, right? The movie is pretty good. Ultimately, it’s an indie, and has all the indie tropes you remember. Which keeps it at 3 stars, since all those standard indies rarely rise above this level for me. But it’s still good, and watchable, and the cast is great. Zoe Kazan is great in everything she does, and Jake Johnson does his thing. And John Carroll Lynch is also great in everything. I love when he pops up in stuff. So I can give this one a thumbs up and recommend it. It’s good.

The Prince — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s a shitty movie you see on cable at 2 am that was done purely for the money. It’s your standard Bruce Willis paycheck movie. Nothing more. It’s actually starring Jason Patric, but with Bruce and John Cusack in it, you can already tell it was done for the money and nothing more. And you know what you’re getting. The only reason I saw it is because I could. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to do the same. All of these movies are mix and match. Nicolas Cage could have been in this and you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

The Purge: Anarchy — * * * (3 stars)

I’ve decided that I’m very okay with this franchise if they want to put one out a year. The idea of the Purge is that one happens every year. So if they want to put out a new one each year and show different people during the event, I’m okay with that. Sine they’re clearly spinning a larger universe/story slowly but surely, so I’m totally cool if they want to keep going with this. There’s a lot of stuff they can do with it. I just hope they can maintain interest throughout. All I know is — I’m in. I’ll keep watching. I love the concept, and I hope they don’t fail it.

The Raid 2: Berandal — * * * (3 stars)

It’s got badass action, and it’s definitely longer (two and a half hours), but I didn’t like it as much as I liked the first one. Maybe it was the length, maybe it was because this one told more of a story instead of just being badass action, and maybe I just wasn’t ready for that, but ultimately, while this was a good movie I just liked it moderately. I’ll totally see the next one, but this one was just pretty good for me.

The Rover — * * * (3 stars)

This was weird. Very watchable, but weird. I have no idea what he was ultimately going for with this, but it definitely was an interesting film. I prefer Animal Kingdom, but this definitely wasn’t bad. I’ll give this a moderate thumbs up. Won’t be on my year-end lists, but will always get a moderate, “I liked it” out of me when brought up. Solid three.

Sex Tape — * ½ (1.5 stars)

I’ll say this — despite all the other things that are wrong and completely insane, logic-wise about this movie — the movie tries to make you believe that Cameron Diaz is supposed to be 22 for the first 7 minutes of this movie. I think that tells you everything you need to know.

The Signal — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Well-made, but I didn’t care. You might like it, though. Might be worth a shot.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For — * * * (3 stars)

This one comes down to two things — writing and pacing. The pacing is just all wrong. It’s too quick. It doesn’t linger the way the first one does. Doesn’t savor the visuals. This one just rushes forward, and it hurts the film. And the writing here is awful. I don’t know if it’s because of the pacing or not. But it’s really bad. The first one felt like you were watching a comic book and everyone was talking as if it were a noir. Here, everyone’s talking like comic book characters. And that’s a problem. Comic book characters sound terrible if you spoke the dialogue in real life. It’s that combination that makes this movie just turn out okay. We know the visuals are going to be great, so I’m not going to bump it up because of that. The horrible writing, the poor pacing, and the performances — which… it seems like no one was telling the actors to do much of anything here. Did they even give a fuck about this movie? — this turned out to really be one of the more disappointing movies of 2014 for me.

Stalingrad — * * * (3 stars)

It’s a 3 star movie packed into 4 star visuals. This movie looked amazing, but the story is just okay. I can give it 3.5 stars now based on that, but ultimately it’s going to drop back down to 3 in December anyway, so why bother playing that game? I still recommend this to everyone because there just aren’t enough war movies made anymore. Which is fucked up, how the best genres (or at least, my favorite) don’t get made anymore. War movies, musicals, westerns, noirs… that’s the shit we want to see. Fuck superheroes. Fuck these big budget sci fi movies. Make war movies.

