2015: The Year in Reviews (Part I)

It’s time for the first batch of reviews.

We all know I watch a lot of films this year. And at the end of each year, I recap them all and see, based on what I said about them at the beginning of the year, how close I ended up being. But also, in between, I make it easier on myself by putting up reviews so I don’t have to remember 300 some-odd movies all at once.

I put up three sets of articles — one in April, one in August, one in December, right before the recap articles start going up. Very simple. Just reviews of everything I’ve seen so far, and telling you what I’ve yet to see, or won’t be seeing. This list in particular will have a bunch of 2014 movies on it that I saw too late to bother including on the 2014 list.

So here is the first part of my year in reviews:

Accidental Love — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

You may know this film under its previous title: Nailed. It’s that movie David O. Russell was directing in 2007/2008 that fell apart because the financing disappeared. And they had already shot like half of it. And then he went away from it and is pretending it doesn’t exist because he went on to The Fighter, Silver Linings and American Hustle. So the producers went and shot the rest of the film and used his footage to finish the movie and release it. And… it’s awful. Jessica Biel has moments of being good, but otherwise, the whole thing is just tonally not there at all. It’s a gigantic mess of a movie that doesn’t know if it wants to be a comedy, rom com or satire. And maybe that’s because Russell never finished it or got to be in the editing room to handle the tone. I don’t know. It’s hard to figure how much of this is actually owed to Russell himself. Since at least 40% of the finished product is footage he shot. So I don’t know. I do know, however, that this movie was not very good. And it’s only because I like the cast that I was able to get through it and call it flat out indifference.

Adult Beginners — * * * (3 stars)

This wasn’t bad. I liked it. I feel like these are the type of indies people hate because the characters aren’t likable. But these are actors I like, so I’m moderately invested in them. I don’t love the movie, but the actors get me through. It’s totally watchalbe. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, and I was entertained enough to get through. So moderate thumbs up here.

Alex of Venice — * * * (3 stars)

This is a solid 3 star movie. Not 3.5, but not a regular 3. I liked it, but it was too cliche indie for me to really like it. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good, Don Johnson is good, the actress who plays her sister (who co-wrote the movie) is good. Overall, it falls into too many indie traps and tries to be profound by using a play to mirror the story. But it’s solid. Worth a watch.

American Heist — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s a straight to DVD heist movie with Adrien Brody and Hayden Christensen. It’s fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing too bad. You can get through it fine, but it’s not like it’s awful, and it’s not like it’s anything more than straight genre that you can telegraph every step of the way. The epitome of a 2.5 star movie.

Avengers: Age of Ultron — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I got what I expected. It’s entertaining. Some parts are fun, some parts are cringeworthy. I know technically it’s not out for another few days in the U.S., so I won’t get too much into it. It’s definitely darker, it doesn’t get too bad overall, but the relationship stuff annoyed the shit out of me. So did their way of showing why certain supporting characters won’t show up in these movies. They do a good job of not making it like the standard Marvel bullshit, though. This feels like a nice separate adventure from the other movies. And the world building is more acceptable, since everyone’s here. Overall, not a bad entry into the catalogue. We’re at 11 movies now, and I’d say there are now above .500 in terms of movies that are decent enough. (Though still really only one great one.) And I will say, the end result of all this world building, introducing all these characters — it could actually pay off in the end. As long as they don’t kill off too many characters.

Babysitting — * * * * (4 stars)

You guys don’t know about this movie, because it didn’t get released in the US. It’s a French movie, and it’s hilarious. And you guys know how I feel about comedies. (Especially the kind of movie this is. More on that in a second.) Hopefully America will be able to see it soon, because it’s so well-done that every single one of the jokes translates. (And hopefully an American remake will be happening soon.) Here’s the premise: guy works at a comic company in France. He’s a receptionist. He wants to draw for them. He wants to show the big boss his designs. The boss has no idea he even exists and ignores him. However, the boss finds out the babysitter who usually watches his son got hit by a bus and is in traction. And he’s getting an important award this weekend and needs someone to watch the kid. So he gets our main character to do it, with the promise that he’ll look at his designs first thing Monday morning. Problem is, it’s our guy’s 30th birthday that night. But, that’s okay. Thing is, though, unbeknownst to him, his friends have decided to throw him a giant birthday party anyway… at the boss’s house. Cut to the next morning, the boss gets a call. He comes home to find his house trashed, and his kid and our guy missing. However, the police find a tape, and as they watch the tape, we see what happened the night before. It’s basically The Hangover meets The Sitter. It’s fucking hilarious. And because they keep cutting away from the found footage, it’s not annoying. The footage actually works itself into the plot. You can watch this movie in French with subtitles and laugh your ass off. Trust me. I hate found footage movies. I lost my shit during this movie at times. (And the movie ends up having heart, which is nice.) This is one of those movies where, you can’t find it online (you can, but the subtitles are awful), you can’t see it because it’s only been released in France. It was so successful a sequel is being shot. Chances are I’m getting you excited and you won’t be able to see this movie for a while, if ever. But if you do get a chance to see a proper version of this movie, take it. Because it’s hilarious.

