First Half Review : The Best of 2014 So Far

So it’s just about the half way point in our year so it’s time to review what I have seen so far. I’ll do a ranked top five list with some honorable mentions and then I’ll do a couple categories that are not ranked such as best performances, biggest disappointments, and favorite scenes. Here’s to a better second half of the year!

TOP FIVE IN DESCENDING ORDER

Honorable Mentions

Edge of Tomorrow – Perfectly fun and exciting sci fi film. Emily Blunt kicked major ass and it was fun to see Tom Cruise be a human being before he turned into his typical badass action hero. The film was also pretty tight for a film that had such a high concept. I would have liked a less Hollywood ending but I left very satisfied.

The Wind Rises – I know this hit the festivals in 2013 but it had a limited release in 2014 so I included it. It was certainly the least fantastical Miyazaki film I’ve ever seen but the love and heart that went into it is unmistakable. Miyazaki wrote a poem about himself and it came out beautifully. I didn’t care for the American voice acting and it ran a tad long but if the genius is truly done directing films I’m satisfied with his last.

Godzilla – Sometimes you just need a cool monster movie and this was it for me. I enjoyed the havoc and the set pieces, especially the halo drop, were cool as shit. I just needed more Bryan Cranston and Godzilla but overall it was an enjoyable film.

NUMBER FIVE – ENEMY

Denis Villenuvue is one of my favorite new film makers right now so naturally I would have a high regard of his doppleganger film staring Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a bit slow but when it picked up it turned into a psychotic piece of mystery with amazing visuals and a key performance from Gyllenhaal. Also, the ending is batshit insane yet so thought provoking. I love good mysteries. I love mysteries even more when I still haven’t figured it out.

NUMBER FOUR – THE LEGO MOVIE

SPACESHIP!!! There isn’t much to say other than that. It’s a fun as hell ride into many a childhoods with a strong message to be yourself. The voice cast was hilarious and the film implied a joke a minute strategy that had me in stitches the whole time. Oh, and SPACESHIP!!!

NUMBER THREE – THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

The only film this year I have seen multiple times in the theater. I can’t express how much I loved this film. It is up there with the Wes Anderson greats, Tennenbaums and Rushmore, while still being unique and delightfully surprising. The design and story were clever and crafted with such detail and care and the cast was just amazing. We’ll get into Ralph Fiennes later on. It’s just a completely joyous film.

NUMBER TWO – ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

I love Jim Jarmusch. I’ve been binge watching his films ever seeing Only Lovers in the theater and I firmly believe he makes films just for me know. I love slow movies. I love movies where the clever dialogue is basically another character. I love committed and subtly powerful performances. Only Lovers had all of that. Swinton and Hiddleston were two of the most perfect casting choices I’ve ever seen. They were magnificent. The soundtrack was as dark and brooding as the camera work. It’s just the perfect chill out movie. It was my number one until only recently which brings me too…

NUMBER ONE – THE ROVER

What can I say? I’m obsessed with David Michod. Jim Jarmusch may make films for me, but Michod makes films I want to make. They are unflinching and unapologetic, brutal and beautiful, deep and symbolic, and just as shocking the second time you see it as the first. I may like Animal Kingdom slightly better than this but never has a film grown on me the longer I thought about it than The Rover. I forget what rating I gave it originally but now it’s a firm five out of five. The ending received groans from the audience I was in but it left me speechless. Everything came together for me during the last shot and the significance of it lingered for days. Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson gave career performances and the gorgeous cinematography was the icing on the cake. It’s my number one film of the year so far and will be hard to top.

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Biggest Disappointments

Robocop – One of the worst films I’ve seen in years. Nothing happened. I didn’t care. Not even Michael K. Williams was good in it. Abbie Cornish should stop trying. The only redeeming factor was Gary Oldman. I just hated it.

