2014: The Year in Reviews (September)

Every January, I go over almost the films that are scheduled to come out that year. I use Wikipedia’s year in film article as it exists at the time, and preview all the films. I use it to familiarize myself with what’s coming out, and, most importantly, use it to guess what I’m going to think about all of the movies. I like to guess ratings for all the films because, at this point, I know myself pretty well, and I selfishly like to see how close I can get up to twelve months out. Plus, it allows me to see which films at the end of the year surprised me, for better or worse. But mostly, it’s so I know what’s coming out. Sometimes I just want to know what to be excited for.

Aside from the films scheduled, I also go over films that have been finished (or are shooting), that, in all likelihood, will probably come out over the course of the year. I’ve gotten much more thorough about this since starting the blog. 2011 had 30 such films. 2012 had 90. Last year, I had 209, plus an extra 27 held over from the year before. At this point, there’s not much that I miss.

How these articles work: I recap what I said about the films in January, write up my review of the films based on the initial watch (which have been posted in three separate reviews articles from April, August, and… yesterday), and then I give my final thoughts on the film, after having had time to think about it some more, and finalize my ranking. Typically, the Final Thoughts space is for me to go, “Originally I gave it 3.5 stars, but now, it’s more like 3.”

We’ll start with January, and go month by month through December. After that, I’ll recap the films I tracked in January that didn’t come out (and ultimately decide which ones I’ll keep tracking next year). And at the end of it all, I’ll analyze all the numbers to see how accurate I was in guessing back in January. Mostly it’s to put all the ratings in one place. And of course, after that, we’ll end the year with the Unforgivables list and my Top Ten list. But that’s all not for another two weeks. Right now, we’re recapping September:

One thing I do in all these recap articles is explain how my rankings work.

* * * * * (5 stars) — I really loved the film. Five stars essentially guarantees the film a spot in the top ten or top twenty (Though usually top ten). (2013 examples of 5 star movies: Gravity, Frozen, The Wind Rises.)

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars) — I loved the film, but not unconditionally. Four and a half stars is usually the ranking for films in the top ten and top twenty. Rarely does a four and a half star film fall to tier two, but that’s all dependent on how many there are. (2013 examples of 4.5 star films: About Time, Inside Llewyn Davis, Prisoners, 12 Years a Slave.)

* * * * (4 stars) — I liked the film quite a bit, but it’s not one of those that I would automatically say is a top ten film. It could end up being one when all is said and done, but typically a four star film is one of those that I’ve solidly liked, and will openly say is a really good movie. Three and a half, I’ll say that I really enjoyed it. But four stars is where I’ll say that it’s a really good movie. Four star movies generally are top twenty and tier two. They don’t usually make the top ten, but it’s not unheard of. (2013 examples of 4 star films: Dallas Buyers Club, Escape from Tomorrow, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, Pacific Rim, This Is the End.)

* * * ½ (3.5 stars) — The film stood out to me as being particularly solid. I always differentiate three and a half from three by saying that three stars is for a film that I just enjoyed enough to give it the thumbs up. Three and a half is when I go, “Wow, that was actually really solid and I enjoyed it quite a bit.” It’s not alway a mark of “this was better than I expected” or, “It’s better than you think.” Sometimes it’s just, “That was really solid,” or, “That was awesome,” even though the film itself wasn’t particularly a masterpiece. It’s a very variable ranking. It could mean a lot of things. Usually it’s for something I enjoyed, but didn’t love enough to put it near the very top of my year-end list. Three and a half star films never make it above tier two, and most of them are tier three. You’ll see only a few populating tier two, but mostly they’re tier three. (2013 examples of 3.5 star films: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Best Offer, Frances Ha, Now You See Me, Pain and Gain, Upstream Color.)

* * * (3 stars) — Three stars is for films that were pretty good. Usually for a three star movie, I’ll say, “I enjoyed it well enough.” Or, probably the most common phrase I use is, “You can get through it.” But without qualification. For a two and a half star film, I’ll say, “You can get through it, but…” Three stars don’t have the qualification. Mostly three stars is for a film I enjoyed enough to say it wasn’t bad. I found it watchable enough that I wasn’t completely indifferent toward it. If I give a film that seems like it should have a higher rating three stars, then it means I didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else. And if there’s something you’d think was a piece of shit at three stars, it means I thought it wasn’t actually that bad. But most of the time, three stars just means, “Yeah, it was okay. I enjoyed it well enough.” They’re just entertaining enough for me to not be indifferent. (2013 examples of 3 star films: Beautiful Creatures, The Call, The Lone Ranger, Spring Breakers, To the Wonder, 21 & Over.)

* * ½ (2.5 stars) — Two and a half stars is my ultimate indifference ranking. I didn’t necessarily think it was a bad film, I just didn’t give a shit about it whatsoever. I thought it was utterly generic. Nothing to make me like it, and it wasn’t bad enough to make me dislike it. It wasn’t memorable to me in any way. Odds are, if a “classy” movie is here, it means it was particularly disappointing, and if something that seemed like an Unforgivable is here, it means it actually wasn’t the piece of shit we were all thinking and was actually just about passable. It’s also my way of saying, “You might have liked this, but I certainly didn’t.” And also my way of saying, “This wasn’t very good, but at least it was competently made.” But for the most part, two and a half stars means I just didn’t care whatsoever and will not remember much about the movie in two years. They may also be Unforgivable, depending on my reasons. (2013 examples of 2.5 star films: After Earth, The Butler, Gangster Squad, A Good Day to Die Hard, Jobs.)

* * (2 stars) — Two starts means that the film was mostly competent and all, but I just didn’t like it. Either it wasn’t for me, it was a genre that I don’t like (horror movie), I just found it boring, or it was one of those generic shitty genre movies that populate the early months. Or it was just a giant piece of shit that at least looked like a good movie. So two stars is for — “They tried… it just wasn’t very good.” Depending on how bad they are, they do have a shot at the Unforgivables list. (2013 examples of 2 star films: The Big Wedding, A Haunted House, The Internship, Lovelace, Safe Haven.)

* ½ (1.5 stars) — One and a half usually means the film was terrible, but it’s not a surefire Unforgivable. Probably because it’s a shitty thriller, a shitty horror movie, or a horrible sequel in a franchise that has churned out nothing but horrible sequels. Or it’s for films that could have gone two stars, but I just have a particular dislike for them. These have a pretty good shot at the Unforgivables list, and should for sure make my bottom 25 list. (2013 examples of 1.5 star films: Battle of the Year, The Heat, Identity Thief, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, We’re the Millers.)

* (1 star) — I really didn’t like the movie. It was so bad it was almost unwatchable. Typically a one star film is certain to be Unforgivable. Sometimes one star movies get saved by virtue of being a certain kind of sequel (like Big Mommas House: Like Father, Like Son) or being something that’s too easy to make Unforgivable (like Marmaduke, or a Friedberg and Seltzer movie. Movies we knew were gonna be pieces of shit going in), but in any case — they’re really awful movies that shouldn’t exist. (2013 examples of 1 star films: Ass Backwards, The Canyons, Inappropriate Comedy, So Undercover.)

0 stars — It means I hated the film. Guaranteed Unforgivable. It’s a film that should never have been made, and has actually lowered the bar for cinema as an art form and has actually detracted from a culture that’s in the toilet to begin with. A film with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and one that physically made me angry while watching it. (2013 examples of 0 star films: Grown Ups 2, The Starving Games.) All right, now let’s get recapping: We’re gonna start, as we always do, with a combination of 2013 films that I didn’t get to see in time for last year’s articles (or are clearly 2013 films that weren’t released until this year or are ones I just didn’t know about until this year).

September

The Longest Week

What I said about it back in January:

“Oh, yeah. Right. I tracked this in 2012, I think. Or something. I tracked this at one point. So maybe this is in the wrong article. But whatever. It’s here.”

2.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“It was all right. Not “I waited for two years for this to come out” all right, but all right.”

“I can’t recommend this, but I can say I got through it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Not great. Barely was okay with it, but was ultimately okay with it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star. Didn’t mind it.

God Help the Girl

What I said about it back in January:

2.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“It’s a pleasant little musical. Twee as shit, but pleasant.”

“In terms of musicals (and I’m so glad there was more than one this year), Sunshine on Leith was the better of the two. But I love that they were both U.K. musicals. I mean, I’m sad there are no American musicals, but I’m glad one place is trying to keep the genre alive.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I’m always gonna be okay with a musical.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star. Musical bump.

No Good Deed

What I said about it back in January:

“This thriller stars black people.”

“And that makes me marginally more interested. Because I like Idris Elba, and I like Taraji P. Henson.”

“So maybe I’ll actually see this.”

2.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Admirable, but I didn’t care.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Hard to get more succinct than that.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

What I said about it back in January:

“This used to be two movies. One for “His” and one for “Hers.” The Weinsteins picked it up and are now recutting it into a single movie.”

“I’m still interested in it. Hopefully this movie clocks in over 150 minutes. Otherwise how can it be worth it? I heard it was good as two movies. So if it’s 3 hours and one movie, that’s fine. But if it’s 135 minutes, they had to have cut too much stuff.”

“So, for that, I’ll stick with 3.5 starsI want this to be good. I want it to be like Margaret (only without all the production delays and all the unfortunate behind the scenes stuff).”

What I actually thought about it:

“I loved this.”

“I was worried I’d see this and then the double feature would be lessened for me. But this only made me more excited to see the double features.”

“This is one of the best movies of the year, it’s a film experiment that rivals Byhood, in its own way, and it’s gonna be a movie I go back to in the future that people should really check out from this year. And that’s before I even see it as the two separate films.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

You know what’s funny? When I wrote my Great Movies You Haven’t Heard of article for 2014, I said this was the Margaret of 2014. And I had no idea I’d even said that back in January. That’s scary.

But yeah, I loved this movie, and I can’t wait to see the double feature it was supposed to be.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Dolphin Tale 2

What I said about it back in January:

“Nope.”

What I actually thought about it:

Didn’t see it. Felt like a waste of time.

How close was I?: N/A

My Old Lady

What I said about it back in January:

3 stars.”

“If anyone sees this and it’s decent, I smell some Golden Globe nominations!”

What I actually thought about it:

Haven’t seen it yet. But it’s out on DVD in a month. So I’ll see it by then. May not update this, but I’ll see it.

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

The Drop

What I said about it back in January:

3.5 stars.”

“Maybe it’s only 3, but fuck it. I like the cast.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Was hoping for a little more of a gem than I got. It was all right. I enjoyed it. Almost 3.5, but not quite there.”

“Definitely one of the more solid 3s and solid movies of 2014, though. Got a lot of charm to it.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This is the highest end of the 3 spectrum I can give, if that makes any sense. I did like this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-str.

The Skeleton Twins

What I said about it back in January:

“I’m unsure as to whether or not I think this can be good.”

3 stars. I’m either gonna be right or off by a half-star.”

What I actually thought about it:

“This is the ultimate ‘did not care’ movie.”

“Something about that made me go, “No thank you.” And I was right. No thank you, indeed.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

No thank you.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

This Is Where I Leave You

What I said about it back in January:

“Hell of a cast you got there, Levy.”

“Could be good.”

“Could be real bad.”

“Let’s assume okay.”

3 stars.”

“Or maybe this’ll turn into another Big Wedding.”

“Too early to tell.”

What I actually thought about it:

“This movie doesn’t know if it wants to be a comedy or be a drama.”

“The film doesn’t quite land.”

“It’s directed too much. That is to say… it’s based on a book, written by the author, and it feels like they’re trying to tell a story. If they gave the performances and the relationships room to breathe, this could have been something much better.”

“Mostly I’m left wanting by this. Not that I was expecting too much, but given the cast, I thought this would be better. No one has the balls to allow things to be freeform.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This needed to be more like Cassavetes for me to really like it.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Maze Runner

What I said about it back in January:

“Sounds like it could be good.”

“I’ve been burned by these before.”

“But there’s no real standout in the cast, and the director hasn’t done anything. So maybe it’ll be a hidden gem.”

3.5 stars.”

“I’m at the point now where I want guess higher, since I feel like I’ve been restraining myself so far.”

“This is where the mistakes happen.”

“(Isn’t this the exact same spot Runner Runner was last year?)”