Blackhat — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

What happened to Michael Mann? Collateral was only ten years ago. And since then, all he’s done was Miami Vice (cool, but no substance), Public Enemies (because handheld digital was a perfect choice for the 30s) and now this. And that TV show Luck that killed all the horses. This… I don’t know. Why did he think this would be a good idea? Hacker movies never turn out well. And then, he refuses to give up on those weird handheld shots that look like they were filmed on digital. It’s bizarre. The problem with this movie is that Michael Mann directed it. If it were directed by someone else, it would be a forgettable generic January movie and no one would think twice about it. But with Michael Mann, there are expectations, and you wonder why he chose such bad material and such a mediocre movie. So, it’s a disappointment based on him being director, but we all knew it wouldn’t be that good because they dumped it in January. So it’s not all that surprising.

Black Sea — * * * (3 stars)

I like submarine movies. But 3 stars means it was barely passable. It was all right, and I like how they made the most of almost no budget. But the movie doesn’t amount to much. It’s not that interesting. There’s no fun to it. So it’s fine, but I wouldn’t rush out to see it. It’s just okay.

The Boy Next Door — * * (2 stars)

Awful. It’s Blumhouse, and apparently they’ll greenlight anything as long as it’s under a certain amount of money. This movie is only interesting because somehow they got Jennifer Lopez for it. Otherwise — contrived as shit, nothing interesting about it whatsoever, and laughably bad dialogue. Strong contender for bottom 25 of the year.

Chappie — * * * (3 stars)

To give a full picture of my opinion of this movie, we’ll start with this: I did not love District 9. I liked District 9. I thought it was entertaining, but it was nothing more than an above average, 3.5 star movie for me that year. I thought it was overrated. Elysium, I was crazy excited for it. The idea was amazing. The execution — ehh, not so much. So here, I went in with moderate expectations. My read on Neil Blomkamp is — he’s great with ideas, but when it comes time to execute, he glosses over plot points, leaves huge holes in his movies, simplifies characters, and is more focused on the idea than the little details. That and the fact that this was coming out in early March, and they were pumping trailers from back in November — I figured I was getting something similar. And what happened? The movie’s not great. All of the man’s plots seem to be based around South Africa. And here, the basic idea is good, but the part that we’re interested in (Chappie learning and being taught) is glossed over and done after about five minutes. I don’t care about all the action stuff, and Hugh Jackman in the mullet. This is another example of a good idea not fully fleshed out or made as interesting as it could have been. So my expectations were met.

Cinderella * * * (3 stars)

It was good. Because there are no battle scenes. They didn’t change the story. They just retell it. And they make it nice and colorful and look nice. It’s not an embarrassing movie, the way Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsman were embarrassing to watch. This was okay. The CGI mice were a bit much, but they didn’t get as much screen time as they do in the original. It works. Branagh directs it well, it’s acted fine, it’s a serviceable live-action Cinderella. It’s not great, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be okay. So I’m fine with that.

The Cobbler — * * * (3 stars)

Adam Sandler loves these weird magic stories. This is Click but with shoes. He can wear other people’s shoes and look like them. It’s… fine. It turns into a father/son story, and there’s this weird criminal element to it. But it’s watchable. It’s entertaining. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like movies that try to have a heart and can be borderline schmaltz, then you’re gonna hate this. I go for that sort of thing, so I’m okay with it. (I have a soul, you heartless bastards.) So I liked it well enough. Though I get that a lot of people will hate this.

Cut Bank — * * * (3 stars)

Nice cast on it. Doesn’t amount to much. But it’s a small-town thriller, which makes it nice and contained. Plus, a crime in a small town is a bigger deal than most. So it’s definitely watchable. Not great, not terrible. If you want to seek it out for the cast, you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t expect anything great.

Cymbeline — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s hard for me to get into these modern Shakespeare adaptations. Iambic pentameter does not work with motorcycle gangs. It only works if you’re Baz Luhrmann and can direct the shit out of it. The cast is nice, but I didn’t care.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

What happened to Spike Lee? It’s just been all downhill since Inside Man. This movie… the pacing is just terrible. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be about. Stuff just… happens. You can blame it on him not having money, but the writing and directing is also a lot of it. It’s like Red Hook Summer. I’m not sure what the point of them was, and what anyone is getting out of them. I like it when Spike Lee has something to say, or can use his talents to make studio material more interesting. It seems he’s more interested in the Knicks at this point.