Monuments Men – What a snoozefest. Did I even write about this one? I can’t remember if I did or not. I may have clocked out halfway and thought a review was wrong which tells you how boring this movie was.

The Raid 2 – I left halfway because I just couldn’t sit in the theater any longer. The fight scenes were great and I’m going to give it another try but I just didn’t care for the story at all. I was pissed all night after this one.

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Best Performances

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel – There has not been a more perfectly cast role in comedy in the last ten years that lives up to this role. Hysterical, serious, and outlandishly bizarre, Fiennes brought it all. He’s the reason I had no problem at all seeing this is theaters the same week as when I saw it first. He was amazing.

Guy Pearce/Robert Pattinson in The Rover – This was the performance of Pearce’s career and even though he won’t get it, he deserves recognition for it. His face was heartbreaking and his actions were brutal. He has perfected the thousand yard stare. I combined the two because they complimented each other so well. Pearce was a menace and Pattinson was unpredictable and seemed lost in whatever he was doing. They were a treat to watch.

Bryan Cranston in Godzilla – My favorite part of the film that included gigantic monsters kicking the shit out of each other. I cared so much for his character in such a little time. He broke my heart in half on multiple occasions and may I remind you he did it in a film that is about MONSTERS KICKING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER. Cranston is just amazing.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy – The guy can act. The guy can also act with himself. The two Jakes (movie reference) were nearly complete opposites yet Gyllenhaal was able to get it done almost effortlessly. He’s turning into a ridiculously good actor.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Only Lovers Left Alive – Another two that have to be together because they complimented each other so well. I want to hang out with these two and talk about the world so bad. Hiddleston was dark and Swinton was his light. They were a perfect team.

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Favorite scenes/moments (Spoiler free)

The Lego Movie – SPACESHIP!!!!!!!

Godzilla – The Halo Drop. So unnerving with the music and the camera angle.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – The mountain chase in the snow. Just delightful and also hysterical.

Only Lovers Left Alive – Swinton, Hiddleston, and Hurt all drinking their blood. Also, the opening scene was incredible. Perfect song choice with Wendy Jackson.

X-Men : First Class – The Escape. You know what scene I’m talking about. Time Stuck in a Bottle. One of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen.

The Rover/Enemy – The endings.

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Films I saw that didn’t make a list – Night Moves, The Double, Chef, Willow Creek
Film I haven’t seen yet that may have made a list – The Immigrant, Under the Skin, How to Train Your Dragon 2, 22 Jump Street

Film Review : The Rover (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 66%

Directed By – David Michôd
Starring – Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, David Field, Tawanda Manyimo, Susan Prior, and Anthony Hayes

10 years after a global economic collapse, a hardened, ruthless ex-soldier tracks down the men who stole his only possession. As he travels through the lawless Australian outback, he takes a damaged young man as his unwitting accomplice.

A while back I wrote about the work of David Michôd. The man is responsible for one of my favorite films in the last ten years, Animal Kingdom, and after delving into his short film work and the movie “Hesher”, which he scripted, it’s safe to say he’s one of my favorite directors working today. Once I found out that The Landmark Sunshine theater in NYC was going to be getting the film a week before it’s widely released, I had to shoot down and see it. The auditorium wasn’t packed, but had a substantial amount of people in it. I made a joke to one of my friends that there were going to be women in there that were only present to see them some Robby Patt (Yes, I just made that up) and fuck me were there actually a group of girls in there that were very keen on making that fact known. I couldn’t believe it. That’s dedication guys. It’s also quite sad. Those girls did not like the movie I’m sure. I however, loved it. All my waiting and anticipation paid off because the film ended up being exactly what I wanted, a challenging and laboring work that will be both loved and hated by audiences. That is my kind of party.

