Selma

“I’m a big fan of the recent trend in biopics. Don’t try to cram in as much of the icon’s life into one dragged out yet rushed movie. Focus on one major event or time period. Lincoln has been the prime example, and I’m grateful that the same strategy was used for brining Martin Luther King, Jr to the big screen. We all know some of the highlights, but it’s so much more powerful to dig into the details of one of them instead of just glossing over the whole list.

I’ll be honest. It’d had been a long week for me. Fighting off a cold, and the subsequent need for rest. I may not have been at my most alert. I think I need to go back and rewatch a chunk of this next time I’m at the movies, so that I can fully appreciate it. No, that’s not the right word. I do certainly appreciate the film, I just want to better grasp and remember it.

The cast was phenomenal. David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson. So good.

No really, I just have to go see this again, on a full night’s sleep.

Selma – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Taken 3

“Fri afternoon, chatting with the boss while waiting for other meeting attendees to show up. Inevitably, the conversation turns to my movie plans for the weekend, which includes Taken 3. “”Oh I’ve never seen any of those. How are they”” “”They’re fun”” (or maybe I said entertaining). “”Any good?”” “”They’re fun”” (or entertaining).

And so was Taken 3. This is the first one I actually manage to see in the theater. When the first came out, I didn’t think too much of it. I was only starting to ramp up my movie game, and Neeson hadn’t yet established himself as an action star. But it picked up steam, so I got a copy the following black Friday (it was a high priority movie to locate). When the sequel came out, I sorta shrugged it off, expecting it to be a weak knock off. That one too got good buzz, so I also picked it up the following black Friday.

I liked that this time, we’re back on home turf. No one is really “”taken”” how they were the first two times around. Well, kind of a little, but Neeson’s Mills gets to show off his skills on domestic territory, trying to clear his name from a crime that gets attached to him. For much of the film, he’s going up against Forrest Whitaker’s law enforcement officer, trying to bring Mills in. Different dynamic than what we’ve seen before, mostly because we get both sides of the coin, and it was a great way to shake things up. Eventually the plot lines did get a little murky and I lost some of the details, but by that point, the action was really kicking into high gear, so it didn’t matter.

Something else I realized I really like about this franchise is that daughter Kim is a pretty tough chick. Okay, so maybe she wasn’t quite so smart in the first one and got herself into all sorts of trouble, but she got better. Her name may be Kim, but she’s certainly not Kim Bauer. Instead of getting attacked by cougars while daddy’s off fighting the bad guys, this Kim not only holds her own, but she finds ways to make herself useful. And she’s one feisty and stubborn gal, not some helpless waif. Points for her.

Oh also, points for Dylan Bruno being in the cast. I’d recently finished marathoning Numb3rs, and lamented that this real life MIT alum (who’d played the jock-iest FBI agent on the show) hadn’t been seen much since. I’m happy to have seen him here.

Taken 3 – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

2014 Recap

“Another year, another boatload of movies. I completely blew last year’s numbers out of the water. I don’t know if that’s cause for celebration or reevaluating my priorities in life, possibly with some therapy. I thought about just posting my entire spreadsheet on here, because yes, every time I see a movie at the theaters, I log it in Excel with the date, rating, theater, and link to the post. But no one cares about that other than me, so I’ll just post the full (linked) list and share some stats before going into my tops and not so tops for the year. Keep in mind, I track the year based on when I see it, not release date. Drumroll please (preferably one that sounds like it came from Birdman)…

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, August: Osage County, Lone Survivor, That Awkward Moment, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, I, Frankenstein, Labor Day, The Lego Movie, Monumens Men, Three Days to Kill, Robocop, Non Stop, 300: Rise of an Empire, Veronica Mars, Grand Budapest Hotel, Need for Speed, Divergent, Muppets Most Wanted, Bad Words, Noah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dom Hemingway, Draft Day, Make Your Move, Transcendence, The Raid 2, Brick Mansions, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Neighbors, Locke, Only Lovers Left Alive, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Million Dollar Arm, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent, Fault in Our Stars, Edge of Tomorrow, Obvious Child, The Signal, 22 Jump Street, How to Train your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys, The Rover, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Begin Again, Tammy, Snowpiercer, Begin Again, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Sex Tape, Wish I was Here, The Purge: Anarchy, I Origins, Hercules, Lucy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Get on Up, Magic in the Moonlight, A Most Wanted Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, What If, Calvary, The Hundred Foot Journey, Expendables 3, The Giver, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, If I Stay , Frank, As Above So Below, The November man, Ghostbusters, The Congress, Let’s Be Cops, Love is Strange, The Maze runner, The Drop, This Is Where I Leave You, Tusk, The Skeleton Twins, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, The Boxtrolls, The Equalizer, Gone Girl, Men, Women, & Children, Left Behind, Pride, The Judge, Laggies, The Princess Bride, Fury, The Book of Life, Kill the Messenger, Birdman, Whiplash, St Vincent, John Wick, Dumb and Dumber To, Nightcrawler, Horns, Interstellar, Big Hero 6, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Theory of Everything, Rosewater, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Foxcatcher, Horrible Bosses 2, The Gambler, The Babadook, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Wild, The Imitation Game, The Hobbit:Battle of the Five Armies, Annie, Top Five, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Into the Woods, Unbroken, Big Eyes,

So that totals up to 122, minus 2 repeats, means 120 distinct movies, minus 3 re-releases or special screenings, equals 117 distinct new movies. Damn. I think last year’s full total was only 101. I know I did better the year before, but not this much better.