The Duff — * * * (3 stars)

It’s way too over-the-top. I’ll start there. This reeks of first script. (Maybe not “first,” but more “calling card” script. That people think is good but ends up turning out like this. And considering this was on the Black List, that’s probably what this was. But, it’s likable. I like that Mae Whitman got to star. She’s great. Overall, the cast is good, and it doesn’t get too outlandish. It’s a likable little movie. Don’t look for anything particularly empowering or meaningful, but it’s a decent enough high school movie. The problem with these is that everything always becomes heightened. More so than actual high school. The idea that people actively don’t acknowledge this girl’s existence isn’t realistic. Not that it needs to be realistic, but that takes things to this comic level that doesn’t help the movie. It’s fine though. It could have been worse.

Effie Gray — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This sat on the shelf for so long (I feel like I was tracking this back in 2012, maybe even 2011) that it couldn’t have gone any other way. It’s a pretty lifeless period piece. I like that it’s about women. That’s nice. But overall, it doesn’t amount to much. Almost nothing is worth a two and a half year wait.

Escobar: Paradise Lost — * * * (3 stars)

Liked it more than I thought I would. Wasn’t great, and Benicio del Toro is barely in it, but it’s watchable, and it has some moments where it’s decent. So we’ll go 3. Not memorable, but not overly shitty. I found myself actively invested more than twice, so it gets 3.

Faults — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was good. Though it’s a certain kind of good. Indie “Black List” good. I never read the script, but I knew it was highly touted, which always (always!) means the finished product isn’t gonna be as great as you’d think. This movie, though — really good. For a low budget movie, it’s effective, and does enough to keep you invested. Not gonna end up top fifty for the year for me (unless this year is offensively bad), but it’s effective, and features solid lead performances. And you can tell where it’s going from a mile away, which is a problem. Not to mention, there’s a whole subplot that happens that makes no sense whatsoever. But fine. It’s a good indie that you should seek out just to give it an audience. It’s good. At this point, with her indie track record, I’ll always give Mary Elizabeth Winstead the benefit of the doubt.

Fifty Shades of Grey* * (2 stars)

Don’t wanna spoil anything. There will be more of a write up of this coming soon.

Focus * * * (3 stars)

I was leery from the jump. The writers and directors did Crazy, Stupid, Love, which I hated. (You can read my hatred here.) So I didn’t expect this to be particularly good. Then you have Will Smith. Who has made exactly 1.7 good movies over the past 15 years (post-Ali). (For those keeping score, that’s 95% of a good movie with I Am Legend, and the rest add up to about 75% of a good movie. And I’m being lenient.) I like that he’s playing a con artist, and stretching himself somewhat (for him, at least), but ultimately, I can’t expect much out of him or the finished product. Margot Robbie — wild card. And as expected, she acquits herself well here. Pretty sure she got the best reviews of anything in this movie. This movie is pretty entertaining. At times. Other times, it’s generic as shit and completely predictable. Other times it’s downright awful and cliche. The best sequence in the movie is the Super Bowl, where the bets keep increasing. The explanation afterwards is fucking ridiculous, but the moment from when it starts until she picks the number is terrific. The rest of the movie — did not care. Him leaving her, and then the con in Brazil, or wherever it is — don’t care. So, for that sequence, and Margot Robbie being terrific, 3 stars. I can’t, in good conscience, bump it up to 3.5. Cannot.

The Forger — * * * (3 stars)

I liked this. Travolta doesn’t seem to work often anymore, but when he does, they’re not awful. (Old Dogs aside.) Killing Season was watchable, Savages was better than it should have been (because of Oliver Stone. Though overall, not amazing), Taking of Pelham I loved (until the end), From Paris With Love was fun. I like his choices. I kind of wish he did more. (Though it seems like he is. Four movies in post at the moment.) This movie is mostly generic. Guy goes to prison, uses a criminal associate to get out, now has to work for them. But the only reason he’s out is because his son has a tumor and is dying and he wants to see him before he goes. It’s good enough. Not great, but watchable. I’ll give this a single thumbs up. You could do worse for VOD movies.