Sunshine on Leith — * * * * (4 stars)

My god, did I love every single minute of this. Everyone sings. All the time. And entire rooms just break out into song. And not only am I very okay with that, I actively encourage it. The whole thing is light as anything and has very little substance to it (possibly to a fault), but I don’t care. It’s so fucking likable it’s impossible to say bad things about this. This was an absolute joy of a film to watch, and if you like musicals, you’re gonna love this.

Tammy — * ½ (1.5 stars)


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Well this was a piece of shit. I can’t rightfully say Michael Bay raped my childhood, because the Turtles were just before my time. I’m sure Lionsgate will probably rape my childhood when they get their Power Rangers movie off the ground. But either way… this wasn’t very good. You don’t meet the turtles until 20 minutes into the movie, the voice casting is all wrong, there’s fucking fart jokes, and the film is full of Michael Bay humor, which is just lowest common denominator. Especially when he’s not directing. Not to mention, how fucking ridiculous did Shredder look? Plus, Fichtner isn’t Shredder? Because he said all along that he was playing Shredder. So I’m assuming they went and changed that shit last minute, since Shredder is basically CGI for 99% of the movie. I’m guessing it tested horribly and they went back and took out whatever they had that showed him as Shredder. Aside from all that, one of my biggest complaints about this is that I can recognize the voices of the characters. I should not recognize who voices the turtles, or Splinter. I should just see them as themselves. The fact that I’m listening to Leonardo and going, “That’s Johnny Knoxville talking,” and listening to Splinter and clearly picturing Tony Shalhoub… that’s a problem. And remember when the turtles being alien caused everyone to create a giant shitstorm of fury? How do you all feel now that they were actually Megan Fox’s pets? Honestly, he biggest stretch of the movie was that we were supposed to believe that child Megan Fox deliberately named her pet turtles after Renaissance artists. I’m also going to formally apologize for Megan Fox. This isn’t her fault. This is Michael Bay getting back at her for what she said about him in public. And if you don’t think putting her in this movie, which is designed to make her look stupid, is a punishment, you’re wrong. He knew she was going to look like a bad actress who was only cast as eye candy, which is why she’s there. Why not use the eye candy with a name than the eye candy no one knows? So she gets zero percent of the blame for me for this movie. Also, where was all the pizza eating? Where was Vanilla Ice? You had to give me something to make this worthwhile? Honestly, the worst thing that could have happened to this movie was Michael Bay’s company picking it up. Because it was about making money off a title and not about making a movie. You don’t have fans of the product making it. Fans of the product would have understood the whole tongue-in-cheek nature of the thing. That’s why the original movies had charm. They looked like fucking Schumacher Batman movies. They didn’t take themselves seriously. They were heightened. And this is a generic, CGI piece of shit, where the main characters are barely on the screen for the first half of the movie, and all the story elements put all the children in the theater the fuck to sleep. This is a movie designed to sell toys and nothing more. If you hate Bay when he directs a movie, you’ll really hate him as a producer, because he only cares about making money, and not about the product. At least with his own movies, he has a reputation to uphold. This movie is a complete mess, and I knew better than to trust that this would be good. I didn’t even have that high a set of expectations for this, and this still didn’t reach them. That’s a problem.

They Came Together — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Took me a couple of minutes to realize what the film was doing, but once I got into it, it was really funny. Some people might not find this funny, but it’s the kind of humor that goes all in on its concept and sticks with it. So if anything, you’ll start laughing at some point, just because the film is relentless. It’s very well put together, and is a very smart movie. Possibly even too smart. It’s the kind of smart movie that almost seems dumb. To the point where it may be dumb. But that’s exactly the kind of movie that David Wain and that crew always make. Put it this way — this is a romantic comedy that knows it’s a romantic comedy, and deliberately plays with all the obvious romantic comedy tropes. But by embracing them. Strongly. And I found that really funny. And given Wain’s history, you should probably give this one a chance, since you’ll probably enjoy it.

