Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Movie Reviews 2014


A+ “BIRDMAN” Director Alejandro Inarritu: “Let’s make a dark comedy about an actor facing existential questions about life and art, and let’s do it in one take.” What could have felt contrived ends up being a masterful roller coaster ride. Michael Keaton is brilliant as a washed-up actor, dogged by the memory of his big famous role (a super hero named Birdman), trying to find relevance in life and career by doing a risky Broadway production. Dark, interesting, funny, scary, moving. Definitely Oscar contention for Keaton as well as Emma Stone in supporting. Also of note were Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, and Edward Norton. Brilliantly acted and directed and masterfully filmed by Emmanuel Lubezki. Original score: Antonio Sanchez. Oscar contenders for sure. I’m betting on Michael Keaton to get his much deserved due here. Amazing performance. One of my favorite movies of the year.  

A++ "SELMA"  Should have gotten best director nod. Very disappointed in The Academy. But I understand they didn't get the screeners out in time. It's a shame. My favorite movie of the year. I was moved. I was uplifted. I was heartbroken. David Oyelowo should have gotten a best actor nod too. Beautiful directing, beautiful everything.

B++"STILL ALICE"  A good picture, not a big story, Julianne Moore deserves accolades. I predict between her and Witherspoon to win.

A- "BOYHOOD" I've come to like it better in retrospect, as I panned it originally. Felt too much like the whole "7 & Up" series of reality movies from the 70's, but I've come to appreciate how this was made over 12 years, blah blah blah. No easy feat, I will reluctantly agree. However, I believe the movie should have been called "Motherhood," as I feel this was more about Patricia Arquette's character more than it was about a child coming of age. She should have been best actress, not supporting. It might win Best Picture, canceling out Birdman, Whiplash and American Sniper. Whatever.

“WHIPLASH” Miles Teller plays Andrew, a young musician trying to make it in a prestigious jazz program at a Julliard-like music conservatory. The program is led by a ruthless professor and bandleader Terence Fletcher, intensely played by JK SimmonsSimmons.  The jazz score is exciting and electrifying. Definitely an Oscar contender on all fronts. 

B++“THE JUDGE” Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, and Vera Farmiga—so how can we go wrong here? Dark Comedy? Family drama? Both! Definitely Downey Jr. and Duvall will be Oscar contenders.  The film clips along, with just a little lag towards the familiar ending. Al-in-all satisfying. 

C+ “UNBROKEN” I give Angelina Jolie some credit here for taking this on. It wasn’t a bad movie, but it focused too much on the torture of Louis Zamperini. We suffer through his long stint as a POW and gloss over his redemption. The cruelty inflicted on him was relentless and, after a couple of hours, became too hard to take. I got the feeling she likes pretty actors, though. re: Miyavi the sadistic camp commander. Beautiful castaways with too much makeup on to make them look pretty in the scenes before things got bad. The ending blurbs thrown on the screen to let us know how he turned his life around after that horrible experience did not do service to this great war hero, in my opinion.

C- “INHERENT VICE”   Couldn’t…follow…it….abandoned ship. BUT there was one redeeming feature: Serena Scott Thomas gracing the screen with incredible depth, nuance and super hot bod! Worth it just for that! Xo

“AMERICAN SNIPER”   Clint Eastwood directs Bradley Cooper in the OTHER true-life war drama this year. The story of Navy Seal Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history, from his personal memoir. Gripping, heartbreaking, upsetting. I really cared about this man. Sienna Miller turned in a surprisingly deep and wide-arcing performance as his wife. Well filmed (Tom Stern), great production design, and of course, great music (Joseph DeBeasi). Liked everything but the fake baby. Strange choice by a director like Clint Eastwood.

 A- “WILD”  ANOTHER true story! Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl Strayed (one of my favorite authors), as she embarks on her “walkabout” along the Pacific Crest Trail to find redemption and peace with her turbulent and self-destructive life. Not quite like reading the book, but I was surprised at how well it was done. Laura Dern turns in a great performance as her mother. Kept me interested. I’ve interviewed a few people who haven’t read the book and they liked it as well. See the movie, but read the book!

B++ “ST. VINCENT” I liked it! I love Bill Murray! Sweet little story about a crotchety old guy who forms a relationship with a wimpy kid next door. Loved Naomi Watts as the pregnant Russian pole-dancer. I thought Melissa McCarthy turned in a more nuanced character that wasn’t her usual over-the-top hilarious and I like seeing this side of her. Didn’t have a great ending and just relied on Bill Murray to do his Schtick. I forgave it. I especially loved Jaeden Lieberher as the gawky little kid, Oliver. Sweet!

B+ “THE IMITATION GAME”  ANOTHER true story of British mathematician Alan Turing, who was the brains behind cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma Code during WWII. Sub-Plot about the difficulties for a gay man to be living with the discrimination laws in the culture of those days. Very sad on that front. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

“INTO THE WOODS” Meh. Not my favorite Sondheim by any stretch of the imagination, as I find NOTHING to sing along with or hum later. I like the whole mash-up thing with the fairy tales though. Only redeeming feature was Meryl Streep as the witch. Directed by Rob Marshall. The film looks really pretty. Loved the two children who played Little Red Riding Hood and Jack. Was not a fan of Anna Kendrick here. She looks weird to me here. Lighting? Makeup? It will probably get nods for costumes, design etc etc….I know I’m in the minority with my opinion here. Whatever.

“A MOST VIOLENT YEAR” Film starts off with Marvin Gaye and I’m like Yeah! Then from there….what happened? My take on this: this is a movie would have been more interesting if it focused more on the battle of the sexes, between Anna and Abel Morales. 

“MR. TURNER”  Weird, meandering tale of an eccentric British painter, J.M.W. Turner, directed by Mike Leigh. Beautiful sets, costumes. Weird awful music. Left me with more questions and they could have used some blurbs printed on the screen at the end. I had to go to Google, and that’s not a good thing. I felt like I was watching a reality show from the early 19th century. They focus on his housekeeper, Dorothy Atkinson (played by Hanna Danby). Timothy Spall will probably get an Oscar nod, though. 

F- "GET ON UP" Tried to watch it. Don't waste your time. It started with showing the worst of the man in a bizarre scene of insanity later in his life that was badly written, badly acted and badly filmed. That left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the movie, which then didn't succeed in showing what a genius he was. Yes, how tragic he ended up quite crazy, but still....don't tear the whole man down. Disappointed.

B "NIGHTCRAWLER"  It was just okay. Jake Gyllenhaal is really creepy. Meh. Didn't make the final cut with voters.