Furious 7 — * * * (3 stars)

We know what we’re getting here. Personally, I think the franchise peaked at Fast Five. But at this point, it’s formula, and they have so many famous people to deal with, they can only do so much. They sideline The Rock for most of this movie, which I was both upset with and understood. Because at this point, it’s his franchise from here, with Vin. So I accept that this once. The rest of them — nice to see Kurt Russell show up and not turn into a bad guy. Tell me we weren’t all expecting that shit to happen. When he didn’t, it was nice. Statham was barely present, but fine. Ronda Rousey isn’t in it at all, outside of one scene. Guess they shot her stuff before she really blew up. And Tyrese is just offensive at this point how comically black sidekick stereotype he is. Otherwise, the real joy of this franchise is watching them do crazier shit each time. Dropping the cars out of planes was nice. And I like your now-standard “Well how is Vin gonna get out of this situation?” moment, wherein he does something crazy to get out of it. Overall, it’s fine. It’s popcorn filmmaking. I can’t give it more than 3. Giving this movie more than 3 stars is doing so acknowledging the theater experience. Which I didn’t have. But even so — it’s not a good movie. It’s just entertaining. Also, did not go in for the whole Paul Walker tribute thing, but they handled it well. The final scene… ehh, I’ll let it go, but… my god, man. But, it’s fine. Still entertaining, and I haven’t turned on this franchise yet. Though they might need to tone down the cast members. You’re marginalizing some of them by having to cycle through so many.

Get Hard — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

The thing with Kevin Hart for me is… I don’t really find him funny. But I also don’t hate his movies. He seems to just be generically comic. Whereas Will Ferrell — funny man. But he has the capacity to make terrible movies. The thing with Kevin Hart is — he won’t make anything I’ll like, but they’ll all be either 2.5 or 3 stars. So I guess that’s not the worst thing in the world. But also mediocrity is not something to aspire to. Overall, I didn’t hate this, but I didn’t love it. I appreciate that they told a story and stuck with it, rather than going off on stupid comedic diversions. Otherwise — not a great movie.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night — * * * * (4 stars)

So this might actually be my favorite movie of the year so far. (Top two for sure.) A quarter of the year in, that’s pretty cool. It’s a hipster’s paradise, though. Hipsters are gonna love this shit. This is for all those people who make annoying senior theses that have no plot but feature little dialogue, people skateboarding, long shots of people walking and amateur thinking it’s brilliant level framing, and indie music. And yet — really liked this movie. Why? Because there’s a romance at the center. That’s why. And it’s nice black and white photography. I really liked this movie. I’d love for this to end up in tier two when all is said and done. Seek this one out.

Going Clear — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I was a little too excited for this. It’s a good documentary, but it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about scientology. The short version: it’s fucked up and they treat their members horribly. We knew all this. I was hoping for some really crazy stories that really hit them hard. As it stands, it’s a good starter for the people who didn’t know about the horrible shit that happens inside there. So that’s good. For those who know a bit about the insanity of scientology, this won’t reveal that much you don’t already know.

Good Kill — * * * (3 stars)

Another one of those solid 3s, that doesn’t hit 3.5. I was engaged throughout, but I couldn’t find myself really liking the movie. It’s kind of in that Savages range. It’s well-made, and I was engaged, but I couldn’t say I liked it. You know what I mean? Andrew Niccol can be hit and miss. This is in between. You know who I liked in this? Bruce Greenwood. And Zoe Kravitz. Hawke is fine too. Overall, it’s worth a watch. Wish I liked it more, because it’s well made.

The Gunman — * * * (3 stars)

It’s acceptable. Not great, not particularly memorable, but the cast is nice and the movie entertains you enough. What more do you need?

Hits — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I think I was on the fence about tracking this one into this year. I figured it wasn’t going to be very good. But I think I went for it just because of the cast. And I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t great, but it was interesting. I got through it. I’ll give it a solid okay.

Home — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Do not care. It’s not Disney, it’s not Pixar, which means there’s like a 20% chance of it to actually be good. This is your typical childish animation bullshit, with pop music and dumb characters. These movies aren’t for me.

Home Sweet Hell — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Katherine Heigl movie. That’s why I tracked it. Thought it could be Unforgivable. It wasn’t terrible. Not that it was good, either. Patrick Wilson picks interesting little indies, and I can kinda see why he picked this. It’s not great, but it’s almost watchable. Ultimately I didn’t care. Not worth seeking out, really.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 — * * * (3 stars)

The first one amused me. This one got by well enough. I laughed just enough and enjoyed myself just enough to give it 3. But it’s not a good movie by any stretch. It’s actually pretty offensive in a lot of ways. It represents the bad side of male comedy. But whatever. I got through it and didn’t hate it. So that’s fine. Easily forgotten, though.

The Humbling — * * * (3 stars)

No idea what this was. 3 is slightly generous, but fine. The once. I was a little excited at the prospect of seeing Pacino act again, but he’s seemingly just stopped. I know he tries, but this movie was just weird as fuck. And didn’t go anywhere or amount to anything. This is almost a mercy 3. Barry Levinson’s kinda lost it, hasn’t he?

Insurgent — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

The first one was a shit movie I enjoyed enough just because of the idea of them explaining the rules and picking factions. So I went, “Okay, fine, 3. But it was shit.” This movie was just shit. Complete and utter shit. I’m really not looking forward to having to see two more of these.

