Monday, January 5, 2015

2014: THE YEAR IN FILM (Part One)

To interrupt my already much delayed Halloween feature on funnybook horror hosts (thanks Turkey Day and Baby Jesus), but it’s time this year for my review of last years films!  That’s right, this is when I let out my Mini-Roger Ebert to run around judging movies good and bad as fan and hater.

And speaking of the late, great Roger Ebert—I’d like to say that his show, At The Movies, was always entertaining and educational no matter how many times I disagreed with his opinion of a film.  It was a staple in my young life and gave me appreciation for critique and varying points of view.

His voice will be missed greatly.

One other thing of note—due to format reasons we’ll be posting this years reviews in three parts,reflecting quality of said group of films.

So, I guess we’ll call this one:

(Being that this list is of the lower graded films of the year)

The Maze Runner…
is Thomas, a teenager who arrives in a mysterious place called “The Glade” which sits in the middle of this giant, impenetrable maze.  There, he meets many other youths like himself—dumped there with no memory of his previous life.  Together, they must help each other find a way outl.
Grade: C+

300: Rise of an Empire…
can’t really live up to the glory of 300—it was really doomed from the start.  Without the star-making spark of Gerard Butler’s balls-to-the-wall King Leonidas, Rise of an Empire had an impossible pedigree to live up to.  Add to that the fact that this is primarally about the naval battles between the Greeks and Persians and you’ve got something a little more troubling to add dynamic flare to.  Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles, plays his part—more Captain America than Conan, but it is Eva Green’s Artemisia who brings the fire in her roles as leader of the Persian armada to this film.  She may even have been a match for Leonidas… nah.
Grade: C+

was interesting.  Darren Aronofsky’s twist on the Biblical tale is ambitious and epic and all that, but… it’s weird, it always was one of those stories that just never grabbed me.  Neither did this movie, which is strange because I usually enjoy this guy’s work more.
Grade: C+

Inside Llewyn Davis…
was slow and repetitive and seemed to merely pull off a kind of time loop that adds up to it be very meh.  Not one of the Coen brothers’ better efforts.  Interesting characters, dialogue and subject matter and yet it doesn’t go anywhere.  I have higher expectations for these guys.
Grade: C+

Life After Beth…
takes us back to the idea of the film from the (I’m going to guess…) ‘80s named “My Boyfriend’s Back” but with a twist.  This time, it’s the girlfriend whose back—and there’s more—there are all sorts of dead coming back from the dead as zombies.  The very capable cast does what it can with the less than spectacular script to make this black comedy workable, but they don’t quite get it there.
Grade: C+

The Signal…
wants to be both “Dark City” and “The Matrix”, and while I salute the desire, I can’t say that it comes close.  Fine performances by the actors with a pretty good script, but the leaps and twists become a bit free with the truth.
Grade: C+

centers on an insurance agent from a robotics company,  played by Antonio Banderas, who discovers that the robots that serve mankind are beginning to act with some semblance of self-awareness.  Not only that, but they are beginning to modify themselves, which runs against their prime directives.  A great premise that gets bogged down in the script that muddles things.  Part “Blade Runner”, part “I, Robot”—unfortunately it goes more toward the latter.
Grade: C

Hide Your Smiling Faces…
deals with kids and how they deal with death.  It’s quiet and not a hell of a lot happens during one summer when a friend of these two brothers is found dead after having either fallen or jumped off of an old train bridge.
Grade: C

The Quiet Ones…
takes a college professor and a small group of his students gather in an attempt to summon a poltergeist.  The theory is that negative human energy triggers the buggers, so they push a young psychiatric patient to the edge repeatedly.  From there things go awry.
Grade: C

proves you can’t win ‘em all.  Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play new parents who have to deal with a rowdy frat that moves in next door, a group of young men led by Zac Efron.  Not a bad set-up and there are some inventive scenes, it’s just that the comedy just doesn’t hit hard enough.
Grade: C

Deliver Us from Evil…
teams police detective Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) with renegade priest (Edgar Ramirez) as the two unravel a supernatural mystery that could poison his soul and destroy those he loves.  By the numbers possession and exorcism stuff that doesn’t hold the center.
Grade: C

Big Hero 6…
isn’t the kind of Disney cartoon that features princesses and singing, at least.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that they quite understand where they’re going with this one.  Where GotG works, this movie fails.  Gimmie a film about Baymax by himself and then you’re on to something!
Grade: C

has her entire little world destroyed in the span of a morning and decides to bug out on her life by taking a road trip with her grandmother, Pearl (Susan Sarandon) who has a car and cash—two things Tammy doesn’t.  Melissa McCarthy co-wrote and stars in this piece and it succeeds as a mild comedy.
Grade: C

Sex Tape…
takes a couple who decides to get crazy one day, after having long neglected one another sexually, and make a sex tape and it gets uploaded to the cloud.  And so the bit is that they have to figure out what they can do to get it taken down.  Marginally funny hijinks ensue.
Grade: C-

Horrible Bosses 2…
never seemed to get off the ground script-wise.  Not enough effort was put into reestablishing these characters post what happened last movie.  Still, they do their best and squeeze out what they can comedy-wise.  Doesn’t get there, though. 
Grade: C-

the remake, doesn’t quite give us enough of a feel for the life of officer Alex Murphy before the devastating injuries that cause him to be transformed into the first Robocop and that little bit of characterization is needed.  Joel Kinnaman is a solid actor and is excellent in The Killing, but there’s not really enough there to grasp in this film.  Shame, really, as the cast was one worth watching.  I’ll stick with the original Robocop, thank you very much. 
Grade: D

22 Jump Street…
Not that the first one was a prize-winner, but it did come off as original and had some nifty gags along the way.  This one felt a bit too much like cashing in on the original and they left half the funny behind.
Grade: D

is a bit of a depressing documentary about an alarming number of suicides by hanging that are being comitted by young residents of Bridgend, Wales.  And it’s not the subject-matter, but the inability of the makers of this film to turn that corner and look at the real issues of the area and town that contributes to a strange cycle of depression and suicide.  Instead, it goes in circles talking to family members dealing with their issues—those that they have to continue dealing with, as a result of the selfish choice their loved-ones made.
Grade: D

takes a creepy doll from a cameo in the well done haunting/possession film “The Conjuring” and tells us the origin of how it became an object to fear.  A story that starts out with great promise soon becomes tedious and repetitive.
Grade: F

even my standards?  I know I like bad movies and so it’s often hard to resist them.  And you can tell when a film will suck, usually, so I can only blame myself when these things don’t pan out.  And by panning out, I mean that, hopefully, the movie becomes so bad as to migrate back around to being good in a whole ‘nother way.  Anyway, this was a cable TV movie off of the Chiller channel and unfortunately this fish doesn’t migrate.  The story: Big fish, small pond, six teens.  Should have gotten a bigger boat.
Grade: F

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