What I actually thought about it:

“Conceptually, I’m more interested in this movie than I’m interested in any other YA movies to come out the last five years. Execution-wise… same thing.”

“Watchable enough, but it’s the same YA shit you’ve seen everywhere else.”

“I thought the fact that they were stuck in a maze and it was essentially single location would make it a better movie. But no. They all end up the same.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

They do all end up the same.

And they split the last one into two parts.

Ugh.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star. Why do I do these things?

High Moon

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Nor should I have. It’s a TV movie. I just saw it because my company was involved.

What I actually thought about it:

“Wasn’t terrible. Was weird as hell, but it was engaging enough.”

“I like all the colors they used. Clearly low budget and not going anywhere except this one movie, but for the 90 minutes, I was engaged enough.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Ehh, it was fine, I guess.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Tracks

What I said about this back in January:

Nothing, apparently. And if I did, I can’t find it. (Though I didn’t look very hard.) I feel like I knew about this all year. Maybe because I had it early. I don’t know.

What I actually thought about it:

Loved this.”

“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.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

I really, really liked this movie. This is one of the hidden gems of 2014. This is a great film.

How close was I?: N/A

Tusk

What I said about it back in January:

“Kevin Smith is doing this. I guess this is his version of The Human Centipede.”

“Sure.”

“Let’s assume that Parks is gonna be going way over the top.”

“I’m down for that.”

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I’m sorry — I just watched a man get turned into a walrus. I really don’t know what to say about that.”

“The movie itself isn’t insanely good. The story is actually pretty shitty if you think about it. But I’m not really sure what else this could have been.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I mean… I don’t even know what to say about this.

Walrus Yes?

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

What I said about it back in January:

Again, somehow did not track this, even though I knew it was coming out. Shit happens, I guess. (Every year.)

What I actually thought about it:

“We’re at the point where we rate these Liam Neeson thrillers next to all the other ones. Because he’s just churning them out the way Charles Bronson churned them out in the 70s and 80s. And they’re all the same.”

“This one is probably one of the best of the bunch, just because he’s more of a three-dimensional character (more of), and you spend a lot of time with the bad guys as well.”

“It’s more of a procedural than anything. Which I like. Same for Non-Stop. Instead of him just beating people up or whatever, there’s actually a story here.”

“I’m glad he’s making movies like this, since I’d prefer to watch one of these than some other parkour bullshit or generic other action movie with a star who shouldn’t be doing action.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This was actually solid. I enjoyed this, and I’m glad Liam Neeson is out there to provide solid entertainment once or twice a year.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Guest

What I said about it back in January:

“This is the new film by the guy who did You’re Next.”

“I’m in based on that alone.”

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Holy shit, was this awesome.”

“It’s a basic premise that you’ve seen before in shitty thrillers… But how they execute it, and how they play a lot of these scenarios — it’s a really good movie.”

“This is a really good movie and is going to go down as one of my high recommends for the year. Really great stuff here, and I’m now very excited to see whatever Adam Wingard wants to do next.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

HUGE fan of this movie. Did not think it was going to happen, and I’m glad I liked it as much as I did.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a full star.

The Scribbler

What I said about it back in January:

No idea what this is about, but it’s starring Eliza Dushku, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sasha Grey, Gina Gershon, Garrett Dillahunt, and Michael Imperioli.

So, sure.

2.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“It was weird as hell and looked liked it was made for more than it was, so good job there. Otherwise — nah.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Don’t worry about this one. Just move on.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?:

The Zero Theorem

What I said about it back in January:

“Terry Gilliam. Cannot wait.”

“Was really hoping this came out last year.”

3.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“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.”

“Terry Gilliam is one of the great auteurs still working. And I love hearing he’s going to come out with a new one.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I did like this. Didn’t love it. But it’s interesting, and unique, and very watchable. These are the movies that make up a year.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Hector and the Search for Happiness

What I said about it back in January:

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

Haven’t seen it. Allegedly out on DVD February 3rd. So that should put it out just in time before I close the book on the year. We’ll call it a 50/50 right now. If I can see this, I will.