It Follows — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

You guys know me and horror movies. If there’s one a year I like, I’m shocked. Typically I hate all of them. Because they’re usually shit. All the ones that make money are the ones I hate the most. It’s usually the offbeat ones I enjoy, or the ones that aren’t about horror subjects. Like The Babadook, which is about mental illness. Or You’re Next, which is hilarious. Or even Let the Right One In, which is a romance. This movie was one that I heard great things about, and thought I should give a shot because it seemed like it would end up being one I enjoyed. (Plus we got a screener of it before it came out, and that always helps.) And by the time I watched it, I knew it had been making crazy money at the box office for its size, and people were loving it. And even that didn’t change my opinion. This was great. I loved that it was essentially a horror movie about STDs. The director says it isn’t, but come on. I like that it’s about something else other than, “Oh, my house is possessed” or whatever bullshit it usually is. Plus, the idea that someone will follow you at the same speed at all times until you’re “cured” of “it” or it kills you is quietly terrifying. I was a huge fan of this movie, and I’m surprised I found more than one horror movie I liked in the past six months.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

When I heard about it, it sounded interesting as shit. And then I went, “A six hour documentary? I don’t know…” and wasn’t planning on watching it. Fortunately the rest of my office did watch it. So I ended up watching the first five episodes the day the sixth came out, so I was able to knock it all out at once. And it was really good. And fucked up. Most people know about this because of the press it got. And what you know about it is better than the actual documentary. You don’t need to see it if you know about it. It’s just pretty good. But it is interesting as hell, in terms of talking about with friends. So that’s worth it.

Jupiter Ascending — * * * (3 stars)

We all saw this one coming. It had a prime summer spot and ended up in February. It wasn’t gonna be good. I thought, since the Wachowskis haven’t made anything truly awful that this could get the extra half star and be 3.5 because of how good it looked or something. But no. This is not very good at all. This is them trying to appeal to everyone. It’s basically Cinderella mixed with The Matrix mixed with some sort of Shakespeare. The climax of this movie is a scene at the DMV. What? No idea what they were going for here. I figured they tried to manufacture a good movie, since their last two movies (while great), no one saw. I can’t tell with them, if they can ever make a good movie again. I hope they can. But this one was a huge misfire, and if I really wanted to guess correctly with this, I would have figured it went where it did. This had disappointment written all over it.

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

The idea was good, and Anthony Hopkins playing Heineken intrigued me. But the minute this didn’t get released last year and went VOD, I knew. Always expect the drop there. It was pretty boring, honestly. They spent time with the kidnappers, who I did not care about, and not with Hopkins, who was the only reason I was interested in this. So, just one of those movies that I didn’t care about. That’s all.

Kill Me Three Times — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Ehh. Not really sure what the purpose was. All these stories happening, vaguely connected. Didn’t really care. Nice to see Australian people get to do Australian things. Otherwise, indifferent about this.

Kingsmen: The Secret Service — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was fun as shit. It’s ridiculous, and there’s too much fast-mo and CGI, but overall, it’s a fun throwaway action movie. No substance at all, but it’s entertaining. That’s all you need. Won’t hold up at all for me over the rest of the year, but I could see a tier three happening with this. It’s just the right amount of ridiculousness to not be terrible.

Last Days in Vietnam — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

The synopsis sounded interesting. The movie wasn’t. I don’t do documentaries, so they have to be really interesting for me to like them. This is not a sign of the movie not being good, I just don’t do documentaries. Documentaries and horror movies are genres to not listen to me on (unless you share my opinions on them), because I don’t like them. It’s only when I really like one that you should pay attention, because it doesn’t happen often.

The Last Five Years — * * * * (4 stars)

LOVED this. Don’t get too hung up on the fact that people are calling it (500) Days of Summer the musical. It’s not that. It’s kind of told out of order, but mostly it’s just two young people being married and trying to be successful. And you just see their marriage fall apart. It’s a really great movie. And I like that it’s an adult-themed musical. I also like that the songs aren’t done in the same style as you’d expect. There’s one great moment where Anna Kendrick is on an audition for broadway, and she’s singing for her audition and then the song changes to her inner monologue, like, “Should I be singing louder? I don’t know if you guy’s hear me. You’re not giving me any kind of sign. I’m gonna sing louder. I hope I get this part. I really need this part. Otherwise I might as well give up all hope.” But she’s singing the whole time. I really liked that. Definitely one of my favorites so far. This will probably end up bottom tier two top tier three for me come the end of the year.

Last Knights — * * * (3 stars)

I actually kind of liked this. Maybe because it’s about knights. I don’t know. But it was actually pretty engaging. I also liked how they clearly shot this with next to no money, but made it look halfway decent. I was impressed by how they worked with a limited budget. Essentially it’s a 47 Ronin kind of story. You know how it’s gonna end. It’s got that tone throughout. But it’s watchable. Clive Owen, Morgan Freeman, Cliff Curtis. You could do worse. Most people will see this on Showtime in a year. It’s not terrible.

