Thread: Film Lists 2014
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Old 28th Dec 2013, 17:49   #2
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Default Re: Film Lists 2014

59 Big Hero 6

58 Interstellar

57 Blancanieves

56 Thief

55 The Councillor

54 Gone Girl ½

53 Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
A sadly unfunny movie. Another of the My Year of Flops flicks I tried out, and all it does is underline the fact that good intentions are not enough. Albert Brooks' optimistic/world-weary performance has a certain charm, and his team have their small moments, but the response of "the public" feels like (and probably is) real-life bewilderment at what this weird man is doing. The set-up of a below-par comic not understanding that culturally specific jokes won't travel well is the foundation for a comedy, but that foundation is never built upon - and being forced to watch the same stultifying routine played twice (once to a comprehending audience that doesn't laugh, and once to an uncomprehending audience that only laughs at Brooks' clownish exaggerations to get over that barrier) doesn't count. Even given how consistently it stumbles throughout, the sense of anti-climax that wraps things up still feels a little embarrassing.

52 Pandorum
This is where the paucity of a five-star rating comes a cropper. I quite enjoyed this space-sci-fi paranoia flick, but at the core it turns out to be little more than another monster-swarm movie. Paul W. S. Anderson's name in the closing credits made me roll my eyes with recognition - this has more in common with his nonsense Resident Evil franchise than his superficially similar, and better, Event Horizon - but he's not the director or the writer here, and a lot of what went on I found quite engaging. Still, at the risk of spoiling, there's not much justification for all the cannibal albino monsters when you look back on it as a whole. While I can't bring myself to give it three stars, two feels a bit stingy - if you're a genre fan, know that I've seen a whole lot worse than this.

51 Howl's Moving Castle
Rewatched as I've just finished the book. There's some great stuff in this, and it's a good adaptation in many ways, but the doubts I had about the ending in particular were brought home with real force after experiencing the original text. There's a truly dreamlike quality to much of the story, in the sense of a logic not quite that of the real world, but there's clumsiness to the resolution. The background theme of the war is not well enough established, and the "reveal" of the scarecrow is frankly rubbish - it would have been better to leave it as it was and abandon that aspect entirely, and the war with it. And of course, it looks lovely and is fantastic in many ways. But, surprise surprise, the book is better.

50 Mary Poppins
It was interesting, to me, how much my recollections of this film differed from the fact of it. For a start, it felt terribly long - the individual episodes were almost endless at times, particularly the cartoon section - and in the end we watched it over two evenings. Some of the songs felt like they dragged as well, though not all - and I've been singing a few in the shower over the last couple of days...

Even though I was primed for it by watching Saving Mr. Banks a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see just how much of the story's power hinges on the pathos surrounding the father's choices in life. Like Homer in The Simpsons, this really is all about the dad. I was prepared to spit righteous feathers about Dick Van Dyke's terrible cockerney accent, and instead was very taken with his physical comedy - his doddering turn as the ancient director of the bank caused my g/f to gasp out loud when it looked like he was about to fall from the step, and his faltering efforts to get down safely made me genuinely laugh.

In the end I was entertained, but with a bit of sore-arse squirming. It's the kind of thing I'd like to show to the kids I don't have, but at over two hours a condensed version might help the movie go down.

49 Great Balls of Fire!
Dennis Quaid plays Jerry Lee Lewis with a neck like the bobbing dog in your car's back window, and Winona Ryder sheds five years to play the girl he loved (she was a wrinkly, grey-haired eighteen at the time). Both manage to convince (or at least entertain) as gum-popping juveniles, even if one of them was technically an adult when all that was happening. Operation Yewtree would nail him to the wall now - great music though, so let's give him a pass. Nice to see a humourless Peter Cook in a minor role too.

48 The Signal
Bonkers. Literally bonkers - "everyone" (...or do they everyone?) in the city of Terminus goes crackers overnight due to a glitchy signal suddenly emitted from their TVs and radios, sparking murderous rampages and relationship problems... So much happens in the first twenty or thirty minutes, the spirit flags at the prospect of just how much more of this a sane person can handle - because the question of whether any of the people we encounter still has their brain wired up right remains wide open right to the final frames. Yet it's never less than entertaining, is frequently funny (and gory) and is rarely predictable.