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

Good People

What I said about it back in January:

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I don’t know why I have such disgust whenever I have to watch Franco on screen. But I really don’t like watching him.”

And this movie… they find the money, and yet somehow people know they took it, and they don’t even hide it well… it’s completely ridiculous.”

“I’m not even going to bother going on about it, because you don’t even know this movie exists, nor should you. It’s not very good, and let’s just pretend it doesn’t exist and move on to better things.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I went three here? Yeesh.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Jimi: All Is By My Side

What I said about it back in January:

“This is the Jimi Hendrix biopic starring Andre 3000.”

“I know they can’t use any of his music, but I hope this is good.”

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I’ll give him credit for not going the obvious route with the biopic. I just — wasn’t that interested in it.”

“It’s a better movie than I’m rating it, but ultimately I didn’t care about any of it. That’s the reason for it.”

“Benjamin was good and looked and sounded the part, and the guitar playing was nice, and the lack of recognizable Hendrix songs didn’t hurt the movie as much as I thought it might, and Imogen Poots is awesome as always (she’s really starting to become one of my favorite people to watch) but there’s still not enough music in it.”

“We want to see Hendrix play, even if it’s just random stuff on the guitar… I’m not sure exactly what this movie was about.”

“I’ll give him all the credit in the world for trying something different, but the end result was something I just couldn’t get into.”

 

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I think that covers it. The pieces were there, but I just didn’t care about anything that happened, as much as I wanted to.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

Pride

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. I started hearing about this over the course of the year.

What I actually thought about it:

This was great. Remember when those movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full Monty would get Best Picture nominations? This had the same feel as those. It just made you happy. And it was so much fun. I’m glad this is getting recognized as a great film. It’s completely worth it.

* * * * (4 stars)

Final thoughts:

Loved this movie. Everyone should see it.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Two Night Stand

What I said about it back in January:

3 stars.”

“Miles Teller has a knack for being in watchable movies.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Really liked this. Might have been 3 stars if it weren’t for the fact that 2/3 of it takes place entirely in one location. We all know how I love the single location movie.”

“Is it new or unique? No. But it’s single location, and I liked it.”

“Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton are both great, and they elevate what’s ultimately a decent but not spectacular script. I’m the first one to say how dead the romantic comedy genre is. But this one’s actually one of the good ones (good being a relative term to the state of the genre).”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Still really liked this. This is a unique little gem for me for the year. Gonna remember this one nicely.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?:

The Two Faces of January

What I said about it back in January:

Still very much in.”

3.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“It’s a serviceable thriller. Doesn’t amount to much.”

“I was kind of hoping for more, but I’m not surprised this was just okay.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Any time something gets dumped VOD, you have to deduct a half a star. Serviceable, but not memorable is the best way to describe this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

The Boxtrolls

What I said about it back in January:

“It’s stop-motion. That gives it a leg up on everything else.”

“Got a solid cast too.”

“Still gonna say 3 stars, since it’s real hard for me to love animated films not made by Disney or Pixar.”

“But if there’s anything that has a shot at 3.5, it’s a stop-motion film. I’m rooting for this.”

What I actually thought about it:

“This went pretty much how these animated movies go — I didn’t care at all, was completely indifferent about it, but it’s getting 3 stars because it was stop-motion and the amount of craft that went into it is truly impressive.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

The writing is terrible, but the animation is nice. I felt about this the way I felt about ParaNorman. Did not care at all what was happening, but it looked nice. So it’s better than if it were CG animation.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Equalizer

What I said about it back in January:

3.5 stars. I mean — it’s Denzel. When does he go below 3? And even then, he’s usually good for a 3.5 if the premise is good. And here, the premise is very good.”

“Very excited for this.”

What I actually thought about it:

“This was actually pretty shitty.”

“I’ll give this movie the 3 just because it’s a solid R with the violence. But outside of that, it’s like a shittier Man on Fire.”

“Denzel isn’t even trying anymore…. He’s basically become the black Liam Neeson.”

“Big disappointment, this movie. I want Denzel to go back to making cool shit again, instead of essentially making the same thing over and over.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

That covers it. It’s one of the most disappointing movies of the year for me. I need Denzel to try again. I really do.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Off by a half-star.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow is October.

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