The Last of Robin Hood — * * * (3 stars)

Kevin Kline as Errol Flynn is the only reason to watch this. It’s about him being an alcoholic who liked to bang underage women. That’s it, really. Not a particularly good movie, but entertaining enough. Look, if you like old movies and movie stars, you’re gonna see this. (Or if you like Kevin Kline, which should be a sacrilege to not.) Otherwise, you won’t.

The Lazarus Effect — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Found footage. NOPE!

Little Accidents — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Boring. That’s about all I could say about this. Watch Rabbit Hole instead. That’s basically the same movie, only better.

The Loft — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This was supposed to come out like two years ago. I remember, because I called it “The Apartment, but as a shitty reverse thriller.” That’s gonna be the only thing I ever remember about this movie. It’s not good at all.

Lost River — * * * (3 stars)

Ah, Gosling. Remember when this movie played Cannes last year and everyone HATED it? Because Gosling thought, “I did a couple of Nicolas Winding Refn movies, I can do this,” and did exactly that. And then the movie sat on the shelf and got recut and finally got dumped on VOD. Gotta tell you — not a bad movie. Not at all. In fact, certain types are gonna really love and support this movie. I feel like hipsters won’t support it (because the hipsters didn’t support Only God Forgives, which was fucking amazing in its own way. Mostly because it was saying ‘fuck you’ to the hipsters who loved Drive), but the arthouse people might. (They’re not the same, by the way. There’s overlap, but they are not the same.) It looks great. It’s shot really well. The movie just doesn’t make any goddamn sense. Gosling the director has a promising future. Gosling the writer needs some work. But it’s a fine first movie. I did enjoy it for the most part. I still have no idea what was going on, but the actors all did fine. And like I said, it looks great. It’s worth a watch, even if it’s not all that great a movie.

Love, Rosie — * * * (3 stars)

This is a great movie in theory. I bet the book is better. Overall — it’s fine. It’s definitely one of those movies that probably would have done better a decade ago. And with a better director. Basically a dramedy. Girl and boy are best friends, and probably should end up together, but they never seem to realize it at the right time. They keep missing each other. And we see them over the course of like, fifteen years or something like that. It starts to strain credulity at times, but overall, I liked it, and I wanted it to be better than it was. I will recommend this movie for people to see, just because I think there’s a lot of good in here that doesn’t quite attain the level of great movie. But there’s good material here. If you’re someone like me who will always overrate a movie with a good concept that doesn’t live up to that concept, because you spend the boring moments thinking about all the other possibilities of how the story could be told and how you’d have told it differently, which makes you think the movie was better than it was, then this is for you. (For example, In Time. The Timberlake movie. That concept was incredible. The movie — ehh, not great. But I spent it thinking about the concept and all the possibilities, and ended up really liking the movie. If your brain works like that, then definitely see this movie.)

The Lovers — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This was on my list of movies I was tracking for at least two years. At least. Roland Joffe making what sounded like an epic love story. Nah. It doesn’t make a shit lick of sense, and there’s a reason this never came out. I should know better than to track movies that don’t come out after two years. But at that point I feel obligated, and… just don’t bother with this. Pretend it doesn’t exist like most of the world.

Low Down — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Pretty good. Was hoping to see this for last year, but whatever. Hawkes is good, and the movie’s watchable. I liked it. Not everyone will, but it’s a solid little movie that nobody’s seen. Definitely worth a look.

Miss Julie — * * * (3 stars)

It’s fine. It’s a play on screen. So you get to see Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton act. They’re all good actors, and I like all of them, so I liked the movie just fine. Didn’t really care all that much, but it was all right. And directed by Liv Ullmann. So film fans will probably want to see this for posterity’s sake. Didn’t do all that much for me, though. One of those I watch once and probably never again.

Mortdecai — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Huge piece of shit. We saw this coming. The minute January happened, we knew. I’m not even gonna pile on. It’s not good. And I hear the books actually are pretty good, and now they’ll never get to actually make them properly. Oh well. But yeah, completely forgettable, and this will unfairly end up on everyone’s “worst of the year” lists come December, just because of the star power and how known of a bomb it is. Which isn’t fair. It’s not that bad. But this is the nature of how we do things. (But just know, every “worst of” list that has this on there is untrustworthy. Unless they have legitimate reasoning for it, don’t trust them. Because it’s probably a slideshow aiming for clicks and not someone’s true feelings.)

Project Almanac — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Nope. Found footage. Do not care, do not care. These will never appeal to me.