The story is set in the future but there are no flying cars or androids. Without being told what happened, Australia’s economy has collapsed and spun the country into a state of free for all lawlessness with the only form of “police” coming from either rogue military groups or paid mercenaries. It’s a baron wasteland even worse than what the country was before…a baron wasteland (Please don’t hate me Jordan/Eddie). We meet a man who is given no name throughout the film, played by the outright vicious and brutal Guy Pearce. His car is stolen and he is going to get it back. Along his chase of his vehicle he runs across Ray, the brother of one of the men who stole his vehicle, played by an almost unrecognizable Robert Pattinson. Those ladies must have shit a brick when they saw his face because the heartthrob vampire was transformed into a simple, dangerous, broken, and outright ugly kid. What follows next can really only be experienced in the cinema so I’ll leave that to you.

Disregarding my joke before, I have the utmost respect and fascination with the country of Australia when it comes to film. The work coming out of there in the last few years has just been outstanding. David Michôd has stood out among the crowd and with the completion of this film, totally formed a fresh pair of eyes on the way we watch movies. He sculpts his films with meticulous care and attention while also having the skill to leave the audience in a state of utter confusion. I’ll be honest, I fought with this film. I went from loving it, to questioning it, to being shocked, to being underwhelmed, to being overwhelmed, and finally floored by the ending. The crowd I was with seemed to be going through this battle with me. As the credits rolled, groans were heard, sarcasm was spoken, but some butts, including mine, were glued to their seats. The ending was a bow on top of a mystery box that I’m sure was on the laps and minds of everyone in the theater. Why was this man doing this…for a car? Why would he go through such hardship to get his shitty four door sedan back. To be honest, I had given up hope that we would find out but the haunting final shot clued us in to what motivated a man with little to no motivation left in his life. It was a beautiful way to end a film that was so bleak and disturbing.

The film did have some flaws though. For one, the narrative was a bit clumsy in parts. That is, tense moments of horror and violence were often followed up with transition scenes that kind of killed the emotion of what just happened. There is also a terrible, terrible, use of a song in this film that just distracted and confused the entire theater. It may have been used to illustrate the mental capacity of Pattinson’s character, but it just seemed way too out of place.

Speaking of Pattinson, holy shit can that kid act. I have never seen a single Twilight film nor do I have any interest i ever seeing, but this kid is special. I remember seeing Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” and being teased in what Pattinson could possible achieve later in his career. This film should be his break. If he was given a supporting actor nomination, I wouldn’t bat an eye. He perfected the thousand yard stare. He nailed an almost unintelligible accent. He stole every scene he was in and that was hard when realizing mostly every scene he was in was with Guy Pearce, who in my opinion gave the performance of his career. The both were powerhouses in a film with both power and unrelenting dread. They should be applauded for their work.

David Michôd crafted a beauty of a film. Each shot is crafted so well with full detail that it’s hard to not find the hell that the film was set in beautiful. The rolling hills played like a second character as we are reminded in nearly every shot that there is something bigger than us and that if we are not careful, we will fall. The score, when not being played on the radio by Pattinson, was eerie and dark as the violence carried out. It kept me glued to the screen waiting for what was going to happen next even though I was sure nothing was around the corner. It was an immersing and unflinching watch in where even if you don’t buy into the film, you can still be entertained.

Overall it was a slightly flawed, but nearly brilliant film by David Michôd. The last twenty minutes or so, including that ending, was some of the best film making I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a film that will be talked about and debated on whether it is too pretentious and whether or not it takes itself too seriously. Much like Animal Kingdom, which is slightly the superior film as of now, The Rover requires multiple viewings to fully digest but it’s a wonderful thing when something can get so much use.

4.5/5




Film Review : Godzilla (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Gareth Edwards
Starring – Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, and Bryan Cranston

The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

Finally.

I finally got around to seeing this film. It was my umber one most anticipated movie until I found out about “The Rover” and I decided to wait until the crowd died down to see it. Leaving the theater, I felt both satisfied and a bit underwhelmed, but overly glad I saw it. The film was given mostly good reviews but the bad ones seriously bashed the film for being poorly written, slow, and seriously lacking a gigantic creature from which the title gets it name. While all three are true in their own right, there are a lot of good things that happened in this film that left me wanting to see it again one day, and from hating the shit out of it.

