2014: The Year in Reviews (December)

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 December:

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).

December

The Pyramid

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. I only heard about it because it was getting a weird pseudo-wide release. Plus the poster made my posters list.

What I actually thought about it:

I skipped it.

It didn’t show up in time for this list, and honestly, I’m not gonna track it just to bad my total by one. I can afford to skip one at this point.

How close was I?: N/A

Wild

What I said about it back in January:

“Directed by the guy who did Dallas Buyers Club and written by the guy who did High Fidelity (the book, anyway), About a Boy (the book), and An Education.”

“Sounds like quality.”

3.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

Maybe I put too much stock in the director. Or maybe I should temper my expectations when it’s Reese. Either way — I really didn’t give a fuck about any of these. It was watchable, it was decent, but I didn’t care. About the performance, about this woman. I kinda felt similar when watching Into the Wild. (But I at least liked that movie more than I liked this one.) I don’t identify with these people, and I don’t really care about their problems. And that’s how I felt about this one. I kept watching going, “I don’t care about you.” And I didn’t.

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

The story sounds better than it comes off on screen. You hear heroin and you’re like, “Yeah!” No. It’s… not that interesting. Should have been better, or maybe I shouldn’t have expected better. It’s just okay. And again, I don’t care about these people or their problems.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Comet

What I said about it back in January:

“The one thing that got me to put this here is the writer/director. His name is Sam Esmail. I remember it because I read a script by him a few years back called “Norm: the Movie.” And it was absolutely spectacular. It’s about a dude who wakes up one day living a movie of his life. He discovers it’s a movie because every time the film cuts to a new scene, he suddenly appears in a different place and freaks the fuck out. Like, “How did I get from my shower to this subway station?” And then when he walks, a score starts playing, and he’s like, “Does no one else hear this music?” And then there’s a great scene where his friend realizes they’re in a PG-13 movie, so every time he tries to swear, he physically can’t do it. It’s a tremendous script. It’s so good. I can’t believe no one’s made it yet.”

“But anyway, that’s the dude who wrote and is directing this. Based on his previous work, I’m in for whatever this guy wants to do.”

3 stars until I can know more. But I’m in for this.”

What I actually thought about it:

“It was almost everything I wanted it to be.”

“I wanted a very interesting little movie that I loved that I could point out to people as being a really interesting little movie. The only thing I didn’t get was that I didn’t love this. I just really liked it.”

“It is a really interesting and unique little movie.”

“This was still really good. And no one’s heard of it, so I can still pump it up as something people don’t know about that they need to see. I like movies like that.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Go see it. It’s worth seeing. This is the odd little gem you can show your friends. Love these.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

The Dying of the Light

What I said about it back in January:

“Written and directed by Paul Schrader. And starring…”

“Nicolas Cage.”

“You should all know by now I seek out every single movie this man makes.”

3 stars. The blanket Cage rating.”

What I actually thought about it:

“I really want every Cage movie to make it to three stars. That’s the ratio where I can feel as though they were worthwhile, no matter how generic, and paycheck-driven they seem to be.”

“This one just didn’t get there. And it’s probably because of the fact that the studio took it away from the director and recut it themselves, under the protest of him and the stars. Or maybe because it went VOD. Who knows?”

“I actually ended up taking a nap during part of this. No joke. Took a nap. Woke up, kept watching. Didn’t care during any of it. Missed about 20 minutes or so in the middle.”

“And I’m the one who likes Cage movies.”

“He’s got more of these filtering in nowadays. I wonder how many of them are tax-related.”

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

And I’m the one who likes Cage movies.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

Black or White

What I said about it back in January:

“Mike Binder is back. He hasn’t made a movie since Reign Over Me.”

“I was sold on Costner.”

* * * (3 stars)

What I actually thought about it:

“It’s not as good as my rating. But I still liked it. The half-star bump is because they’re in a courtroom for part of the movie. And you know my feeling about trial movies.”