The Rewrite — * * * (3 stars)

Complete rom com garbage. Yet I enjoyed it. Hugh Grant is always likable when he’s in his element. You can telegraph the movie from start to finish. Completely contrived all the way through. (ALL the way through.) But the rom com is so dead and buried it’s nice to see someone try. My expectations are low. So I enjoyed this. Most people won’t, and that’s understandable. You’re grasping at straws if you think this is good, but if you really need a rom com, it’s exactly that. Generic all the way.

Rio, I Love You — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Paris Je T’aime is the best. New York I Love You is fine, and this is meh. I saw it because I like the idea of these films. But they’re getting worse as we go along. Don’t bother with this one. Unless you like Rio. Or are like me. And compulsively watch everything just in case.

Road Hard — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Loved this. Really loved this. Carolla does a terrific job with this. And, loving comedians and stand-up comedy as I do, I was a huge fan of this, and all those scenarios and little things that comics go through that are funny and interesting in and of themselves. It’s just a really engaging movie and gonna be one of the hidden gems of the year. See this. It’s better than most of the movies that made all the money this year.

Run All Night — * * * (3 stars)

I like that Liam Neeson is doing action movies with plots. And that he can make his characters have some three-dimensional element to them. This one has the added bonus of taking place over the course of a day, which is nice. I did very much enjoy this for what it was. So good for them.

Seventh Son — * * (2 stars)

This was the piece of shit we were all expecting. They bumped it a year. That told us everything we needed to know. This got Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore to be in it. Which is probably the only thing it did right. Otherwise — goddamn, was this bad. Not Unforgivable, just because, like I, Frankenstein… we knew what we were getting. But man, was it awful.

Song One — * * * (3 stars)

I thought there would be more singing. Wasn’t this promoted as a musical? I thought Hathaway was singing. This is a movie about her crying over her comatose brother and meeting a dude who plays music. It’s a weird movie. I see why most people hated this. You’re gonna be disappointed if you come across this on Netflix in six months. Because it’s not the movie you’re expecting to get. It’s pretty morose. She’s sad the whole time and there’s really no levity to anything. I got through it fine, but definitely not one of my favorites this year.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water — * * * (3 stars)

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. That’s something. I thought more of the movie would be out of the water. It’s really only the last 20 minutes. But the stuff in the water is what’s entertaining. Overall, we got an enjoyable episode of Spongebob that the kids will enjoy. Can’t ask for more than that.

Superfast — * ½ (1.5 stars)

Friedberg and Seltzer. At this point I see their movies just to keep my enemies close. It was complete shit, as everything they do is. And it’ll be bottom 15 for the year. You know the drill. Mostly I do it as a public service announcement. These guys get to keep making movies. Which means that you can too. And you don’t even have to be very good at it, apparently.

Taken 3 — * * * (3 stars)

Nobody got taken. But it’s Liam Neeson doing his action thing. These will almost always be 3 star movies. I’m glad we’re done with these, because they stopped being as interesting as the other movies he does. Run All Night was much better than this was. This is just a decent 3 star action movie. Which is all you can really ask for.

Tangerines — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It was fine. But again, when something like Force Majeure isn’t nominated and this is — there’s nothing wrong with it, but something is wrong with the process.

Timbuktu — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Watched it just so I could say I watched every movie nominated at the Oscars this year (including the shorts. Watched them all). And I couldn’t even tell you what this was about. I was pretty bored throughout. I’m sure it’s a fine movie, but… I watched Winter Sleep, which was an almost four hour movie of people talking, and I remember more of that than this. And that wasn’t even nominated. How this made the final cut over Force Majeure is beyond me. That just tells me there’s something very wrong with the Foreign Language Film voting process.

Tracers — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s that Taylor Lautner parkour movie. It is exactly what you think it’s going to be. The biggest compliment I can pay it is — I thought it would be shittier. I actually got through this okay, and almost considered going as high as 3 stars. I didn’t, of course, but the fact that I almost did means it’s not the same bullshit action that I usually ignore and forget about immediately. At least this one I’ll be able to remember for the parkour. And actually… it’s not that bad. It’s perfectly watchable. Which is actually a good thing for it in the long run.

Trash — * * * * (4 stars)

This hasn’t gotten a proper release in the US because of the similarities to Slumdog Millionaire. It’s basically the same set up. Brown people in slums and money. But this is a likable film. Probably not as good as I enjoyed it, but I’m predisposed to liking this sort of thing. You get cameos by Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen, but ultimately, it’s the little Brazilian kids who are the star of the movie. And that was enjoyable for me. It was written by Richard Curtis, which is weird, because it’s almost a thriller at times. But it’s enjoyable, and I liked it. I doubt this’ll get much play over here, and will likely end up a hidden gem for most. Put it this way — Stephen Daldry directed it. This is the first film of his that was not nominated for Best Picture and/or Best Director. (His others were Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.) So you’re dealing with a floor of quality here. Don’t overlook this because you haven’t heard about it.