Let me get this out of the way first. Bryan Cranston is amazing. He was easily the best part of the entire film and I’m including all the action, all the monsters, all the everything. The fact that he wasn’t in the film for all that much just goes to show how well he did because his character was the only one that I cared about and it wasn’t because of the writing. It was because of him. He gave a heart wrenching and intense performance. We all know how well he played Walter White. Hell, that character may go down as the greatest television character of all time when all said and done, but the man can flat out kill it in other roles. I hope this run of spotlight roles are an open window to him being used in more films because he alone is worth the price of admission. He was the best part of the film.

Besides him, the cast did what they needed to do. Juliette Binoche was in this for three minutes. “Happy Birthday! Okay, bye.” Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen were acceptable in their roles as a young husband and wife and Johnson did well in carrying the action. They needed a Japanese guy in this film and they got the most Japanese guy who we can almost understand in Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins just kind of followed him around. Cranston shined while the others just sort of glistened every once and a while.

The action! The action was pretty fucking awesome. I think I may have been one of the small minority of people to have actually seen (and own) Gareth Edwards first film aptly named “Monsters”, a low budget sci-fi flick with minimal action but gorgeous scenes of destruction. Well, they did a great job in hiring Edwards because I thought he directed the shit out of this. The film looked great. The pivotal scenes of monster on monster action were incredible and while they were few and far in between, delivered when present. I wish we saw a bit more Godzilla but the end justified the mean because the big fucking lizard out on a show for the last 20 minutes or so. I was almost cheering for ol’ lizard brain to crush more things. The evil monsters also had their own cool moments. They kind of reminded me of the bugs from “Starship Troopers” meets the thing from “Cloverfield”. That’s a good thing. They were both awesome. The reason why I was so excited for the film, the Halo jump, exceeded my expectations in being fucking gorgeous, intense, and creepy as shit. I mean, they used the goddamn music from 2001 when the monkeys discovered the monolith. I believe Wendy Carlos did that score but I’m not sure. It was dark and unnerving and a perfect compliment to the jump sequence. It was my favorite action set piece of the film.

There are faults though. The writing was pretty lazy and all over the place. I’ve always hated bringing in children during an action film for a couple reasons. The biggest reason is that you have to find a way for the damn kid to get saved. You think people wouldn’t get scared when a child is about to get killed because they rarely ever do on screen but no, everybody goes “OH NO. SAVE HIM.” It’s unnecessary and just distracting from the actual plot of the film. Unless you’re going to kill the kid and be original for once, leave that scene on the cutting floor. It’s a cheap way to create tension in a film with HUGE FUCKING MONSTERS THAT COULD CREATE TENSION.

There was also a complete lack of logic and results of a monster destroying an entire city. Everybody just kind of gets up afterwards and was like, “shit, a building just fell on me. That sucks.” This was more towards the end of the film but it still ticked me off.

Overall I enjoyed the film. I was into it any time there were monsters or Bryan Cranston on the screen and meh’d by it when there wasn’t. It still was a great sophomore film by Gareth Edwards and I hope he tackles more action movies in the future.

3/5

Suggested Viewing – The Host, Monsters, Pacific Rim




Film Review : Chef (2014)

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IMDB Score – 7.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%

Directed By – Jon Favreau
Starring – Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Roberrt Downey Jr, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Russell Peters, and Emjay Anthony

A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.

It has been a fucking long time since I was last in a theater; a month I believe. That’s not good when you’re supposed to be a film blogger but what am I going to say? I’ve been busy with my real person job and I honestly just haven’t been pulled out to the theater in the last month by anything. Like always, I’m waiting to see the bigger films like Godzilla/X-Men until the crowds die down because I get anxiety from assholes talking during the movie I paid for. This doesn’t necessary mean I wait for everything as I’m going out tomorrow to see “The Double” and I’m also writing this review right now on Jon Favreau’s latest film, “Chef”.