“It’s not groundbreaking, but I appreciate the film’s restraint in the area of racism.”

“Overall, the movie is just watchable, but I give them extra points for not going too heavy on the tropes and for keeping me interested throughout.”

“You could do worse.”

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

You could do worse. You won’t rate it as highly as I did, but it’s very watchable.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

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

Life Partners

What I said about it back in January:

“Written and directed by a woman.”

2.5 stars.”

“Sounds like a younger Kids Are All Right.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Didn’t think I’d like this that much.”

“It was fun. Not great. But fun. I liked it well enough.”

“I like movies about gay characters that downplay the fact that they’re gay.”

“Not enough movies about similar subject matter will do that. So good for this movie.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Solid three star movie. Definitely exceeded expectations.

* * * (3 stars)

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

Son of a Gun

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing? I thought this was one I was tracking and then was worried about because it was going VOD in December and wide in January and I wasn’t sure which year it was gonna fall under. Oh, well, then, I guess it doesn’t matter.

What I actually thought about it:

I liked this. It’ll officially be out in about three weeks. It’s worth a watch. Nice little crime movie. Kept me engaged throughout.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Thumbs up.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Top Five

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Didn’t know about it. And if I did, I certainly didn’t think it was the kind of movie

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

Miss Julie

What I said about it back in January:

“I’m in.”

3.5 stars.”

“I hope it’s 4.”

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

Exodus: Gods and Kings

What I said about it back in January:

“Ridley Scott is making a movie about Exodus. Moses, the whole thing.”

“Normally, I’d be totally on board with this. My problem now is — Ridley Scott.”

“Ridley Scott may have passed the point of good moviemaking.”

“I want this movie to be good. But, it’s Bible-based, and I don’t really go for those as much. It took Darren Aronofsky to make me want to see Noah. This — I’ll see it, but I’m not expecting it to be good, necessarily.”

“So, we’ll call it 3 stars, and hope it goes higher. I’ll take the hit if I’m wrong. I just can’t give a shit about a story about Moses directed by a guy with a recent history of giant, epic misfires.”

What I actually thought about it:

Interesting. I’m so happy that I was wary about this. It made me nervous when I heard it. “A bible movie? In December? Not the summer? And Ridley Scott? This isn’t going to work.”

Ridley Scott aside (whose movies are getting worse and worse, it seems. Some are decent, but arguably the man hasn’t made a really good movie in a long time), the problem with these bible movies is, they’re just not as interesting when they don’t have that 50s scope to them. The one where all the shots are wide because they’re showing off how much they spent on the sets and production design and the costumes. Those had character. These movies — or maybe it’s just this one in particular — feels like I’ve seen it before. Maybe because Ridley Scott has basically remade Gladiator three times now. With Kingdom of Heaven, and Robin Hood, and this. And they’re all losing something in the translation. Kind of the way the Howard Hawks Rio Bravo remakes all lost something each successive time. I mean, sure, this is better than Robin Hood, but it’s a big, incoherent, poorly-written mess. The only thing that saves this are the visuals. Otherwise, it’s two and a half hours of a story I don’t care about, that I’ve seen like three times now on screen. So rather than enjoy myself, I’m left watching and thinking about how much more boring this seems than the 50s/60s version of this would have been (and was. When it was made by Cecil B. DeMille. Sure that version is 70 minutes longer, but it was big and colorful. This is brooding and inconsequential).

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

The problem with this started when they added the subtitle. Right there, you see the difference between 1960s Hollywood and 2014 Hollywood.

It’s fine, and it looks great, but what’s the point of it all? What are we getting out of this movie? We’re getting something that they spent a lot of time and effort on, that looks good, but has no substance to it whatsoever. I’d call it a misfire, but I saw this one coming. So I’m not surprised in the least.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Inherent Vice

What I said about it back in January:

“It’s Paul Thomas Anderson. 4 stars is a minimum.”