That Awkward Moment — * * * (3 stars)

Not sure what I was expecting. I liked that it was written and directed by the same guy, so ultimately we got the version of this movie that he wanted us to see. So, for better or worse, I have to respect that. And, given the cast, I imagined I’d get exactly what I got. The trailer worried me, because that wasn’t very good. But when it bombed, I held out hope, since they marketed it as a comedy, which it is not. It’s a romance, with comedic moments. Tonally, it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, since it does try for drama at points, and doesn’t quite get there, but ultimately, this movie is watchable. And the cast is solid. Efron actually does a good job with it. And Imogen Poots is always awesome. Michael B. Jordan is good. Miles Teller is always good. So it’s definitely watchable. And that’s all I needed out of this.

3 Days to Kill — * * * (3 stars)

I feel like I saw this early. I guess I forgot to write something up for it last time. Either way… it was fine. Costner is always watchable, and it had enough going for it to keep me moderately interested throughout. Otherwise… didn’t really give that much of a shit. But it was more about the father/daughter stuff and the character work than the action, which made me leave it at 3. I will have respect for this movie for that alone.

Tokarev — * * * (3 stars)

It’s Cage. Another one of his straight to DVD thrillers. Essentially. This one has more of a story than the others. Similar in tone to a lot of the others. Something happens to his daughter, and he has to find the people responsible. There was that other one, I think they called it Vengeance or something. Originally it was The Hungry Rabbit Jumps. But that was less him and more something else. This is more, he’s a criminal, his daughter is dead, who did it. And he goes way too far in it, and ultimately, it’s his downfall. And, it’s all right. Nothing spectacular. But I’ll watch Cage in anything. In terms of all his movies, it’s just another watchable forgettable entry. Nothing more.

Tracks — * * * * (4 stars)

Loved this. I like these Australian Outback movies. If this were made ten years ago, or had someone like Nicole Kidman or Naomi Watts or whoever in it, they’d have tried to give this an Oscar push. They still might. But I bet this will end up being mostly forgotten. Which is a shame. I really liked this. This one looks like it will end up tier 2 when all is said and done. Big fan of this movie.

Transcendence — * * * (3 stars)

This is a weird movie. It feels like a smaller movie that was made on a bigger movie’s budget. It’s not a big budget thriller, and they had to treat it as such. So the result is a weird movie, tonally. You watch the trailer, and you think that the turning point at the beginning is the rush to upload his consciousness before he dies. But that’s not the case. Here, it just… sort of happens. And they do it, and he dies, and then they see how it works. And then it doesn’t, and they think it failed, and then it does. No real emotion there. It’s weird. And all of the acting is wooden (probably because the director is a DP at heart, and not one to really deal with performance), and the story is moderately interesting, but it doesn’t go anywhere. There are elements that don’t need to be there (FBI, radical group), and it’s just a muddled story. It should have been stripped down more. Nolan was going to do this movie for a little while. I think he would have done a better job with it. Or maybe he realized what the result would have been and moved on. Either way, the result is a movie that so obviously was going to fail, and isn’t really that good. You watch it once, but ultimately forget it very quickly. Definitely one of the more disappointing movies of 2014.

Transformers: Age of Extinction — * * * * (4 stars)

I mean… what are we expecting at this point? We know I’m an unabashed fan of these movies. Hell, Revenge of the Fallen was an unholy piece of shit and I still give that 3.5 stars. So this rating isn’t a surprise at all. I actually think this was the best since the first one. Which to some people means nothing, but to me, is a nice development. It’s really long, but I did quite like it. There could have been less human stuff, but I did like how they spent quite a bit on the robots this time out, and kept the really over the top comic relief to a minimum. And the result was a movie I liked quite a bit. It was fun, there was a lot of cool action stuff (everyone’s gonna remember the tire to the face, but there’s other stuff to), and I got exactly what I was hoping for. So good for them. Now, I’d like them to do more in space next time and less human stuff, but who knows if that will ever happen. I also like how this movie just didn’t give one fuck about logic at all. The beginning was all like, “Optimus is hurt, I’ll fix you,” just to get past an action sequence, and then out of nowhere, Optimus just regenerates his entire self and is totally fine. I guess logic gets in the way of product placement. (Which — holy shit.) But you know I love Bay. So I won’t pretend like I didn’t like every minute of this. This will drop to 3.5 come year’s end like they all do, but fuck it. I enjoy watching these movies in the theater, and that’s who I am.