47 Hanna
I'm slightly torn - this may wind up with four stars by the end of the year. Hanna is part coming-of-age drama, part espionage thriller, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Eric Bana plays an Eastern European ex-spy who raises his titular daughter in a frozen wilderness, only for her to graduate from this one-girl survival-and-combat excellence school and be aimed squarely at ice-blooded US spook Cate Blanchett. Saoirse Ronan is the child-assassin-out-of-water, wandering wide-eyed in the face of Other People (including crowds, families, "boys", etc.) and New Things (ie: not snow, trees, dead deer and weapons). The plot is exactly what you'd expect, but what makes it stand out are Hanna's first-time-in-the-world experiences, which are thankfully anything but normal themselves.

46 Godzilla (2014 edition)
How do they manage to make these things so boring? Why do they (see Independence Day, War of the Worlds, etc.) always have to have pre-identified family units escaping cataclysms intact, while tens, hundreds, thousands of less important people get casually offed? There are three examples of this trend here, which might be a record... This thing winds up hinging on some weird it's-personal-now grudge match between a building-sized monster and a human, which is a bit like picking out one particular ant when your picnic is invaded. It looks impressive enough, sure, but what doesn't? Boring boring boring loud boring predictable boring.

45 Repo Men
Extra star generosity for a quirky, cool premise: that in a future of tough credit rules, manipulative marketing, slick sales and cripplingly expensive artificial organs, failure to make your monthly payments doesn't just mean you lose your house or have your new car towed - it means Jude Law and Forest Whittaker will sneak in your back door, tazer you unconscious and dispossess you of your shiny new liver while you sleep... Our dynamic duo play it as blue-collar Working Joes, but there's never a doubt which someone is going to turn out to be more than just a morally dubious debt collector, nor which someone else will find themselves siding with the unfortunate "clients" - and things get a bit messy (in a non-gore sense, that is, though that too) from this point on. The ending is foreshadowed right at the very beginning for the eagle-eyed - not to mention about forty years ago in perhaps The greatest dystopia movie ever made. This is not on the same level, of course, but it's not bad.

44 Drug War (Du zhan)
I was quite enjoying this Chinese police procedural (pretty unconventional procedures, mind you), up to a point. The relatively restrained front three-quarters were quirky and interesting; the Hong Kong Cinema Gunfire Orgy that wrapped it up was therefore made to seem cartoonish and silly by comparison. There's something about totalitarian regimes, I don't think they make the best movies about themselves. In this case, the story degenerates into exemplar instances of Heroic Cops Who Will Sacrifice Themselves For The Good Of The Glorious State against Disgusting Selfish Criminals Who Are Always Untrustworthy And Deserve Only Death. Beforehand, everyone felt a little more complex than that.

43 The Colony
Ah, the film that I thought Snowpiercer was. And here's that missing star from the previous review... well, maybe one star is a bit harsh but this was pretty run-of-the-mill fare. Familiar, predicable, no surprises come the end, everything Snowpiercer wasn't, really.

42 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I quite enjoyed the first Cap movie, but this felt more than a little dumb by comparison. Villains too signposted, heroes all with the same body shape and moral outlook (apart from Scarlet Johannsen, which, well, that's okay). There are still character beats to the Marvel Franchise Movies that work well - I particularly liked the jogging sequence that opened this one - but, like everything else, act three has to be special effects and (perhaps inevitably) highly traditional comic book style storytelling.

41 Saving Mr. Banks
I liked it. Tom Hanks made a good Walt Disney, Emma Thompson played snippy with typical aplomb, and I was surprised to find (confirming the evidence of my eyes) that it was Colin Farrell being rather good as her likeable but sadly flawed father in the otherwise rosy past. It's the other kind of "buddy movie", in that all the roles seemed to be filled by yer casting director's dream character actors, and overall is maybe a little sugary for my taste, but it's also a pleasing bit of entertainment. Might watch the source material before the end of the year. EDIT: Have done!

40 I Could Never Be Your Woman
I heard, via the AV Club's My Year Of Flops article, that this was a "secret success". Under any other circumstance, not only would I never have watched this Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle, I'd never have heard of it either. To be fair, it provoked more than a few laughs, but it was also cheesy stuff that my girlfriend bored of long before I did - and there was me thinking this would be a "chick flick" I could tolerate while keeping her smiling. Strangely amateurish at times as well - not in the sense of mistakes as such, but there were moments that felt phoned in, one by Pfeiffer that clunked just rotten to me.

39 Snowpiercer
This might be the most Manga-like live action movie I've seen in a long time, maybe ever. It presents a world-premise of the most ridiculous sort (a dead frozen world, the only survivors living in dystopian class hell on board a never-stopping train travelling a track that loops the globe), populates it with angsty heroes and outlandish villains (Tilda Swinton's scenery-chewing has to be seen to be believed, and even then you won't) and never flinches for a split second in pursuit of its frankly mental goal--and for that reason it works like a charm. I was reminded of the cohesive madness of Delicatessen or the glimpses of the grim future in 12 Monkeys (the inclusion of a character named "Gilliam" is surely no coincidence), but this is an action movie first of all--a bitter, nihilistic comedy of an action movie, gurning with a straight face. Well done.

38 Transcendence
This... wasn't bad, actually. Not brilliant, and in fact isn't doing anything that wasn't done almost exactly the same in The Lawnmower Man (except on a smaller conceptual scale, and I imagine far smaller budget, and with comically primitive CG). But it wasn't bad, and I feel it can be considered a scifi movie that at least justifiably takes itself seriously (so in stark contrast to Noah).

37 Noah
I was enjoying this rather more than I expected to for quite a while. I found the environmental visuals striking (though the rock giants and CG beasts seemed half-arsed to me), even if conceptually the story world was a bit unconvincing. However, the more the characters spoke the less convinced I was, and from the time (spoiler...heh heh heh) the flood took place onwards I was watching it through a haze of cringing contempt. I can't imagine why America's religious right were so up in arms about this for the reasons they gave, since mythologically they bought one Noah and got an Abraham free. I'd have been complaining because it was such silly shit, and it may drop to one star by the end of the year.

36 Joe Versus the Volcano
Long, long ago, I saw this. I watched it again because my youngest brother pointed me in the direction of the now defunct website AV Club and, more specifically, the article series My Year of Flops, in which movies generally considered to be out and out losers are evaluated and rated as either a Failure, a Fiasco or a Secret Success. This was one of the latter, and I have to say that for the longest time I was really engaged. It walked a clever line of authentic-yet-absurd, and were the final twenty minutes not clownishly silly (and surprisingly mainstream in their romantic philosophy) I'd have given it four stars, not three.

35 Dallas Buyers Club
Posted out of sequence - I saw this ages ago. Very good indeed.

34 Sorcerer
A strange mix of the outstanding and the half-arsed, the one typically seguing directly into the other. There are some astonishing set-pieces here, genuinely thrilling, but it's as though someone absconded with a film reel containing the final shot of every other scene--these amazing sequences are almost invariably cut away from just before a triumphal or devastating or proper cliff-hanging moment is about to take place, and the result detracts from the whole badly. For all the high tension--and when it chooses, the tension in Sorcerer is unparalleled--there is a counter-balance of flatness when it comes to what should be character-defining moments... the finale for example, though it is far from the only one. Sorcerer is borderline excellence and borderline incompetence.

33 Three Amigos
Nostalgic nonsense.

32 Men With Beards
Such empathy I feel for these trailblazers, such admiration. A fun little niche documentary about manly men and the beards that love them.

31 Ecstasy of Order
Reviewed here.

30 Paprika
Anime about a dream-entering psychologist who must battle a psychotic brain-terrorist intent on tearing down the minds of everyone involved in creating the technology that allows both to do what they do. Two stars for its imagination, minus three stars for its execution. There are noticeable discrepancies in the animation quality, some of it very detailed and smooth when elsewhere it fails to make flick-book quality. Story is a bit thin as well, though it has its moments.

29 Mr. Brooks
Bit of a treat, this. Pure B-Movie serial thriller, with Kevin Costner as the titular psycho in plain sight and William Hurt as the personified craziness that only Kev can see or hear. Add to the mix (oh my gawd) Demi Moore as a millionaire murder detective with greedy spouse troubles and an escaped loony to recapture, and a voyeuristic fanboy who wants Killer Costner to show him a good time, turn up heat, stir. Solid performances all round--apart from Demi, who has all the facial dynamism of a Top Shop mannequin--and a measured pace that makes the splashes of visceral violence all the more impactful when they come. Fun nonsense.

28 Grand Hotel Budapest or
You watch Wes Anderson for the quirky spectacle and quirkier personalities, more than to witness depth of changing character (or, at least, I do). So the fact that there are no changing characters in GHB, and many of those who inhabit this world are absurd caricatures at best, isn't a major surprise. There is an alien logic to the stories and worlds he creates, and visiting it is the pleasure his films provide. This is one is completely unique, and therefore no different.