4.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

“The key to Paul Thomas Anderson now is — don’t judge him on the first watch.”

“He’s trying to be like Kubrick. And you can’t say anything about a Kubrick movie after one watch.”

“This movie — a lot of information is thrown around, thrown out there, laid out and shown over two and a half hours. And it’s a detective novel. So a lot of it is just there to not matter. You have to understand that going in.”

“The key to a detective novel is that the detective is like a pinball, thrown into the machine, and is bounced around from weird stuff to weird stuff, until eventually we get to the end. So if you know that, this is great.”

“This is a thoroughly entertaining movie. People are gonna knock this because it’s not as serious as The Master or not as epic (in a way) as There Will Be Blood. But this is a great movie.”

“I hope Paul Thomas Anderson keeps coming out with a movie every two years and doesn’t make us wait like he did between There Will Be Blood and The Master.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

I loved this when I saw it, and I imagine I’ll only love it more on repeated viewings. Can’t wait to see this one again.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Got a screener, watched it. Only reason.

What I actually thought about it:

This looks like one of those parody movies, almost. This looks like it was shot by the same people who shot The Room. Except Gena Rowlands and some actors you’ve heard of are in it. The performances are pretty bad. Probably owing to the poor directing.

This was directed by the same guy that directed Hercules in New York. That about says it all.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Don’t ever watch this.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Mommy

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Foreign language contender I saw during screener season.

What I actually thought about it:

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

Song of the Sea

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Animated Feature contender. I like anything hand-drawn and will seek them out.

What I actually thought about it:

It was all right. The only reason I really liked it was because it was hand-drawn. I’m rooting for this to make the final five based on that alone. Otherwise, it’s a kid’s movie. It’s for kids, and it’s cute and all, but it’s not amazing.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

It’s nice and all, and I’m rooting for it to be nominated because it wasn’t made on a computer, but as a movie, it was just okay.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Annie

What I said about it back in January:

“I like that it’s a musical, I don’t like that it’s a rap musical. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.”

3 stars.”

“Look, it’s not that big a benefit, but it’s still a benefit. This has to prove to me that it’s good before I believe in it.”

What I actually thought about it:

“Look, it’s a charming movie. I knew that going in. I knew the natural charm of the storm and most of the cast was going to eventually win me over, despite the obvious drawbacks.”

“Number one drawback — what they do to all movie musicals now, which is Glee-ify the music.”

“And also, Cameron Diaz in this — wow… I’d be embarrassed to have that performance on film.”

“They do work in some interesting things in there. Cameos, underhanded jokes about society and the movie business — that was enough to keep me entertained.”

“You can actually do worse for a movie. It’s for kids. And the original Annie is… of a certain generation. It did need a remake. Maybe not this remake. But a remake.”

“This will be done right over the next twenty years.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Enjoy the Razzie, Cameron Diaz!

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Winter Sleep

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Foreign movie out of Cannes. I never track these because I only know they exist because of Cannes.

What I actually thought about it:

I watched this while laying in bed all day. I recommend that’s the only way you watch it too. If you were in a theater for all three hours and twenty minutes of this movie, you’d be bored out of your fucking mind. You need to be somewhere and be ready to be there for this entire movie. Otherwise you’re done. It’s 200 minutes of people talking. That’s it. People talk. A lot. There are ten-plus minute dialogue scenes in this movie. And you need to be ready for that. Overall, it’s an engaging movie, if you’re going to pay attention to it. Otherwise, I can see why it won Cannes but isn’t getting love from a lot of people since. It’s very talky, and it’s a hard movie to watch. I’m sure the pretentious art film people will slurp this to no end. I liked it, but I wouldn’t recommend it that highly. If you think you can do it, then do it. Otherwise, you’re not missing anything other than some gorgeous outdoor photography and an moderately interesting movie. I say watch two shorter, more interesting American movies instead. Or watch the Eleanor Rigby double feature.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

At this point, there hasn’t been any time for me to formulate any further thoughts. But I will say, it was engaging, if you’re gonna sit at home and know you’re not going anywhere else for the duration. Otherwise, don’t go out of your way.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

What I said about it back in January:

“Well, these films are definitely on the up swing, and this third one is going to feature a giant battle, so that’s a big plus.”

