The Official Review Thread of 2014

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:42 am

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:42 am

The Original BJ wrote:I'm getting to the point where I feel like I can't even go see blockbusters anymore, no matter the quality of the reviews..


Don't worry - you are perfectly normal. I've stopped going to American blockbusters 20 or 30 years ago (unless they were nominated for major Oscars). Not only they are generally stupid - they make people stupid, and I value my intelligence too much. And even when they aren't too stupid - it can happen, though rarely - their level of intelligence is still too low - they are good for smart children, at least by European standards, and unfortunately I am not a child anymore.

And I don't think one should go and see, say, Godzilla or Edge of Tomorrow if he hasn't seen, I don't know, The Great Beauty or Grand Budapest Hotel (not to mention Hiroshima Mon Amour or Sunset Boulevard). There ARE priorities, and life is too short.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Jun 08, 2014 7:27 pm

Winter Soldier was probably the finest indictment of the American intelligence gathering community in the modern era.

Godzilla as a great disaster movie, not so much a great monster movie.

I refused to see Maleficent because it looked dumb.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't good, but X-Men is fantastic.

Anyway, I wonder if perhaps this disillusionment is more a product of environment and personality than of any adequate evaluation of cinematic merit. I also don't understand why anyone here even considers what critics say anymore. I have never heard anyone confirm that critics got something right. More often than not, people here will rip apart what critics say and wonder why they are so positive about something. My advice is to stop reading critics. Obviously they aren't aligning with your personal opinions, so why do you even bother?

Also, I recommend staying away from Rotten Tomatoes. Just go to MetaCritic, it will probably make you feel better about your choices.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jun 08, 2014 7:09 pm

I'm getting to the point where I feel like I can't even go see blockbusters anymore, no matter the quality of the reviews.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened to pretty strong reviews, and not much else was out then, so I went to see it. I found it inoffensive but mostly uninteresting. Certainly not anything that provided much pop pleasure, not when every Marvel movie basically has the same storyline, and they're all just commercials for the next installment.

Then Godzilla opened to some very glowing praise -- this was supposed to be a top-notch summer entertainment -- and even though I assumed it would be idiotic, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and trudged along to the theater to see what the fuss was about. And I thought it was atrocious, basically no different than Transformers or any other movie with the exact same plot line where giant creatures/robots/aliens try to destroy the world and people run around helpless trying to stop them. The best I can say is, at least I already checked off that Visual Effects Oscar nomination.

I was actually looking forward to Maleficent, though at least with that one I can't blame the critics for leading me astray. And with the exception of Angelina Jolie, who is clearly having a good time, it was another monstrosity -- barely a plot, full of cluttered and ugly images, and groan-worthy supporting performances (including from a couple actors who I've loved in the past). Oh, and it recycles a major plot point from Frozen, which last time I checked, was only SIX MONTHS OLD!

And I couldn't even bring myself to endure yet another Spider-Man or X-Men movie.

So I read those good reviews for Edge of Tomorrow and I thought...nope. I will not be duped again. It doesn't look like something I'd be interested in, and I'm not going to spend my time and money so that I can sit cross-armed throughout the entire thing annoyed at movie critics yet again for breach of promise.

I know some of you will likely say, well, blockbuster cinema is bad, obviously. But, like Mister Tee, I've found enjoyment in pop entertainments over the years -- not every movie in my cinema diet needs to be 12 Years a Slave or Zero Dark Thirty. But it seems to me that these latest "entertainments" are so clearly lacking in qualities that I find even remotely entertaining, and movie critics seem to be routinely overselling them for some reason, I just about have to give up on them completely.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Jun 08, 2014 4:40 pm

I honestly don't know what movie you watched, Tee, but it wasn't Edge of Tomorrow. It was exciting, compelling and had a fascinating hook. Yes, it may have seemed like the sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, but it was such fun to watch that a few minor issues don't ruin the film. It was tightly scripted and I don't know many films that have handled the time-hook issue quite so well. Looper should be envious of this film.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:32 pm

Because I was beginning to forget what the inside of a theatre looked like (hadn't been to one since March) and because the reviews were pretty good, I went to Edge of Tomorrow.

Eh. It was watchable/pleasant enough. Fun to see Emily Blunt casually dispatch Tom Cruise over and over. Fun to watch Emily Blunt, period. But the movie was really just a collection of spare parts -- the Groundhog Day influence so obvious I guess you'd call it homage (or "sampling"), but also lots of bits from Starship Troopers and Saving Private Ryan (and may I say, seeing the movie on the actual 70th anniversary of D-Day made the pseudo-Normandy landing feel grossly inappropriate).

It just makes one lament that the Summer Movie (such an integral part of moviegoing that many don't know there was a time it didn't exist) has fallen so low that such a middling piece gets talked about as if it's Jaws. I know the golden days young Spielberg brought are unlikely to come back, but where are the current equivalents of War Games or Speed, or even Men in Black? -- witty concoctions that feel mostly fresh? At this point it would take an act of god to get me into a theatre for a Marvel superhero, but I'm not averse to spending two hours in foolish pleasure. Contemporary movies, though, for me supply way too much of the foolish and very little of the pleasure.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:52 am

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff, Mike Birbiglia, Lotte Verbeek.
Dir: Josh Boone.

Contrary to what it might look like, I do not watch EVERY movie. I haven't read the book. This movie, based on the book, is a teen romantic comedy-drama with a cancer plot. It sounds like a sappy, manipulative weeper that would make me wanna run as far away from it as possible (unless of course it was directed by a director I love, like say Douglas Sirk but he's long dead so...). To my surprise, it got very good reviews (above 75% on Rotten Tomatoes) so I guess I *had* to see it to see what all the fuss is about. To my surprise, I ended up really liking it. Sure, it hits all the familiar beats but the strong cast and witty script (courtesy of the scribes who did (500) Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now) which manages to (mostly) maintain just the right balance of humor, drama, quirkiness, self-awareness, heart, tears, etc. Teen romance and cancer dramas are two genres that's so easy to fuck up. For this to combine the two and manage to not be a overly sappy, barf-inducing, manipulative and cheap mess but instead a funny, sweet, genuinely heartfelt film is a minor miracle. Kudos to all involved.

Oscar Prospects: Wouldn't mind to see Shailene Woodley and the screenplay nominated.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 07, 2014 9:55 am

EDGE OF TOMORROW
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor, Kick Gurry.
Dir: Doug Liman.

It's another year and it's another high-concept Tom Cruise action movie where Tom Cruise kicks ass and gets to be the hero. But this time around, it's really, really good! It's Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. It's about a man who gets killed while fighting alien invaders but he gets the power to live the day again and again and again. Though it has all the familiar tropes of a typical summer action blockbuster, the structure allows it to play around with it and rises above it and made it really engaging and genuinely exciting. It's also refreshing to see a strong female character in Emily Blunt, who manages to outshine Tom Cruise (who, at 52, also manages to convince us that he's still not too old for these roles).

Oscar Prospects: A case could be made for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Film Editing.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 31, 2014 9:56 am

MALEFICENT
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Sam Riley, Brendon Thwaites, voice of Janet McTeer.
Dir: Robert Stromberg.

When I was a kid watching Disney animated films, the Disney villain that scared me the most was Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. She's quite the frightening, evil character with the horns and the vindictive personality seemingly doing it for sheer evil delight. So a film centering around her character was an excellent idea. Casting Angelina Jolie was another good move. The first act, establishing the motive of Maleficent, was pretty darn good and makes perfect sense but the film falls apart in the second act when it became just another fairy tale. I thought this film would subvert the Sleeping Beauty legend but instead it just kind of reverses it and becomes derivative. Even the resolution was something we've seen fairly recently. There are cool visuals and Angelina Jolie is excellent. Overall, it's not a bad film but it could have been something really special.

Oscar Prospects: I think Angelina Jolie could've been an Actress contender had this film been better but now it will be lucky to get in Art Direction, Costume Design and Visual Effects.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Sabin » Sat May 24, 2014 9:04 pm

(This will be about X-Men as much as the film)

I rewatched X-Men: First Class before going to see Days of Future Past. There are several clunky parts (and awful VFX) that held me back from enjoying it the first go-round, but as another entry in nerd niche blockbusterdom, it felt like junk food by way of alternate history message board. The original book (which was cancelled) was at its core very Cold War. Gone is the X-Men as queer misfit sanctuary. Instead, it feels like precursor to a new age with the X-Men as CIA at its most hush hush. Again: much clunk, but amongst the crowd, something different for sure. A mutant.

I'd be interested to know what non-X-Men fans think of the film. As an X-Men fan, there is much unpacking. To a generation over the age of 40, "Days of Future Past" (which unlike "Dark Phoenix Saga" is spoken as one word with maximum excitement) meant the end of the Chris Claremont/John Byrne era where neither creators knew where anything was going and was meant as an abnormally spooky harbinger of things to come following an abnormally dire ending to the climax of everything they had written ("The Dark Phoenix Saga"). The X-Men have to stop an assassination that will destroy the future, which is the same thing as saying if the most disenfranchised among us (gay, black, Jew) are not there to save us, we're all doomed. To a generation under 40, it means the cartoon. It means the traitor to the X-Men. It means Bishop going back in time but not remembering who they are supposed to save. In a comic story that admittedly reads thin today, not bad stuff especially considering the built-in endgame. When "Days of Future Past" is mentioned to this generation, they will speak of this film, and that is strange to me because as a reading of the source material, it is bat-shit. When Armond White wrote of Inception, he described Christopher Nolan as a con-man who tricked WB into financing his film. I am staggered that the studios pumped $350 mil into a movie that ends with Richard Nixon unveiling his giant robots to the world.

There was a lightness to how Matthew Vaughn delivered his X-Men alternate history, and that's gone. In its stead is a melancholy. The X-Men/mutants of the past speak of each other like failed revolutionaries of the 60s. It's easy to see how these scenes would play out in a stronger film (one where Mystique was played by somebody other than Jennifer Lawrence), but I was almost impossible for me to believe I was seeing this film in the first place. If it's not as good, I felt the same way that I felt during "The Dark Knight": a singular geek culture vision taken more seriously probably than the source material intended for both pleasure and drama. Regardless of logic flaw or expo-dumping, Bryan Singer (his best film, easily) directs the clarity of performance in every scene so that it makes sense more than it should. This is the most cohesive film that makes no sense that I've ever seen. The action scenes (especially in the future) are among the most entertaining that I have seen either. Holy cow.

Additionally, it is in no way faithful to the source material and I could not have been happier about that. I kinda loved it. I can't in good faith call it a great film. I can't in good faith defend certain elements of the plot. What I can defend is what a spectacularly wonky slice of historical revisionism it is, replete with Richard Nixon unveiling giant robots for the world to see.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 24, 2014 10:05 am

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Nicholas Hoult, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Evan Peters, Anna Paquin.
Dir: Bryan Singer.

When I first heard of this, the first thought in my mind was, "Another X-Men movie? Really? Okay. Whatever." Even after the trailers came out, I was still fairly indifferent. But after actually seeing it, I must say, THIS is probably my favorite X-Men movie so far. The actors here bring their A-game, clearly playing it straight and taking it seriously but not too seriously. I'm particularly impressed by the fact that despite casting Peter Dinklage, no one ever pointed out he's a little person. It never came up. Though his condition gave his role a somewhat unspoken irony. I'm having superhero comic book movie fatigue yet somehow Bryan Singer miraculously re-invigorated it. The Quicksilver scene alone makes this movie more than worth seeing.

Oscar Prospects: None of the other X-Men movies got any Oscar attention but this could get in for Visual Effects, Makeup, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 17, 2014 9:31 am

GODZILLA
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, Richard T. Jones, Victor Rasuk, CJ Adams, Carson Bolde.
Dir: Gareth Edwards.

I saw this movie on 3D IMAX. Personally, I don't think the 3D was needed but the large screen of IMAX is more than worth it. You can actually see the scale of the large monsters (yes, MONSTERS) in this picture and it's a stunning sight. That's not to say this is a perfect film. I have a few issues with it. I mean like with lots of movies of this ilk, the human story could have been A LOT better especially since they've hired great actors to fill it (and Aaron Taylor-Johnson...ZING! Kidding, he wasn't that bad) but it's good enough to ground the monster action that is to come. Unlike the 1998 Roland Emmerich film, this film, I feel, as a fan of the original film, RESPECTED Godzilla and the monsters here, it's a strange thing to say, but they have SOULS. The ending was oddly moving. Gareth Edwards was a promising filmmaker in Monsters but he fulfilled that promise with this film. A truly enjoyable summer blockbuster.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. I wouldn't mind an Original Score nom for Alexandre Desplat either.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun May 04, 2014 9:14 am

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Cooper.
Dir: Marc Webb.

I'm of the opinion that Andrew Garfield is a better Spider-Man/Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire. Though this film is unfortunately kind of subpar, I still maintain that opinion. Garfield's performance holds this film together. There are many elements that could have potentially made a really good film in there but way too much time in spent on exposition and building up on things that the film becomes a bit tiresome and lacking in focus. The two villain structure made the film feel a bit anti-climactic. Dane DeHaan was terrific as the Green Goblin/Harry Osborne. Had the film focused on him and got rid of Electro (Jamie Foxx is kind of miscast), it would have been a much better film. It's really too bad. There are some really great elements there.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Makeup are all possibilities.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Sabin » Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:59 pm

I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier a few weekends back after a long weekend where I officiated a friend's wedding. I was exhausted but in a swirl of hubbub about this somehow being one of the great comic book movies of all time I threw caution to the wind and checked it out. Despite being tired and unfortunately watching this movie in 3D (beyond needless 3D), I admired it as a balancing act entertainment. Imagine being tasked to pull off a Captain America sequel (itself, an incredibly uninspired film) that is: 1) a Marvel franchise entry, 2) a stand alone entertainment, 3) an action film, 4) an espionage political thriller, 5) entirely in the spirit of Joss Whedon's humor, 6) also take the same page from The Dark Knight that it seems like every comic book adaptation must, 7) develop Steve Rogers, 8) develop Black Widow, 9) so many other things, but beyond all 10) be very good. If someone told me that it was my job to do all those things, my response would be "...we're talking about a Captain America movie, right?"

Captain America: The Winter Soldier does all these things except number 10. It's not very good, although some people seem to think it is. It is entertaining though. I think more than anything I enjoyed that even if it cannot be taken seriously as a political thriller that the application of this specific veneer to this franchise looks pretty good. I am partial to thrillers that keep moving from location to location. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a movie on the move. And The Russo Brothers stage their action scenes in an incredibly entertaining way. I'm shocked that this is the first time I've seen two people fight each other damn near on a two-dimensional/Street Fighter plane. Don't mistake it for art or even the film they're making it out to be. This is a summer movie that Marvel hedged their release date bet on and it's paid off very nicely for them, but it's a summer movie that mostly works. Under no circumstances should one see this in 3D.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:40 am

NYMPHOMANIAC
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgaard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe, Connie Nielsen, Mia Goth, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Jean Marc Barr, Udo Kier.
Dir: Lars Von Trier.

I debated whether or not I'd review Volume I and Volume II individually or as a whole. I decided to review the entire film as a whole. Like with many Lars Von Trier's works, this film has elements that I admire and elements that are extremely problematic. The first volume is quite strong. It's intriguing, thought provoking and boasts one of if not THE best performance Uma Thurman has ever given (it's my favorite scene in the entire two volumes). Volume II is the more problematic of the two with Lars Von Trier going into his usual tics that made quite a few of his films hard to love. The graphic, in your face sexuality is largely more clinical than particularly erotic. The cast is strong. Even Shia LaBeouf held his own. It's really too bad Volume II didn't live up to the promise of Volume I.

Oscar Prospects: None but I wouldn't mind nominations for Best Actress (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Best Supporting Actress (Uma Thurman)

Grade: B-


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