The Trials of Cate McCall — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Love me some trial movies. This one was pretty good. No one will ever see this, but it’s still a good movie. I like the central conceit. I won’t get too much into it, but I did like it. And it’s a very watchable movie, too. But I know no one’s ever heard of it but me (or those who actually pay attention to the stuff I track on here), which is a shame. But I’ll beat the drum for this one. It’s one of those good movies you don’t know about. The kind that maybe one day you catch on TV and go, “That was actually pretty good.”

Trust Me — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Really liked this. One of those subjects you don’t ever see movies about, yet is really captivating. Another one of those underrated movies from this year. Clark Gregg, wrote, directed and stars in this, and it’s a really good movie. Check this one out. You won’t be disappointed. It’s an indie, but it’s still good.

12 O’Clock Boys — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was pretty great. The thing that really makes it work is the fact that it gives you a glimpse into this neighborhood and how people interact in that neighborhood. That’s the kind of stuff that gives movies authenticity. I’m telling you. If people studied things like this for the way people speak to each other and speak in general, and then used that for their movies that take place in similar locations, people would praise the shit out of them for authenticity and adding realism to them. That’s all it takes. But yeah, I liked this quite a bit. I was sold when I saw the trailer and they called it ‘The Wire with wheelies.’ I loved the idea that there were these kids who ride these bikes around right in front of the cops and don’t care. That’s pretty great. And the cops have orders not to chase them? That’s terrific. And it’s a really short documentary, so you can knock it out real easily. I really recommend this one. It’s entertaining as shit.

22 Jump Street — * * * (3 stars)

I like the conceit of them going all in, knowingly commenting on the fact that the sequel is always higher budgeted and never as good. So that kept them from sliding too far, ratings-wise, for me. It was funny enough. Definitely didn’t have the spark of the first one, which was going to be impossible to have. So, I’ll take three stars from this. I laughed enough, and it’s probably the best sequel we were going to get for this movie. So I’m satisfied.

The Two Faces of January — * * * (3 stars)

It’s a serviceable thriller. Doesn’t amount to much. One of those situations where you look at the cast and go, “Oh, that’s gonna be good,” and then no solid release date materializes, and they put it out VOD… when that happens, you know exactly what you’re getting. And that’s what this was. Serviceable, but not great. Which is fine. I was kind of hoping for more, but I’m not surprised this was just okay.

Under the Skin — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I liked this quite a bit. I loved what Glazer did with it. It’s kind of slow, so if you’re not paying attention, it can be difficult to get through, but it’s a really intriguing watch. One of those movies that I will think of fondly, keep on a list of films I liked for the year, always mention it as an interesting film, but one that will never make the top of a list of my favorite films of that year. I don’t think I can sit through this one that often. I think people should see it, because it’s very good, but it’s not one that’s gonna have a lot of replay value for me. Just a lot of fond remembrance. Which is cool. Because it’s a good movie.

Venus in Fur — * * * (3 stars)

It was fine. I mean… yeah. It was fine. I don’t have much else to say. It’s based on a play with two characters, and all it has are two characters. So I got through it. Ultimately didn’t really care, but it was fine. Didn’t like it as much as Carnage, but it’s not awful or anything. Definitely gonna be one of the forgotten entries in Polanski’s filmography. But hey, at least he’s making movies.

Very Good Girls — * * * (3 stars)

Yeah… it was all right. Indie. Feels like an indie. Liked it well enough. More Fanning’s movie than Olsen’s. Nice to see Richard Dreyfuss, though, even if they barely gave him anything to do. Otherwise… decent enough.