“I assume this will end up being better than the previous two, since there will be less singing, less dinner parties, and less giant spiders.”

“We know it’s gonna be 4 stars, since I even gave An Unexpected Journey 4 stars. Maybe if it’s really good, I’ll go 4.5, but 4 seems right in line, and why should I expect more?”

What I actually thought about it:

It’s become a tradition around the office, that we go see these movies. The first one, we went to the Century City Mall (for those familiar with the Los Angeles area), went and got drinks and nachos beforehand, and then promptly went to a mostly empty theater and all fell asleep for part of that movie. And then last year, we went to the Chinese theatre to see part II. And we all stayed awake for the whole thing. We might have dozed off and lost concentration, but we stayed awake. And it’s become a tradition that right before Christmas break, we go see these movies. And now, this is the last one.

It — wraps everything up. I can’t say I can consider this a great movie. The other two were pretty overlong and incoherent. But I like Middle Earth, so I liked them. This was more of the same. I had no idea what the point was for half of it, but I like the world, so I liked the movie. That’s basically it.

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

That’s it. It’s not great, but I liked it. That’s how these movies are.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

The Gambler

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Guess I thought it wasn’t coming out. I don’t know. This always happens in December. Or maybe… actually, I think I remember this one. It was originally scheduled for 2015 and then got bumped up for awards consideration. (Or maybe I didn’t realize it was obviously going for awards. Either way.)

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

Mr. Turner

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. These Mike Leigh movies always come out of nowhere for me. Because I rarely pay attention to them.

What I actually thought about it:

“Originally, I didn’t give a shit about this, because I know how I react to Mike Leigh. I’m not a fan of his movies. I’m just not. I appreciate the work done in them, but the movies themselves I find pretty boring most of the time. But then I saw this trailer and thought it would actually be pretty good.”

“Ultimately I got what I was expecting. It’s just okay.”

“I liked it well enough for the performances and stuff, but ultimately I was bored and didn’t care about a lot of it.”

“I tuned out during the last hour at times. Completely tuned out. This is two and a half hours. That’s a long time for a movie that’s not really about anything.”

“I’m not one of those people who exalts Mike Leigh like a lot of the people I find pretentious online, so this should come as no surprise to anyone. Give me something like John Wick any day over this.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Continue to not love Mike Leigh movies, and I’d take John Wick any and every day over this.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

What I said about it back in January:

“Sigh.”

2.5 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

Big Eyes

What I said about it back in January:

“Tim Burton’s new movie.”

“Finally something without CGI.”

“And something without Johnny Depp. Seems like this’ll be his best since Big Fish. (Though I will admit to being partial to Sweeney Todd.)”

“I’m in.”

3.5 stars.”

“Go Tim. Go back to those roots. This could be his best movie since Ed Wood (since I’ll admit — aside from Ed Wood and Sweeney Todd – I don’t love anything Burton has done in 20 years. I like some of them, I admire some of them, but I don’t love them).”

What I actually thought about it:

I LOVED this. This was the good movie Tim Burton needed. Of course, it felt like a movie by anyone else except Tim Burton (and don’t tell me otherwise. The good cinematography and costumes were there, but the rest of it felt like a neutered studio movie, down to the clearly Harvey Weinstein-mandated voiceover and the awful shoehorning of the Lana Del Rey song in the middle for no reason other than to showcase it). But given his track record, this is the good movie he needed to make. Because take away Ed Wood and Big Fish (which I didn’t love, but it was a good movie), the man hasn’t made a legitimately good movie in 20 years. I love Sweeney Todd, but I don’t think we all call that legitimately good. So I’m glad he’s got a good one so we don’t all turn on him (since — Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows… yeesh). The real secret weapon of this movie is Christoph Waltz. He KILLS it. I was always a Cristoph Waltz fan, but even I felt like he was mostly doing the same thing with his roles. This time, I saw a performance out of him. It was great. He’s the best thing about this movie. And you’d think the best thing about this movie would be Amy Adams. It’s really good. I thought I’d get solid, but this was better than expected. And that makes me happy.