First let me say that I was in the theater with mostly old people who proceeded to talk during the whole movie. The thing is, it was okay! I actually didn’t mind because of how the film was and I’ll get into that in a minute. I’ll also say that old men don’t give a shit who they sit next to. I was sitting three seats from the left in a row and to my right were four open seats. Older couple walks in, sits down, to my left. They didn’t give a shit if they could of had empty seats next to me. They wanted to sit near the isle and I was going to have to sit next to the old man. I didn’t mind one bit. Who the hell cares? First off, I was there first and I’ll be damned if I’m going to move my seat just because somebody else sat next to me for no reason but why would I have to? The guy wasn’t wheezing like the penguin from “Toy Story”. He didn’t smell like death and I felt no fear that he was going to hold me hostage before Mr. Death came by and took him away. I don’t understand the heebie jeebies with sitting next to people in a theater unless they’re Paul Reubens. They’re just people.

I digress.

Chef! I had the choice to either see Chef or the Spiderman sequel and you know what? FUCK SPIDERMAN! I’ll take an original film over that cash cow any day. I believe I was first introduced to Mr. Favreau while watching the film “Swingers”, which while not being directed by him, both starred and was written by the man. Jon has gotten a little bigger in the wallet and waistline since then but he’s a talented writer/directer and this seemed like a return to form for him. It was. I ended up really enjoying the film.

The film centers around Carl, played by Favreau himself, who gets fired from his job running a restaurant for telling a food critic to shove it. He then grabs his partner and ten year old son and embarks on a journey to create the ultimate food truck.

I should not have gone into this hungry. This is what most of the people in the theater were talking about, the food. The food was gorgeous and goddamn mouth watering. It was like watching an episode of “Chopped” instead all the food looked somewhat normal and tasty. There’s a Cuban place near me that does authentic Cuban food while blasting Cubano music from 100 speakers. I’ll be visiting them soon because I have a hankering for a Cuban sandwich now. I wanted to tell everybody to shut up but I would have been kicked out by an angry mob of starving lunatics. It was acceptable and I went along with it. The music in the film is also fantastic. They used a very horn heavy selection of songs mixed in with a little up tempo blues. One of my favorite blues musicians, Gary Clark Jr, actually makes a cameo. Speaking of cameos with a guy who has a Jr. at the end of his name, if you’re going to see this film because of RDJ, don’t. He’s in it for five minutes. He isn’t funny. I suppose he’s just doing his old buddy Jon a favor cause the film was fine without him. Same goes for Scarlett Johansson. She was in the film to add weight to the main characters downfall and once she did she was gone. The stars who line the top of the billing were merely expensive decorations. The real meat and guts lie with Favreau and his on screen son played by Emjay Anthony, who was delightful. It’s their story and somehow it came to a heartwarming end when I thought it was going to be cheesier than the guys fantastic looking grilled cheese.

The film did have some pacing problems though. There was a scene with Russell Peters, who played a cop, that was just very strange and distracting from the film. It should have been left on the floor like most of the final third of the film. The two hour run length really should have been cut down to about an hour and a half but it’s a small complaint on an overall good film that does nothing besides make you hungry and make you feel good. It’s a refreshing film in the midst of all the superheros and monsters that are going to be filling our screens in the next couple of months. It’s also a great return of a promising and humble filmmaker.

I’m going to go make a sandwich now.