Vice — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

It’s a Bruce Willis paycheck movie. Barely worth watching. Women robots or some such shit. This is a movie you watch at 2:35 am on cable. It’s not even that good. Pretty amazing how Bruce Willis has stopped trying most of the time.

The Voices — * * * * (4 stars)

I had very high hopes for this movie. Very, very high hopes. Because the script was one of the best I’d ever read. It was so fucked up and funny. And the fact that this movie even got made is a miracle. But, of course, I was worried all along. Because it’s an easy movie to fuck up. And I have to say — while it’s not everything I hoped it would be… it’s pretty damn close. It feels like almost all the dialogue from the script is there. They get a lot of the fucked up dark comedy out of it. I feel like certain things could have been done better (and the script makes perfect use of the Macarena, which the movie does not. And if the movie had actually went through with that and done what the script did, then this would have been a top 10 movie of the year for me. Maybe top 20 at worst. But it didn’t. So I’m left with a very solid movie that I really like, that doesn’t fuck up a great script. (It’s a better version of Draft Day, in that regard. It doesn’t fuck up the script, but it also doesn’t get the most out of it that it could.) If you don’t know anything about this movie, go see it and don’t read about it.

The Water Diviner — * * * (3 stars)

Sure. I was excited because Crowe was directing, and it sounded like it could be good — but it doesn’t amount to much. It looks good, and does an okay job of telling its story. I just didn’t care all that much. It was an adequate first movie. But I won’t be watching it again. I wonder if this will lead him into more movies, or just be a one-off. Because he can be a good director, with the right material. Curious to see where he takes it.

The Wedding Ringer — * * * (3 stars)

As much as I find him to be… too much, and as little as I care for his comedy, I have to say — all credit to Kevin Hart. He’s working hard, he’s successful, and he doesn’t allow his movies to be complete shit. I don’t necessarily like them, but I don’t hate them either, the way I hate most comedies. I don’t know how much is him or not, but the problem most comedies have is that they resort too much to doing gag after gag and being completely ridiculous for laughs instead of trying to tell a coherent story. This one actually tells the story first, and really only goes off the rails with sequences that make no sense and are there purely for laughs (the dog on the balls, and grandma on fire). Outside of those — the movie’s not that bad. I didn’t love it, but it was fine. I got enough amusement out of it to not dislike it.

When Marnie Was There — * * * * (4 stars)

It’s Ghibli. This is a blanket rating for them. I love their movies. That won’t change. I didn’t love this as much as, say, Princess Kaguya last year, but this was beautiful and very well done. I consider it on par with From Up on Poppy Hill, which was really terrific, but I didn’t love enough to put in my top 20. But that’s still enough to most likely make it my favorite animated film of the year.

Wild Card — * * * (3 stars)

You think this is your standard Jason Statham movie, but it’s not. It’s a remake of a Burt Reynolds movie, and this is more plot and story based. And as such, I found myself more engaged by it. It doesn’t amount to much more than a usual Statham movie, but I do like when his movies tend to stick to a plot and not go heavy on the action. Overall, solid enough movie you can watch for 90 minutes on cable one day.

The Witch — * * * (3 stars)

This was a big hit at Sundance. It was… interesting. I like that they create horror using sound and music, almost like Suspiria. And I like that it takes place pre-Salem. I couldn’t tell you what the fuck was going on, most of the time, but it as some interesting moments. The kid who plays the son has an amazing scene near the end. That performance is incredible for a child actor. That alone is worth seeing the movie. That and one of the greatest characters of all time — Black Phillip. That fucking goat is amazing. Otherwise — couldn’t tell you what the purpose of this movie is, but since I usually hate horror movies, and appreciated this one, good for them.

The Films I Haven’t Seen Yet

  • Strange Magic
  • McFarland, USA
  • Unfinished Business
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Danny Collins
  • Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
  • While We’re Young
  • White God
  • 5 to 7
  • Woman in Gold
  • The Longest Ride
  • Ex Machina
  • True Story
  • Child 44
  • Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
  • Unfriended
  • Just Before I Go
  • Little Boy
  • The Age of Adaline

The Films I Skipped

  • The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

– – – – – – – – – – –

Favorite Movies So Far:

  • Babysitting
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • When Marnie Was There
  • The Last Five Years
  • Trash
  • The Voices
  • It Follows
  • Road Hard
  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Kingsmen: The Secret Service

Least Favorite Movies So Far:

  • Superfast
  • Seventh Son
  • The Boy Next Door
  • The Loft
  • The Lazarus Effect
  • Blackhat
  • Project Almanac
  • Insurgent
  • Mortdecai
  • Vice

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