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Loved this. Will finish somewhere in the top 25 for the year.

* * * * (4 stars)

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

The Interview

What I said about it back in January:

“I’ve learned not to sleep on Rogen anymore when he’s in control of writing and directing the movies.”

“Comedies get lowballed now, so I don’t get too eager and am more likely to enjoy them.”

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

Well… this release turned out way differently than anyone expected. I wasn’t particularly excited for this back in January, but given the controversy, you had to be at least somewhat intrigued to see it. And honestly, given all the hype, it was never going to live up to it. On its own, it’s fine. It’s not great, but it’s fine. Comedies are never that good nowadays. The best thing about this is that it lets Korean actors be funny. The guy playing Kim Jong-un is great, as is the actress playing his propaganda officer. She’s great. The fact that a comedy let them do this is worth the price of admission alone. And Lizzie Kaplan is great as usual. Otherwise, it’s infantile humor, weirdly graphic for no reason, and had more moments pandering to the lowest common denominator than actual funny moments. I know comedy is subjective, but goddamn.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

The hype is better than the movie, but the Korean actors are great. Rogen is nicely subdued, and Franco is all over the place. And North Korea is amusing. As a country.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Into the Woods

What I said about it back in January:

“Rob Marshall is directing a musical.”

“What a stretch.”

“I’m also not a fan of Rob Marshall’s musicals. I thought Chicago was very poorly handled, direction-wise (hence why he didn’t win the Oscar) and I didn’t like what he did with Nine.”

“So that, and this not being a story I’m familiar with leads me to believe this won’t be great.”

“I’ll go 3.5 stars, because I love musicals, but I’m not confident about it.”

“He’s got people. I’m just worried about the story. Isn’t this supposed to be a really adult story?”

“Sondheim wrote it, too.”

“So fuck it. Scratch the 3.5. We’re going 4 stars.”

“I hope I don’t regret this.”

“Only for Sondheim.”

What I actually thought about it:

“As far as musicals go, they don’t get much better than Sondheim. The man is a world treasure. Lyrically, he can’t be beat. And musically, he’s way more complex than anything out there.”

“I was dubious of the prospects of this musical going on. It’s dark, as musicals go, and it didn’t feel like something that could be done right by Disney. And then — Rob Marshall.”

“Those fears were partially unfounded. It was pretty good. The music and lyrics carry this most of the way. And dare I say — they were even let down by the studio and the filmmaker.”

“This was clearly edited down from a longer, more interesting movie. This movie needed an extra 10-15 minutes to breathe. It’s so fast-paced that I didn’t have a moment to enjoy what I was listening to.”

“But it’s very watchable, and I have more to say about this, but I won’t get too technical about it here. It’s enjoyable, and I liked it.”

“They needed to go all out with this one and not neuter it. (I’m glad they didn’t take away the darker elements of the story, but you didn’t exactly go through with them either.)”

“A better version of this will be made one day.”

* * * * (4 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This needed to be twenty minutes longer, a bit less feverishly paced, and I needed to care about the characters a little more than I did. (I won’t get started on the CGI.) Overall, I liked it. It’s probably not an all-time four star film, but — only for Sondheim.

I do agree that this was good, though it needed to not be so neutered and rushed. And that a better version of this will be made one day.

* * * * (4 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Unbroken

What I said about it back in January:

“Angelina Jolie is directing a script by the Coen brothers about a story just begging to be made into an Oscar contender.”