4/5

Suggested Viewing : Big Night, The Station Agent, Anthony Bourdain shows, Ratatouille




My Experience with The Raid 2

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Okay, so I had a disappointing night. If you regularly read my work then you’ll notice something is off. My usual set up of details regarding the movie is absent and I titled this in a very odd way. There is a reason for that. Tonight was honestly one of the most disappointing and frustrating nights of movie watching I have ever had. I’m going to start off by getting this out of the way…

I didn’t finish the movie. I walked out. I have only ever walked out of a movie once before (The Informant) and I am still in disbelief that I did. I don’t understand what went wrong. I’m going to try to figure it out in this post but I give you all fare warning, I’m going to spoil, in small ways, the first half of the film. I do however have a favor to ask of you…

IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS FILM IN IT’S ENTIRETY AND DISAGREE WITH ME THEN PLEASE…PLEASE…COMMENT AND CHANGE MY MIND.

I honestly need you guys to convince me to go back and see the end of the film because I wanted to love this movie so much but I just couldn’t sit in the theater any longer. I left with about an hour left in the film and I need you guys to tell me it becomes badass in that last hour. There just has to be more but I honestly couldn’t take how bored I was any longer. I looked at my phone and realized that I had another hour and change left and I just couldn’t sit there any longer. Now, let me preface the following words by saying I did not think that this is a bad film. There is a huge difference between a bad film and a boring disappointment and “The Raid 2” was that of the latter. Now, let’s get into this so I can flush out the sadness…

So, like many of you, I loved The Raid. I think it is the best action movie since “The Matrix” and is my top five favorite action movies of all time. I didn’t care that the story was lacking or that the acting was amateur at best. I loved the fact that somebody made a balls to the wall fighting film that rarely let up and didn’t bow its head to Hollywood tropes and actually let the villains get away with some evil shit. I loved the fact that one of the main cops dies. I loved that I was rooting for one of the villains during most of the fights. I just couldn’t get enough of the film. So, naturally, when I heard the sequel was finished and that it was two and a half hours long, I salivated. I thought, if this is anything like the first film, but longer, that I would lose my shit. I refrained from seeing trailers in an attempt to go into the film totally blind and get my face rocked off. The podcasts that I listen to praised the film and the small lot of you guys that have seen the film gave positive reviews. I was ready. I just can’t believe I ended up walking out.

So the film starts off about two hours after the first film ended. This is deceiving because it really only takes place in that time period for about ten minutes before we’re thrown into a plot that is so boring and confusing that I honestly didn’t know what the hell I was watching. Our hero, Rama, has now been persuaded into an undercover position in order to protect his family so he spends two years in a prison getting to know the younger son our a local politician/crime boss. What follows plot wise, and takes up most of the film, is a boring and horribly written story that is trying very hard to be compelling but I could honestly give a shit. Where are my fight scenes? Where are my adrenaline filled, blood pumping, boner inducing fight scenes that I was given in the first Raid? I just didn’t get it. By the time I left there were three fight scenes that had moments of glory but ultimately left me unsatisfied in a way that some people experience blue balls. I was being prodded with glorious fight scenes for five minutes only to be left with talking for another twenty. It was an hour and fifteen minutes of tease. I just couldn’t handle it. I had to leave. I was going to fall asleep or worse, completely punch out of the film, so I folded. There wasn’t even any music in the film. Mike Shinoda contributed a hell of a lot to the first film by giving an intense and fun techno score that added to the fun. There was so much silence in this film that I almost fell asleep. The final straw was the fact that the man who played my favorite character in the first film, Mad Dog, was in this movie, as a completely different person. Let me rephrase the fact that this movie takes place in the same universe and directly after the events of the first film. Having the same actor, and having it be obvious, be in the sequel after he fucking dies, is just stupid. I had enough. I left.

Now, the management staff was kind enough to give me a pass to return and I do plan on revisiting and finishing the film. I ask you though to please help me get back there sooner. Does the film get better? Is the last half hour an incredible display of fighting badassery that I missed because I’m a snobby asshole? Please let me know in the comments because my disappointment was just too much to handle tonight.

I will post a full review if I ever return to this film. Please help me do so.