Walk of Shame — * * * (3 stars)

I lost a lot of hope for this (if I even had any) after I saw the trailer. It’s very strangely structured, and its rhythm was really weird. It was very badly done, and made the movie look terrible. And then I watched it… and I didn’t hate it. Not so much the concept, although I like that it takes place over a small amount of time, or execution — I liked the supporting characters. They cast this movie really well. It’s the supporting people that got me just enough above indifference to say, “It was decent enough.” That’s a big distinction with me, especially with a comedy. I still don’t think it’s a very good movie, but it’s not as close to Unforgivable as I would have thought. Which is a huge compliment in its direction.

The Wolverine Unleashed — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This won’t be in the year-end articles or anything, but technically this does count as a film I saw this year. I watched The Wolverine last year, and thought it was solid, if unspectacular. And I had no idea there was another version until the day before I watched this. Apparently this was on the DVD, yet I heard nothing about it when it came out. Essentially, it is a longer version (something like, 12 minutes), that contains cursing, and blood. So… essentially what a Wolverine movie should be. And it really earns the 3.5 star rating the first one didn’t quite get to. Which I’m glad about. Again, this is really a 2013 movie, but so few people even know about this, and it’s definitely a better cut than the theatrical one, that I wanted people to know that I saw this because it’s definitely the version worth watching.

X-Men: Days of Future Past — * * * * (4 stars)

Amazing. Absolutely amazing. My way of thinking about this now is — I want to know as little as possible about X-Men, Batman and Transformers movies. Marvel, and everything else, tell me whatever, because it won’t matter to me either way. So I went into this really knowing nothing, and barely having seen the trailers. I knew the story going in, being an avid fan of the cartoon series from the 90s (best theme music ever), and the Days of Future Past storyline being one of my favorites from that show. So I basically knew what I was getting, and I liked that Singer was bringing the X-Men cast I grew up with and the new cast and using them at the same time. And that alone let me know I was getting at minimum a 3.5 star movie. There was absolutely zero percent chance it would have been otherwise. And, when watching it, it was even better. The Quicksilver sequence was incredible. Everyone in the audience applauded when it happened. And you wanted to, as well. It was just a well executed movie, all the way through. And then, at the end, where they basically said “fuck you” to Bret Ratner, and ultimately ended up making this movie, and spending $200 million, just to undo what he did to the franchise. That was the cherry on top of the whole thing. I loved it. I always like the X-Men movies. Now my only question is how they’re going to handle Apocalypse in the next one. Since now we have two separate timelines running. So I’m curious how Singer handles them both. That’ll be real interesting to see, and I will be first in line to see it when the time comes.

The Zero Theorem — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Love me some Terry Gilliam. His films are always a cut above whatever another filmmaker’s movie would be. This one is sort of a Brazil, made in 2013. The premise is really interesting, and it’s watchable as hell. Christoph Waltz continues to prove, with good choices and great performances, that he’s someone I am willing to watch in just about anything he wants to do. And the result is a fascinating, eminently watchable movie. If you really want to see the truly unique and interesting movies from a year, you probably want to start with my 3.5 star list. Because odds are, you know everything in the top ten and 11-20. But these ones… that’s where the really great stuff is. Everyone needs to see this. Terry Gilliam is one of the great auteurs still working. And I love hearing he’s going to come out with a new one.

Zulu — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I feel like the synopsis I thought I remembered about this was different from the movie I got. This was a detective story with some apartheid stuff in between. It was fine. Ultimately I didn’t care. It was interesting to see Orlando Bloom doing stuff. He so rarely acts anymore. And here he was at least playing an adult with problems as opposed to an action hero who speaks with conviction in every line. So there’s that. Otherwise — meh.