“I know a little bit more than this synopsis, but maybe it’s best if nobody knows anything. There’s some crazy shit that happens here. It sounds amazing. Laura Hillenbrand wrote the book about this. She also wrote Seabiscuit, which was amazing and was also turned into a Best Picture nominee.”

“So I have faith in this.”

4.5 stars. Fuck it. We’re going for it.”

“I really hope Angelina Jolie fashions herself into a great director. That would be so nice. If she went the Affleck route. She already did In the Land of Blood and Honey, which I didn’t see. (Which no one saw.) Hopefully that allowed her to learn how to direct and now she’s really swinging for the fences.”

“I hope she doesn’t miss.”

What I actually thought about it:

I can see why this got the response it did. People don’t like unabashed sentimentality nowadays. A movie like that, they turn on it. They want to turn on it. It’s not dark and gritty, or whatever. Remember War Horse? I fucking loved War Horse. And everyone hated it. The reason was because you knew exactly what type of movie it was going in. This is the same deal. You know exactly what this movie is going in. You know the scenes, you know how it’s going to end, you know all of it. And that, to me, is not a bad thing. I enjoyed the shit out of this movie. I thought for a minute it was gonna be too much. But I settled in. I really liked it. It’s not a movie that’s gonna change history. But it’s good. I liked it for what it was. Maybe this drops down for me in a few months, but for now, I’m satisfied with what I got.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

We’ll see what I have to say in a few days. This’ll end up some place where I’ll have something to say about it in writing.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

American Sniper

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Again, couldn’t imagine he’d shoot it and have it ready. Typical Clint. Two movies in the same year.

What I actually thought about it:

“It’s pretty good. But it’s another example of a recent Clint Eastwood movie. They just feel lifeless. He doesn’t really seem to care or have the ability to really make a difference behind the camera.”

“I just didn’t care about half of this. When he was home with his family, I didn’t care. I didn’t feel anything.”

“Otherwise, it’s a solid movie. But I’m starting to feel bad when I watch Clint’s movies. They feel like an old guy’s movies.”

 * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It was engaging, but I actually didn’t care about a good 45 minutes of this movie.

And it did feel like an old guy’s movie. It’s kinda sad. Hopefully I can feel better about this in ten years. I don’t like thinking Eastwood’s movies should have been directed by someone else.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Selma

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. For some reason I didn’t think the release date was gonna hold. No idea why. I think because I figured it wasn’t gonna be as big as it is.

What I actually thought about it:

It was all right. I was hoping I’d like it more. But it’s fine. I’m left wanting, just because I’m thinking about how Oliver Stone would have made his MLK movie instead of this. This is pretty standard. Paints him as a saint. You know the deal. That keeps it from going higher for me. I’m not one of those who automatically buys into the social importance of it. The history is important. This is just a movie. I’m not anointing this Best Picture just because it’s about race. It’s a fine movie. But it’s not amazing.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

It’s fine. I’m not against this being nominated, but I was hoping it would be better.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Two Days, One Night

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Festival film that got an Oscar push.

What I actually thought about it:

“It’s pretty good. Cotillard is good, and it’s a French indie. Lot of handheld, mostly performance based and drama in the situation”.

“It’s a simple movie, but it works.”

* * * (3 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Liked it. Didn’t love it. Perfectly watchable. But nothing spectacular. It’s simple, and it works. That’s all.

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Leviathan

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Came out of Cannes.

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

A Most Violent Year

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing? Really? I must have figured there was no way this was coming out, since they were only shooting it back in February/March. I gotta stop doing that.

What I actually thought about it:

“I still haven’t figured out my thoughts on this movie.”

“Let the rating speak for itself, and know that this is one of the very best movies of the year.”

“This movie is both everything you expect it to be, and not what you expect it to be at all. It’s great. And I’m so excited for whatever J.C. Chandor wants to do from now on.”

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

One of my absolute favorite movies of the year, and you’ll get my final thoughts real, real soon.

* * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

– – – – – – – – – –

Extras

This is basically the same as that 2013 and other list I had in the January article. Of ones that weren’t technically released in 2014. I think all of these are ones that are going to becoming out in 2015 in the US. But I’ve seen them now. So here we are.

The Case Against 8

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Screener documentary.

Also, of note — this will count for June, since it technically came out in June. I’m putting it in this article because the June article was posted. But for the Wrap-up article, it’ll be in June.

What I actually thought about it:

Final thoughts:

How close was I?: N/A

Electric Slide

What I said about it back in January:

“This is a pretty crazy story. Dude had a semi famous furniture store in Hollywood in the 70s, then because of his drug habit, started robbing banks in the 80s. Allegedly robbed 72 banks before he died.”

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

Grand Piano

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Discovered it over the course of the year. Decided randomly to watch it at the last minute. Not sure why.

By the way, this will count for March.

What I actually thought about it:

This was pretty great. A nice, compact little thriller. 90 minutes, get in, get out, be entertained. This would have been a perfect B movie during a double feature in the 50s.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

You know I love me my B movies.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

Ida

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Foreign Language contender.

This will count for May.

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

Last Weekend

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Got a screener, so I saw it.

This will count for August.

What I actually thought about it:

Didn’t care. That about sums it up.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

Yup.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

How close was I?: N/A

The Liberator

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing. Foreign Film screener.

Also, FYI, this came out in October, and will count for October.

What I actually thought about it:

Haven’t watched it yet, but I will.

Final thoughts:

How close was I?:

Outcast

What I said about it back in January:

“Starring Nicolas Cage.”

“YES.”

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

I’d have held this over to 2015 if this had a release date. But it doesn’t. And that means they’ll dump it on VOD at some point. Better to get it out of the way now since I can.

This — was all right. This is the Cage I want to see. He’s not really the focal point of the first half of the movie. But when he shows up, it gets good. He does a weird quasi-accent, and cackles a few times straight out of Bad Lieutenant — it’s good. Vintage Cage. The kind of performance that makes these paycheck movies worthwhile.

And the movie itself is all right. It’s watchable. Somehow I didn’t mind the wooden fortress that is Hayden Christensen. So that’s something.

* * * (3 stars)

Final thoughts:

Considering how bad Tokarev (aka Rage) and Left Behind were, this serves as a return to form for Cage. (As relative as that can be.)

* * * (3 stars)

How close was I?: Exact.

Paddington

What I said about it back in January:

“This could be pleasant.”

“I hope it is.”

“I won’t assume anything, but since it’s British, let’s say 3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

All I’m gonna say is this — Nicole Kidman plays an evil taxidermist.

Okay, I’m done.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

Seriously, though.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

The Riot Club

What I said about it back in January:

“Lone Sherfig’s new movie”

“Based on a play, so I imagine it’ll be all right.”

3 stars.”

What I actually thought about it:

It wasn’t all right.

Did not care, did not care.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

Final thoughts:

There’s a reason this didn’t come out stateside in 2014. No one’s gonna care about it here at all.

* * ½ (2.5 stars)

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

The Salt of the Earth

What I said about it back in January:

What I actually thought about it:

Final Thoughts:

How close was I?:

’71

What I said about it back in January:

Nothing, because it came to be known over the course of the year. Technically it’s gonna be released in the US in February. But I saw it early, so here it is.

What I actually thought about it:

Really liked this. Great movie. Three in a row for Jack O’Connell. He’s definitely one to watch out for. Ever see the movie Odd Man Out with Carol Reed? This is an updated version of that. It’s really good.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Final Thoughts:

This is really solid. This is one you want to check out in February.

* * * ½ (3.5 stars)

How close was I?:

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we finish with the films I tracked that weren’t released this year.

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2 responses

  1. Wow, this is a really unique concept, keep it up!

    December 28, 2014 at 2:44 am

  2. Paddington’s US release got moved to January 16th.

    December 28, 2014 at 9:15 am

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