27 Enemy
Surpassingly strange. Hints of Lynch, and a final shot that is hints of I don't know what.

26 Homicide
David Mamet. David Mamet. He wrote a no question masterpiece in Glengarry Glen Ross--but didn't direct it, please note... I had to push myself to give Homicide three stars, because (like his House of Games) I sat through the film writhing at the delivery of every line. Oddly, this fact makes me look on that earlier film more kindly, as the bafflingly stilted performances which irritated me like a groinal itch are now revealed to be a deliberate stylistic choice--Mamet wanted them, for reasons I struggle to comprehend. This act of madness aside, both films present very interesting stories, as interesting as GgGR; take his scripts away from him, Hollywood, take his scripts away!

25 Animal Kingdom
I went looking for this after seeing the trailer for writer-director David Michôd's forthcoming possibly post-apoc downbeat thriller The Rover, and it proved a real treat in every regard. The story of the disintegration of a small, tightly-knit Australian crime family was ordinary, unpredictable and engrossing for it, with various authentically mundane performances framing some chillingly loathsome characters. In the same year this came out (2010) another Michôd script was filmed, Hesher, which has one of the most intriguing trailers I've seen in years--now high on my list of things to watch.

24 Pasqualino Settebellezze

23 The Bay
A found footage thriller from Barry "Rain Man" Levinson, somewhat unexpectedly, in which a close-knit coastal community is the epicentre of what appears to be a major outbreak of... something nasty. It provoked some difference of opinion here: "It was shit," says the girlfriend. "Ah, it was all right," says me. Though I sort of know what she's getting at.

22 The Awakening
McNulty from The Wire meets the talented one from Vicky, Christina, Barcelona in a Very British Ghost Story - "Very British" in this case meaning that it doesn't really work (that's my definition, anyway). Damaged Lady Sceptic is called by Gruff Teacher With A Post-War Limp to a remote boarding school to disprove the theory that a ghost killed one unlucky, unloved pupil, does so, then discovers that there IS a ghost alongside an unlikely, not-well-enough-set-up coincidence that turns her world upside down, but not ours. Decent performances all round, ends up feeling a bit silly.

Very British.

21 Night Moves
Strikes me as a typically introverted 70s-ish noir-ish private-eye flick. I kept flashing to Robert Altman/Elliot Gould's The Long Goodbye, which I really liked. This one I just liked, but as The Ice Harvest hovers on the edge of four stars, this straddles the border to two.

20 The Ice Harvest
The first of two movies I only chased down because Bill mentioned them on his blog. Three stars may be a bit stingy, because I'd pretty much given up waiting to enjoy a John Cusack film since Grosse Point Blank and this seems to be the one. It's basically a modern pseudo-Noir B-movie, in the way that such things are occasionally rock-solid by-the-book fun.

19 The Warrior
A straight-forward tale of regret, revenge and redemption, in this case distinguishing itself from the multitude of carbon copy examples by setting itself in feudal India. Paulo Coelho would be proud of the iconic namelessness of the characters, but Irrfan Khan is typically engrossing as the warrior reduced to the status of executioner by his callous, petty lord, and whose decision to abdicate his role sets him on a journey through great loss towards a chance at self-forgiveness. It's nice to look at, and tells a simple story well.

18 Kings of Summer
Destined to be forever regarded as Stand By Me for the post-millennial generation. Which is fair enough, as it's pretty much great, with good junior performances throughout. The grown ups are also entertainingly irritating - you can see why the two main protagonists would want to run away for the summer...

17 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Is the word "hokey"? Not sure, but it unquestionably rejuvenates one's faith in the legitimacy of American democracy, and therefore should be watched between pledging allegiance to the flag and breakfasting on apple pie by every honest citizen daily.

16 Prisoners
Outstanding. A proper review must follow.

15 Dead Ringers
Prompted by, a) Bill's step-by-step through the oeuvre of Cronenberg, and b) my g/f never having seen it. It still stands up, and I was surprised by how much a straight-forward drama it is, if also a grotesque and heightened one as things progress. The denouement is bought and paid for, with the occasional uncertainty of exactly which Jeremy Irons we might be watching at a given moment finally coming to the fore when the roles reverse and there's no way to tell, until we're told.

14 Gravity
Watched again for the g/f's benefit. As spectacle entertainment it races the pulse, but even in space we can hear things creak--like the dialogue, which rapidly succumbs to the pull of sentimentality and cliché, or the silly WALL-E jet pack sequence that really shouldn't have made it past the first draft. The fudging of the science isn't quite a deal-breaker for me, though the farewell to Clooney scene could have been done equally well without undermining the laws of force and momentum... no, it was the dialogue I found hardest to swallow.

13 Infamous
Another one I actually reviewed, both on my blog and here!

12 Six-String Samurai
Very silly, very fun...

11 Tomorrow Night
I'm a fan of Louis C. K. and this is a film that Louis C. K. wrote, produced and directed in 1998 that never got released until 2014 when he decided to make it available from his website for five dollars american, so I gave Louis C. K. my five dollars american and found out why it first became available from his website in 2014 despite being written, produced and directed by him in 1998. It did make me smile some times though, so it was five dollars american reasonably well spent.

10 Ender's Game
No mercy - not from me. I only read the novel last year (unless it was the year before) and found it a bit of a page turner, if not enough of one to cause me to dive on the sequels. The movie grabbed me considerably less. I found it dull to be honest, the action utterly failing to support the key dramatic concept (which is just as pointed as in the original, admittedly). Maybe a younger audience will find it more impactful, but to me it just felt like yet another chosen one yarn.

09 Thor: The Dark World
Nice to see the wrestling movie is alive and kicking, isn't it? Barton Fink would be proud...

08 Enough Said
The late James Gandolfini co-stars alongside comedienne-extraordinaire Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a middle-aged romantic comedy that champions charisma over looks and manages to be light while still carrying a bit of an edge from time to time. Not your standard Hollywood rom-com then, although when coincidence rears its inevitable head it does do the standard Hollywood thing and pretends that real people would keep shtum and try to fake it out, with hilarious (and/or painful) consequences. But we wouldn't, and I for one will be happy when the film comes along where the protagonist says "Your dog? But I thought it was his dog!" and shows where that leads, instead of just tossing another implausible stick for the plot to chase.

07 Moneyball
For a man not especially enamoured of American sports (there's only one kind of football, Yankees, and it's the rest of the world that plays it), I have to admit that they do make a good sports movie from time to time. In this case, as in many another, the action on the grass is almost a necessary evil, something that just has to be there in order to look at the lives that are affected by up close exposure to these polarising aspects of modern culture. Almost, I say, because in this case, entertaining as the film was overall, the central quest really was so enveloped by the sport of choice that to strip it away would not leave very much behind. But I was engaged throughout, and that's not nothing.

06 La Grande Bellezza
I think there are certain movies that can't be criticised, really, not in a minus-one-star kind of way. This is one of them, a barely-story of meandering pace, frequently over-blown and even annoying, all of it as deliberately laid in wait for us as is the beauty and pathos apparently lurking behind Rome's every corner. A lovely film, right to the final frame of the credits.

05 Riddick
Decent, solid, high-action sci-fi fare that lands pretty much square between Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick in terms of quality. Not much more to say, really. It's not bad, a few good moments, but it is definitely retreading the first movie's ground and you can't say that for the "bad" second one.

04 The Wolf of Wall Street
I found this laugh-out-loud funny time and again. In the hands of anyone else, I feel like the copy-catting of Goodfellas would have been more excusable, and it is too long for my tastes, but overall I have to say I think it's a good film. As for the controversy, I find myself conflicted. I went into this knowing that some had decried it as no more than a celebration of offensive greed, but I had no problem identifying di Caprio's protagonist as an anti-hero of the highest order and had no need of hand-holding to know I was not intended to see him as heroic for all his charisma... but then I didn't know that this was a biopic. I have to admit, that moment of realisation as the credits rolled soured the taste more than a little, especially since not only will Jordon Bellend make pots of cash from the deal, the colossal arsehole even got a cameo. I'd have told him to go fuck himself.

03 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The extent to which this film, let alone the series as a whole, has been made so thuddingly boring is completely beyond words. Peter Jackson used to make cut-to-the-chase entertainment his hallmark but, despite their high points, LoTR, King Kong and now The Hobbit are all bloated floaters and it's a crime, really. The phrase is Quality Over Quantity, but you don't get to have both. Quality In Quantity is now proven to mean Just Plain Quantity Again. Congratulations.

02 The World's End
The first "half" promises a really great movie, nostalgic comedy with a bitter edge. The second "half" is, sad to say, more than a bit stupid. I'm a long-time fan of Pegg, Frost, Wright & Co.'s work and I always hoped the Shaun/Fuzz/X trilogy was going to go from strength to strength. It faded.

01 Splash
It's a two-starrer, really, but a nice bit of dated fun.

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