Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014: THE YEAR IN FILM (Part Three)

Another brief note for those who may be reading this here thingie... i'm not quantifying one film's greatness in comparison to another.  I don't compare films in my reviews, I simply give each one the grade I think it deserves.  Because I put one "A" graded film above another, it does not mean that I think it is better than another of the same grade--it just means that that happens to be the random order I put them in when I was completing the list.

As always, this is only an exhibition.
This is not a competition.
Please... no wagering!

This one I call:


is probably one of the most thoughtful science fiction films of the last twenty years and equally thoughtful in terms of the human (and inhuman) condition.  Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson are equally brilliant--the former scarred after a previous relationship failed and the latter new to the world and eager to explore and learn about literally everything.  But what is done here, by Jonze, is that he asks the next several questions about his story and where it could lead.  He finds out those answers and follows the path of the story and it leads to even more compelling answers--a more compelling story.  A profound conclusion.  One doesn't usually get that from even the better films of a genre--but here it is provided for the viewer in spades.
Grade: A+

is Jake Gyllenhaal at his best.  Louis Bloom is a character who will haunt you in your sleep.  He is nearly inhuman—lizard-like, manipulative and guiltless.  His naked, psychotic ambition and cold-as-ice attitude is a must-see.  The boy done deserve him one of them acting trophies!  Oh, and the movie ain’t bad neither.
Grade: A+

The Babadook…
um, let’s not say its name.  Let’s call it the manifestation.
A troubled widow is dealing with a child going through terrible growing pains and, perhaps, psychological issues when a strange, new children’s book manifests on the shelf of the bookcase in their home.  From there, the story goes through twists and turns and it genuinely scares and delights all at once.  Creepy as hell and, as the story unfolds, it gets quite sad and dark.  A fine piece of dark fiction to keep one up at night.
Grade: A

Captain America: Winter Soldier…
begins with our hero trying to adjust to the modern world and, eventually it becomes about the reality of rights versus security.  How far should a society go to protect itself and the like.  Add to the mix surprises, intrigue and an oddly familiar enemy and you’ve got the best action movie of the year and one of the greatest comic book movies ever made.
Grade: A 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes…
sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, begins ten years down the road as the scourge of the simian flu has wiped out most of the world’s humans while Caesar has built a sizable community of apes.  Worlds collide when a small band of humans runs across the ape colony and civility breaks down.  Another exciting and powerful chapter of this reimagining of the Planet of the Apes.
Grade: A-

Gone Girl…
is about what happens in our culture when the media descends upon a story that it can peck at for days and weeks on end.  It’s also a sweet revenge story, a well made murder mystery—yet another feather for David Fincher’s cap.  While not as brilliant as many of Fincher’s efforts—and that may just be the fault of the material he’s working with—it is still another fine and nearly flawless work of film making.
Grade: A-

is a surreal tale of a force of evil walking the earth and ruining lives or is it a leader of a band of homeless criminals?  I’ll go with the former.  Very well made, very powerful and haunting.  A soul-twisting tale of this character striking a family at it’s heart and systematically dismantling it.
Scary stuff.
Grade: A-

Big Eyes…
is, easily, the best work I’ve seen from Tim Burton in a few years.  Telling the tale of the artist who made “big eyed” waif children an art movement happens to be an entertaining and strange one full of twists and turns.  And, it’s really two people who did the job—one to paint the paintings and the other to charm the public.  As good as Amy Adams is as the put-upon and repressed artist Margaret, it is Christoph Waltz who steals the show (and credit) as the infinitely charming and manipulative Walter Keane.
Grade: A-

Guardians of the Galaxy…
literally takes a band of loosly configurated space pirates and turns them into legendary saviors of the galaxy.  More action comedy than sci-fi drama, the film never takes itself very seriously—but then how seriously can you take a talking raccoon and a walking, talking tree.  Still, it works and it still fits firmly into that strange integrated Marvel Universe everybody’s talking about.  Grade: A-

The Inkeepers…
was one I finally got around to this year after fairly high praise from viewers, including my good friend.  And so, I was worried that I’d expect too much from this small film about the final days of a century-old haunted hotel about to be shut down and the two employees who occupy their time ghost hunting.  Sara Paxton shines  as the believer between the two and Kelly McGillis is good as an actress/medium.  A real chiller unfolds and credit to Ti West for making this one—in fact, credit to West for making some of the better horror films of the last several years.  Grade: A-

A Life in Dirty Movies…
explores the work and life of legendary sexploitation filmmaker Joe Sarnos and his wife and collaborator Peggy.  Known as the “Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street” Sarnos made far more feminist-pro films than any of his contemporaries—in fact, as everyone else was getting more hardcore, he focused more on the story of his characters as people.  It is also poignant story of his twilight years as he tries to get one more erotic movie made while being in debt, as the industry changes from video to online sales and as he deals with health issues.
Grade: A-  

Under the Skin…
is an interesting concept and one that proves quite surreal.  A mysterious woman seduces lonely men in Scotland and lures them to their… deaths?  Well, it seems to be the case, but I won’t go into details. Though the film is strange and disjointed the real plot seems to turn on this female (portrayed quite well by Scarlett Johansson) deciding to flee from this scenario and into the more rural areas of Scotland.  You know it’s a good one when it leaves you wanting to know more.
Grade: A-

And this concludes 2014: A Year in Film... a look back at a year of movie watching with a slightly critical eye.

Stay tuned again next year...
same Goods time, same Goods channel!

In the meantime, stick around a spell for the finale of the Coutndown to Halloween's feature on comicbook horror hosts (perhaps before Valentines Day?)!

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