Saturday, March 7, 2015

2014 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

30 films vie for my top ten of 2014, which I'll announce tomorrow. As I didn't have over ten films in my "must-sees" this constitutes a weak year (in my opinion a VERY weak year).

As always, I've viewed 60 films this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must see [7]:

Edge of Tomorrow. Rare film where you enjoy the ride while you're wondering about the mystery (rather than just waiting for the end).

Ida. Beautifully shot film that gets more interesting and complex as it goes along.

Interstellar. Slow (and very M. Night) start leads to some fascinating places.

Nightcrawler. Kooky, creepy character piece.

Only Lovers Left Alive. Tonally fine and quite funny at times.

Selma. Excellent production, manages to successfully layer in several points of view.

Whiplash. Composed brilliantly in multiple senses of the word.

Recommended [23]:

American Sniper. Solid filmmaking, if much seems to be left out of what is clearly supposed to be a character study.

Big Hero 6. Nice visuals and an enjoyable character in Baymax.

Birdman. Worth it for the way it captures theater life/art, but the material is well-worn.

Boyhood. Ambitious and unique, although it misses the bullseye and often seems forced (particularly with the cultural references).

Chef. Formulaic, but a nice change of pace summer movie that's sure to please most.

Fury. Never dull but pretty standard fare.

Imitation Game, The. Seems to relish in dramatic license.

John Wick. Loved the reloading, which you never see; decent actioner was overrated because no one expected it to be anything.

LEGO Movie, The. Multilayered (but not deep) enjoyment, with many cute moments.

Locke. Artistically satisfying.

Lucy. Sure the science is nonsense, but it's an easily palatable ride with a modest running time.

Machine, The. Lead actress Caity Lotz distinguishes this little film that, to its credit, packs a lot into 90 minutes.

Maleficent. Well-mounted Disney production.

Neighbors. Pretty funny but basically a 30-minute movie replayed three times.

Non-Stop. Surprisingly entertaining high concept film.

Obvious Child. Nice to have on in the background while you read your Sunday New York Times.

Raid 2, The. Ambitious, with two solid action sequences at the end, but pretty gory and less organic than the first.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. As with the 300 sequel, Eva Green supplies the goods (in more ways than one), but unlike the 300 sequel the style here still has a freshness if the film itself gets repetetive.

Skeleton Twins, The. Slight dramedy with two actors who are brilliantly compatible; and quite a few laughs throughout.

Snowpiercer. Farfetched, but one of the easiest movies to recommend this year.

Theory of Everything, The. Beautifully shot and scored, with fine performances, but lacks in creating enough dramatic tension.

Under the Skin. Handled less "artistically" it might have been more effective, as it does have merit.

X-Men: Days of Future Past. Another clever installment in the franchise, with a standout Jennifer Lawrence.

Skippable [26]:

22 Jump Street. Summer movie fun.

300: Rise of an Empire. Eva Green adds spark, but the novelty of the original is gone.

Amazing Spider-Man 2, The. Decidedly mainstream entertainment is well done on that level.

Bad Words. Mostly a missed opportunity.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I counted two great action sequences and far too many scenes explaining what was going on.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Great effects, but straightforward, with quite a few treacly moments.

Divergent. A mad-dash through all of the book's plot points.

Draft Day. Good cast but dramatically mild.

Fading Gigolo. Very New York Film Festival.

Fault in Our Stars, The. Slavishly adapted from the novel, it's appealing, but no classic.

Godzilla. Good effects, but standard fare all the way.

Gone Girl. A much better book.

Grand Budapest Hotel, The. Weakly plotted with an amateurish lead performance in the young lobby boy.

Guardians of the Galaxy. Good-natured.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, The. A few sparks here and there but mostly exposition for Part 2.

Into the Woods. Just beautiful and bland enough to nab a Best Picture nomination.

Maze Runner, The. For once a genuine adaptation of a popular book, although the result is not much more than a "B-movie."

Monuments Men, The. Mild, nearly Disneyesque in its approach.

Muppets Most Wanted. Harmless; many fun cameos, references, and songs.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. About a millimeter deep.

November Man, The. Nice pairing of Pierce and (gorgeous) Olga, but pretty dull stuff otherwise.

Other Woman, The. Uber-chick flick falls apart in the second half after a promising start.

Ride Along. Grows on you, but only a little.

Robocop. Intellectualized remake is a noble effort.

St. Vincent. Cute kid, cute cat, Bill Murray.

Wild. Sincere, but flat.

Avoid [4]:

Foxcatcher. Goes nowhere, except apparently in tricking Academy voters.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Using old-time movie reviewer parlance: a turkey!

Magic in the Moonlight. Woody these days bounces from masterpieces to catastrophes: this one put the audience I saw it with asleep, and I was at a matinee!

Still Alice. Barely passable as a TV movie with A-listers, with outrageous product placement.

No comments: