The Official Review Thread of 2014

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Greg » Sat Apr 19, 2014 11:37 am

anonymous1980 wrote:TRANSCENDENCE
Grade: D.


Wow. It is quite rare for a grade that low from you. Transcendence currently has a 19% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. What a pity considering it actually has a great concept.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 19, 2014 11:16 am

TRANSCENDENCE
Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr.
Dir: Wally Pfister.

I was excited for this film. It's the feature directorial debut of Christopher Nolan's favorite cinematographer, Wally Pfister and it boasts a great cast and a very intriguing premise. Unfortunately, any potentially interesting idea is quashed under a whole lot of hooey that's alternating boring (a word I try to use sparingly in my reviews) and ridiculous. It's frustrating because there are sparks of an interesting film which a better script and director would've fleshed out more. It clearly wants to say something intelligent and profound about the relationship between humanity and technology but the results on screen are anything but. Johnny Depp sleepwalks through his performance, almost literally phoning it in with a vague impression of HAL-9000.

Oscar Prospects: None. Though Mychael Danna's score is one of the film's redeeming qualities.

Grade: D.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban.
Dir: Wes Anderson.

I love Wes Anderson's films. That's no secret. I thought he would never equal or top Moonrise Kingdom but he just did with this film. Though it would not convert non-fans of his work, this extremely intricately designed, shot and uniquely structured film is a joy to behold. Ralph Fiennes gives a hilarious performance as Monsieur Gustave who is the concierge of the titular place as he takes under his wing his immigrant lobby boy. The film is filled with Anderson's trademark style which some people may find annoying (but not me) but it does not lose sight of the story and characters. You remain invested in both which is really quite a feat. Very funny but also ends up kind of dark and even sad. It is my favorite film of 2014 so far.

Oscar Prospects: Strong contender for Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design and Original Score. Should also get in Picture, Director, Actor (Ralph Fiennes) and Cinematography.

Grade: A.

STRANGER BY THE LAKE
Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d'Assumçao, Jerome Chappatte.
Dir: Alain Giraurdie.

I've heard about this film mainly due to its graphic gay sex scenes (with a couple of shots that are unsimulated) but that's doing this film a wee bit of a disservice. What it is really is an unconvential gay love story/thriller about a man who frequents a lake infamous for gay cruising and falls for a man who he just witnessed murder his last lover. If you aren't too squeamish about having to sit through lots of full frontal male nudity and the aforementioned gay sex scenes, this is quite a wonderful film. It feels like a Michael Haneke film, almost (but with lots more penises) and beautifully photographed and acted. This is another one of my favorite films of the year.

Oscar Prospects: If it's eligible next year, it deserves Picture, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography but I doubt it will get any.

Grade: A-

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:47 pm

RIO 2
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, Andy Garcia, Bruno Mars, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Miguel Ferrer, Rita Moreno, Tracy Morgan, Rachel Crow, Amandla Stenberg, Pierce Gagnon, Jake T. Austin (voices).
Dir: Carlos Saldanha.

I thought the original film was fine, nothing really special but entertaining and charming in its own way. I wasn't really looking forward to the sequel. The sequel doesn't really improve on the original. The plot is strictly by the numbers. By the time we get to the second act, any reasonable adult who has read enough stories and seen enough movies already know what's gonna happen. But it's still got some eye-popping animation, a few good jokes and the voice cast and music is fun (especially Kristin Chenoweth who was very wisely given a musical number). It's harmless, passable entertainment. Nothing really special.

Oscar Prospects: There's a bunch of original songs here so it could be a contender for Best Original Song again. It probably won't make it to Animated Feature.

Grade: C+

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE ***1/2
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright.
Dir: Jim Jarmusch.

The answer to the question, what would a Jim Jarmusch vampire movie be like? Well, the Twilight franchise may have tarnished the cool factor of an angsty vampire love story but trust Jarmusch to bring back at least some credibility to the sub-genre. This one's about a pair of music-loving centuries-old vampires reminiscing about the past and lamenting about the current state of humanity. It's not a horror film per se despite some horror elements. It's closer to Mystery Train than Dracula. It's beautifully acted, occasionally wickedly funny and features a cool soundtrack. It's not my favorite Jarmusch picture but still a solid piece of work from one of cinema's true mavericks.

Oscar Prospects: It's a great film but a vampire movie by Jim Jarmusch isn't going to capture the Academy's fancy. Though it does deserve some consideration in the Original Screenplay category.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:36 am

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Frank Grillo, Cobie Smulders, Emily Van Camp, Jenny Agutter, Toby Jones, Hayley Atwell.
Dirs: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo.

Man, they just keep on coming. Just when I thought I feel like I'm getting bored with the superhero genre (Man of Steel and to a lesser extent, Thor: The Dark World gave me that), Marvel managed to pull this one out of the bag. I was actually worried with continuing the Captain America story in the present-day world would be too much "YAY, AMERICA! RAH RAH RAH!" jingoism but quite the opposite. In fact, I think the folks at Fox News will not be happy with the message this film is trying to convey. It's an anti-fear mongering/anti-surveillance film wrapped up in the gloss of a superhero blockbuster. It's an overall rather strong film, better than the first and belongs in the upper-echelon of the Marvel universe films.

Oscar Prospects: A contender for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 22, 2014 9:10 am

MUPPETS MOST WANTED
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barreta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz, Jemaine Clement.
Dir: James Bobin.

One of the opening lines of the first song number says that sequels are not as good as the originals. The line proved to be prophetic because this one is not quite as good as the original reboot back in 2011. But that's not the say this is bad. Far from it. It's still a really fun movie. The songs are not quite as memorable save for a couple. The celebrity cameos are fun and there are lots of genuinely funny gags and jokes. Overall, it's a BIT of a step down from the last one but still very much a worthwhile film.

Oscar Prospects: Two of the best songs (at least IMO) are "We're Doing a Sequel" and "Something So Right". They could be contenders for Best Original Song.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:01 am

NEED FOR SPEED
Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Michael Keaton, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Dakota Johnson, Harrison Gilbertson.
Dir: Scott Waugh.

I saw this film for one reason and one reason only: Aaron Paul. I love him in Breaking Bad. I think he's a tremendous actor. From the trailers, this definitely seems like cashing in the popularity of the Fast & Furious franchise. I was hoping it would give a bit of a boost in the genre with better actors in it (not to mention one of the writers is a freakin' Oscar-nominee). But alas, it is not to be. Aaron Paul tries his darndest and acts his heart out but it wasn't enough to save the lame script. The car stunts were, admittedly, pretty cool (LOOK, MA! NO CGI) but it's surrounded by so much bullshit that even those moments were not as exciting as it could have been. Aaron Paul deserves better.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: D+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:18 am

NON-STOP
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Anson Mount, Lupita Nyong'o, Omar Metwally, Jason Butler Harner, Linus Roache, Quinn McColgan.
Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra.

The first two acts of this film, I must say, are pretty solid. I wasn't expecting much but an entertaining, schlocky movie where Liam Neeson kicks ass on a plane, no more no less. And for the first two acts, that's exactly what I got. But then the third act plot reveal is kind of ridiculous (and more than a bit jarring). It mars what could have up until then to be a solid B-movie thriller. I can't excuse lame plot twists even in schlocky B-movies! This is the second film collaboration between Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra and the second time in a row where this happened: Solid premise and first two acts then falls apart in the third.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: C+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:41 am

MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN
Cast: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Leslie Mann, Stephen Colbert, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci, Stephen Tobolowsky, Allison Janney, Zach Callison, Dennis Haysbert, Mel Brooks, Lake Bell (voices).
Dir: Rob Minkoff.

It's shaping up to be a fairly strong year for animation. After The LEGO Movie, yet another animated film hits it out of the park and from Dreamworks, no less. I'm finally happy that Dreamworks has got its act together and is putting out actual good work. I may have seen an episode or two of Mr. Peabody cartoons by Jay Ward because the original designs look naggingly familiar but I wasn't all that familiar with it otherwise. I didn't grow up with it. The film is fun, zippy and sweet. It's also surprisingly quite funny. I'm not generally not a fan of kiddie style scatological humor but I didn't mind them here. They even manage to weave in grown-up adult humor organically without snarky winking. There's an incest joke, a masturbation joke and a blow job joke In this movie which kids will most likely not get but grown-ups will. Best one to do since Animaniacs. It is pure fun. I wanted more.

Oscar Prospects: Strong contender for Animated Feature, MAYBE Original Score and possibly Original Song (not sure if the end credits song qualifies).

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Feb 10, 2014 10:38 pm

The reaction to The LEGO Movie is the sort of thing that would have had Damien howling with indignation -- "How can it be great? It's a kids' movie!" And he'd be right: throwing around words like "great" (not meaning to pick on you, anonymous; lots of critics have used the term) diminishes the language for when we need something to describe Rules of the Game or Nashville.

However...I understand the impulse. After one has sat through Rango or Frozen, having heard them praised to the rafters, and wondering what in the world others are seeing -- to come across something as inventive and generally delightful as this LEGO thing is such a tonic it can lead can to overpraise. Suffice to say it's genuinely entertaining pretty much throughout, with crazy-inventive visuals, and jokes that whiz by sometimes too fast to catch (I guarantee kids are missing a bunch), yet it never feels like an in-joke nudge-nudge for above-it-all hipsters. Just a really enjoyable hour and a half, which you'd never expect from a project that originated as product placement.

Oh, and "Everything Is Awesome" is the earworm from hell, but somehow sweet at the same time.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby OscarGuy » Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:35 pm

I liked the film very much, but would definitely not call it great. It has a lot of story problems, largely in the final act, and it still amounts to just one long product placement ad for Legos (that applies doubly to the final act). It's forward-thinking and tackles the idea that we are sheep following corporations and taking welcome distractions to look away from what's really going on, but other films have tackled this topic recently and have done a better job and you cannot attack one concept in one hand and then feed your own pocketbooks with the other.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Greg » Mon Feb 10, 2014 1:32 pm

So, The Lego Movie is actually a great film? It sounds like something Italiano should see on a double feature with Gravity. :wink:
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 2:46 am

THE LEGO MOVIE
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day (voices).
Dirs: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller.

I absolutely loved this movie. It's kind of amazing, really. A movie based on LEGO's? That sounds like a groan-inducing shamelessly commercial product-placement laden soul-crushing mistake. But it's quite the opposite! They managed to take what's great about the LEGO toys (I've played them when I was kid, FYI) and expound on it. And all the while making a sharp, witty film that will delight people of all ages. The pop culture references are organic and not forced or snarky (unlike a lot of early Dreamworks). The film also has a twist that makes everything deeper, richer and even moving. It's kind of incredible that this didn't turn out into to be a cynical cash grab but a celebration of....everything that's awesome. Everyone should see it!

Oscar Prospects: The first surefire Oscar nominee of 2014. One of next year's Best Animated Feature slot is already locked in. Best Original Song ("Everything is Awesome") is also a strong possibility.

Grade: A.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby OscarGuy » Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:49 am

Too bad we may never get to see the "real" version.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:48 am

I debated whether to put this in 2013 or 2014 but I decided to put it here.

SNOWPIERCER
Cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Ko Asung, Ewen Bremner, Luke Pasqualino, Alison Pill, Vlad Ivanov.
Dir: Bong Joon-ho.

FYI: This is the ORIGINAL director's cut of the film. There are a lot of great filmmakers coming out of South Korea now. My favorite among them is Bong Joon-ho who makes all these VERY unique, very different genre pictures and knocks them out of the park every time. His English-language debut is yet another jewel to this crown. Indeed, this is one of the best English-language debut of a foreign director in a long, long time. Set in the post-apocalyptic where most of humanity is wiped out by a failed attempt to solve global warming, a caste system forms inside a perpetually moving train which contain the remnants of humanity. The crappy poor from the tail-end of the train revolt against the higher-classes up in front. It's simply one of the best science-fiction dystopian in a long, long while too. It has a very cynical, somewhat nihilistic view of humanity. The film gives you a lot of chew on and think about while at the same time giving you some REALLY exciting action sequences with spurts of stunningly choreographed brutal violence. Plus Tilda Swinton's appropriately scenery-chewing turn as one of the antagonists is really something to see. This film will be talked about for decades to come.

Oscar Prospects: I don't know how Harvey is gonna cut this up but the version I saw is worthy of Picture, Director, Production Design, Visual Effects, Film Editing, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling and Best Supporting Actress for Tilda Swinton.

Grade: A-

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The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:44 am

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley, Nonso Anozie, Colm Feore, Gemma Chang, Alec Utgoff, Mikhail Baryshnikov, David Paymer.
Dir: Kenneth Branagh.

This is the first "official" 2014 film I've seen. It's a January release. As far as January releases go, it's actually not bad. This reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise doesn't exactly reinvent the spy genre nor does it do the formula so outstandingly well. It is however very well-crafted and quite entertaining with some good moments. Chris Pine shows a lot of potential as a successor to Harrison Ford. Does this mean a new franchise for him? Eh. I don't know. But who cares, really? It's inoffensive fun.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B-


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