The Films I Have But Haven’t Watched Yet

I actually managed to clear out my backlog. Except for this one. I’ll get to it soon enough. I didn’t want to rush it just for the sake of rushing it. I’m just glad my backlog is only one.

  • A Field in England


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

  • Million Dollar Arm
  • Obvious Child
  • Jersey Boys
  • Third Person
  • Earth to Echo
  • And So It Goes
  • I Origins
  • Wish I Was Here
  • Magic in the Moonlight
  • A Most Wanted Man
  • What If
  • The Hundred-Foot Journey
  • The Giver
  • If I Stay
  • When the Game Stands Tall
  • As Above, So Below
  • November Man
  • The Last of Robin Hood

19 movies total, and then I’ve either seen or skipped basically everything from 2014 through today. And speaking of skipped…


The Films I Deliberately Skipped

To recap — from the first third of the year, I skipped Devil’s Due, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, The Quiet Ones and Single Moms Club. Three horror movies and a Tyler Perry movie. This time, I’ve skipped:

Think Like a Man Too — I didn’t see the first one. Also… I never watch these kinds of movies. I’m not the audience.

Step Up All In — obviously.

So at the moment, my tally is 160 movies seen, 6 movies deliberately skipped, one movie in the queue, and 18 still to be seen. I’m running an 86% seen percentage at the moment, and if we count everything I’m going to see, that’s only a 3% skip percentage. Which is great. It gives me some leeway the rest of the year, if I want to skip things.


Highest Rated Films from January through August:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Life Itself
  • Godzilla
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Locke
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Boyhood
  • Sunshine on Leith
  • Blood Ties
  • Snowpiercer
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Noah
  • Tracks
  • The Congress
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction
  • Chef
  • Draft Day
  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Enemy
  • The Double
  • The Zero Theorem
  • Joe
  • After the Dark
  • Nymphomaniac Vol. 1
  • Edge of Tomorrow

Lowest Rated Films from January through August:

  • Heaven Is For Real
  • Blended
  • The Other Woman
  • Tammy
  • Sex Tape
  • Best Night Ever
  • I, Frankenstein
  • Palo Alto
  • A Haunted House 2
  • The Legend of Hercules
  • In the Blood
  • Moms’ Night Out
  • Gimme Shelter
  • Are You Here
  • Pompeii
  • Behaving Badly
  • Frankie and Alice
  • Grace of Monaco
  • About Alex
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

– – – – – – – – – –

So that’s that. We’ll continue with our pictorial history of the movies for the next few months, and I’ll check back in come December with the reviews.


3 responses

  1. I love these detailed lists of yours!

    August 31, 2014 at 5:47 pm

  2. A Conflicted Reader

    I am writing this message to you, Mr. Mike, in the wake of reading your recent post “Year In Review 2014, Part II”.

    Sir, I’ve loved your blog for the longest time. I’ve learned some of the most important lessons in filmmaking from you and I’ve learned how a long history of a seemingly irrelevant and inaccurate award show is actually more useful if one just looks beyond surface.

    In short, your blog occupies an important part of my life as an aspiring film watcher, Oscar watcher, and filmmaker…

    …and, perhaps to your surprise, a devout and convicted Catholic man.

    Why must you have to be so anti-religious? It is the one obstacle that prevents me from loving your blog wholeheartedly. In arts, people practice their criticism to at least stray away from words more suited from the ordained population. They’ve already learned to do this rightfully in politics.

    But the moment the concept of “beauty” enters the picture, an artist and a critic begins to stray into that territory those reasonable would refer to as “spiritual.” And you, sir, write so against the notion of an existence greater than your own, a “God” for all intents and purposes.

    I am trying to imagine a blog such as yours that aspires with as much ambition and daring as you, good sir, to watch and run through all those films and categories of the Academy Awards. Also, a perusal of all the Disney canon films, Bond films, and the famous film franchises (on that note, you went through all of LOTR not noting one bit of Christian symbolism, especially since Mr. Tolkien himself was a outstanding Catholic).

    Yes, I am trying to imagine a blog, exactly mirroring your own. Except without the blatant vitriol against any semblance of plot, character, or the whole shebang of religion–particularly that of the Christian faith.

    In my few years as a film-watcher, I’ve told many a mainstream or barely casual film person that if they simply do not get of a film that has deserved its praise, then it is simply not their taste, but a wise sense of respect be always observed toward that work.

    Likewise, sir, if you simply do not get those Oscar movies of a religious nature, simply say so and stand back. Now, even a person such I realize that way too many religious films are too agenda-fronted–cliched, preachy…

    Enough has been said of such films. Even i hate them. BUT, I never use them to create a straw-man for myself to show that I am above the idea of having a religious conviction. Why can’t you shake those fallacious pretenses and answer for yourself why being so against religion must show face in your utterly insightful remarks on the Oscars and in cinema. Is it only proper that a person seeking the best of this art form become repulsed by religion and strange that another turn to cinema (like me) and find their way to God? If one were to consider the whole landscape in general, it cannot go both ways.

    Or perhaps the religion you so misguidedly detest only exists in the movies? Believe me, sir, much of religion–especially my Catholic faith–is non-existent in movies nowadays. Religion as Hollywood has come to know it no longer exists, full stop.

    After all of this rant, I just want to say this in full honesty:

    I love your blog and your thoughts on the Oscars and on film franchises and what makes extraordinary films extraordinary to death.

    I admire your earnestness and down-to-earth nature you bring your examinations.

    When I consider the makings of a film in the future, I think not only of the advice of the great auteurs (Kurosawa, Kubrick, Miyazaki, Wilder, Hitchcock, Powell/Pressburger, Lumet, etc.), the great critics (Ebert and…Ebert), and some of my professors (if, when writing your scripts, you happen to consult THE HOLLYWOOD STANDARD, just know that author Christopher Riley happens to be my valuable screenwriting professor), but your thoughts as well. Much of your and TokyoRemix’s observations on the franchises were solid tips for making at least a solid film that looks good.

    I just wish you’d keep your thoughts and convictions regarding religion to yourself. Above all, I do not wish to become angry with you or to throw away whatever valuable lessons about film, filmmaking, and the Oscars I’ve learned from you. I simply feel that your anti-religious views creeping into your insights about cinema keep you from truly unpacking that great art form for yourself.

    And, if you allow me to speak on from my background, I fear for what might find you should you go to your grave forever against religion. And, if that is the path you so select, then may God have mercy on your soul.

    A Conflicted Reader

    P.S. All of which I wrote to you above I would say to you face to face (though not in a Bergman sense, knowing your taste in foreign films).

    Also P.S. if you put HEAVEN IS FOR REAL–to me, a forgettable, harmless, preachy, by-the-numbers novel adaptation of a story that happens to have a lot of the creamy side of religion and afterlife sentiments in it–in your Unforgiveables list for 2014, you better convince even the most devout and faithful Catholic why it is on there. And it can’t be just because of religion because that is a bullshit excuse–a whiny complaint even–for someone as insightful about film as you are. If you asked me, I’d prefer you’d keep it at 0 stars and forget about it. *Sigh* Sometimes I wish I could just time-travel to the day you post that list and know just what you’d write. :)

    September 1, 2014 at 2:14 am

  3. I’m a bit surprised you didn’t like Calvary more, especially given your professed love of dialogue. I thought it was brilliantly done, and while indeed it was more a drama with black-comedy trimmings than a full-on comedy, I responded to its tone quite enthusiastically. (And I’m not even Catholic.)

    Beyond that, I think we see eye to eye for the most part–certainly where Boyhood is concerned. So glad you also think it’s not quite the unquestionable masterwork its fans have made it out to be. Didn’t care for Days of Future Past, outright loved Guardians, etc.

    My biggest takeaway, though, is that I really need to see Tracks and Sunshine on Leith.

    September 1, 2014 at 7:46 pm

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