I have sorely neglected my MOVIES OF 2014 page. So just to get it over with, I made this post with mini-reviews of all the new, never-before-seen, and seen-a-very-long-time-ago movies I’ve seen this year. I promise I’ll try to keep up with it more in the future, *shudders*.
On to the movies!
I don’t know how intelligently and maturely I can express my feelings about Her with only one viewing. Of course, I thought it was incredible. Visually striking, surprisingly humorous, and painstakingly detailed to convey a realistic not-too-distant future.
Philomena (Stephen Frears, 2013)
Judi Dench is lovely as Philomena Lee, and Steve Coogan as the reporter investigating Philomena’s story (and acting like a surrogate son) is charming. On the whole, there’s nothing disagreeable or potentially “rotten” about Philomena, but a best-picture nominee? I think that’s a bit of a stretch. I haven’t read the book version, but my opinion is that the film appeared like a straightforward visual counterpart to the book. The source material (the best part of the film) can’t be attributed to the filmmakers. I’m not sure it embraced the medium enough to warrant the adaptation, certainly not a Best Picture nominee.
I wish I could say I liked Nebraska, because in theory, it checks all the boxes for an indie movie darling. In practice, I just didn’t find it appealing. June Squibb is the best part of the movie, for sure, but it’s overlong. There are plenty of moments of interest, so I can’t say it’s completely boring. But the interesting moments are too far and few in between the dull. Overall, it would have been much more enjoyable if condensed.
It’s been about a month since I’ve seen this and I’m having a hard time remembering much about it. I think that says more about it than any mini-review I could write. It was pleasant and unoffensive, but without much substance to stir up any emotional connection to it.
The Sessions deals with an inherently sexual story and sensitive characters, and manages to portray both with a delicate finesse that prevents it from straying into uncomfortable territory. In less capable hands, I can see some of the subject matter becoming too overt during Mark’s sessions with Cheryl. But
Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)
Cast Away is one of those movies that I’d seen years ago, but probably didn’t entirely understand it then. Watching it a few weeks ago, I was struck by the use of sound. It’s one of those details that I never would have noticed until I started studying film. Chuck’s first arrival on the island is practically silent, as it should be if he was really there alone. But the way Zemeckis extends the silence to bring home Chuck’s isolation is palpable.
I don’t know if I would have gone to see Dallas Buyers Club without word-of-mouth support and the eventual awards buzz it received. It did seem like a great movie from trailers, I just wasn’t sure if it was a movie to see in theaters. Glad I was wrong! Jared Leto is everything in this, and surprisingly, so is Matthew McConaughey. His character development from beginning to end is remarkable. His entire way of being changes, but it doesn’t feel forced or overly scripted. It’s entirely genuine as he movies from a homophobic, sexist redneck to a toned down version of the same character with added sympathy. I would never have expected him to completely transform into liberal gay rights supporter and HIV/AIDS advocate during the course of the film, because that wouldn’t have been right for his character in the film. HIV made him a better person by forcing him to help himself and others, but it didn’t change him.
After watching the trailer for Labor Day, my first tweet was “I want to see Labor Day, but I don’t think I should.” Perfect assessment. The characters are likable and the setting/time period bring up a nostalgia for childhood. The problem lies in the story. There’s too much going on, not enough exposition, the pace is too quick, altogether it’s kind of a mess. Best part of the movie though is the song from the trailer that grabbed my attention from the get-go. Didn’t like the movie, but I still love the song.
Everything about it screams Wes Anderson, and stop-motion animation seems like the perfect medium to express his particular cinematic world view. Boggis, Bunce, and Bean / One fat, one short, one lean! / Those horrible crooks / So different in looks / And nonetheless equally mean!
That Awkward Moment (Tom Gormican, 2014)
If there’s ever a time to trust the Rotten Tomatoes score, it’s when both the critic and user scores are rotten. I wish I would have trusted good ol’ RT on this one because goodness gracious it was awwwwful. About halfway through, I realized I didn’t know any of the character’s names. The costumes looked like someone pulled a set of coordinating outfits of a window display. And the film rotated every scene between Efron’s apartment, their neighborhood bar, and aimless walking down a city street, With some actual direction, it could have been better, or atleast had something worthwhile about it. It felt like someone filmed rehearsals and then edited it into a movie, accidentally leaving out most of the plot in favor of gag jokes. For all I know, I could have been watching scenes out of order and honestly, it wouldn’t have changed much. Miles Teller is so much better than this.
The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 2014)
So good, I’ve already seen it twice. And in February, who would’ve thought? It’s in the same vein of adult-friendly animation for kids as Wreck-It Ralph and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and it incorporates the self-reflexive intelligence of film and the Lego world to be universally impressive. The Vertov reference shocked me and took it to a whole other level. I can’t wait for kids seeing it for the first time now to watch it again in their twenties and finally understand everything. Oh, and there’s a big twist that will blow your mind. Do yourself a favor and see it as many times as you can. I’ll be here, watching this mesmerizing gif for the next several hours.