Some interesting (to me at least) stats:
Breakdown by month: Jan 6, Feb 5, Mar 9, Apr 7, May 9, Jun 9, Jul 12, Aug 16, Sep 12, Oct 15, Nov 10, Dec 12.
Kinda surprising that August was the peak, considering it’s usually a graveyard. But I think Guardians changed that notion for the future. Also a bit of a slow start. I don’t think it’s so much that I stepped up my game as it is that Hollywood stepped up theirs.

Theater breakdown is: Loews Boston Common 85, Kendall Square Landmark theater 10, The Brattle 7, Regal Fenway 4, Apple Cinemas 3, Somerville Theater 3, Jordans IMAX Reading 2, AMC Assembly Row 1, Chicago AMC 1, Coolidge Corner 1, Chinese Theaters LA 1, The Landmark LA 1, Hollywood Hits Laredo 1, Cinemark Laredo 1, AMC Times Square 1.
So that’s 15 different theaters across 5 different states. I think the Common was so large because it’s easy to double and because I had a streak going there on Foursquare (or Swarm) that I didn’t wanna break. Sadly, it ended over Christmas, but I think I was up to something like 30+ weeks in a row. I suspect Somerville Theater might pick up again this year, if I get back into my after work on Fri habit. Also wouldn’t mind finding excuses to hit up the new Assembly Row theater more. That one was swanky, just annoying to get to.

Ratings breakdown, by number of rock hands is: 1 – 4, 1.5 – 6, 2 – 12, 2.5 – 17, 3 – 21, 3.5 – 24, 4 – 33, special 3, Repeat 2.
While the scientist in me would expect a more evenly distributed bell curve, there’s a few possible explanations why it trended so heavily upwards
-Hollywood just did better. I know I had a harder time picking my top 10 from an embarassment of riches this year, rather than last year only really finding 10 on the first pass. Last year only one made it to my top 100, but there’s a couple contender’s this year.
-I was better at picking movies. I allowed myself to skip ones I knew would be duds. Eh, maybe not. I still saw a lot of crap.
-I’m just a pushover when it comes to rating movies low. This is actually kinda true, and every so often, I resolve to be a bit harsher and give out more 1’s and 2’s and then I don’t. Even if I’m hating something, I can usually find some merits somewhere, and it does break my heart to have to call something bad. Unless you’re I Frankenstein or Let’s Be Cops, but we’ll get there.

And now the highs and lows.

The wall of fame
1-Birdman – I loved everything about this movie: the cast, the absurdity, the story, the setting, the cinematography, the direction, the humor, the darkness. It couldn’t have been any closer to perfection.
2-Gone Girl – It was a toss up for a while because this is so ridiculously dark it’s delicious. Fincher masterfully directed an adaptation of a book I adore and made it everything I could possibly want to see on screen and more.
3-The Lego Movie – Everything is awesome! Sorry, had to, but it’s true. Everything about this movie is quite awesome, and it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time.
4-Edge of Tomorrow – Or is it Live. Die. Repeat. Or All You Need is Kill. How about, that Tom Cruise scifi one from this year, that you thought would be like the one from last year, but was actually really good. It’s one of the most genius screenplays I’ve encountered, given the tricky set ups and just the right amount of comedy.
5-Begin Again – This is kinda guilty pleasure-y, but I fell in love with this movie and its music. Mostly the music. The film hit me right when I needed something like it, and I haven’t been able to shake it since.
6-Pride – I was rewatching this today, and it still made me so happy. Such an inspiring and encouraging story, with charismatic characters that I want to hang with and/or emulate. Everybody needs to see this. Everybody.
7-Whiplash – I still feel shaken up thinking about this one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie more intense, and to think it all takes place in music rooms in a drama, not the battlefields of an action film.
8-Into the Woods – The nostalgic feels are getting to me, but I can’t get over the spot on casting. This could have been an utter trainwreck, but instead it was the rare adapted musical done right. I was prepared to hate it, but ended up loving it.
9-Guardians of the Galaxy – Just when the comic book hero genre is starting to feel played out, we get some new life breathed into it. And it gets better and better on repeat viewings.
10-The Theory of Everything/Imitation Game – Let’s be real, they were kinda the same movie, and kinda not, but kinda awesome either way. The nerds are having their day in the sun and it’s glorious.
11-22 Jump Street – Cheating and squeezing these boys in because I can’t not. Schmidt and Jenko are a part of me, and they showed us how sequels are done!
Honorable mentions (no special order): Nightcrawler, Neighbors, Draft Day, The Babadook

The Hall of Shame
1-Let’s Be Cops – Not only did I not found it funny, I was very uncomfortable watching it. I felt like it was much too disrespectful to police officers, and didn’t have the payoff to justify it.
2-Tusk – Oh Kevin Smith, why? I loved you. I do love you. Just not when you’re blatantly high when you make a movie. Of all I’ve given you, I will never get those two hours back.
3-I, Frankenstein – Were they even trying? Or were they trying to be bad? IDK. It was a hot mess of cliche. Poor Aaron Eckhart, who did you wrong that you were dealt such punishment?
4-The Rover – This one is a bit of a critical darling (as are a couple of my dishonorable mentions) but I just didn’t get it. I was bored. Didn’t really care. Couldn’t get into the slow burn pace. At least RPattz is pretty.
5-The Signal – Also, kinda dull. Started off with so much potential and then wasn’t sure where to go, so it tried to go too many places at once. Fail. *tear*
Dishonorable Mentions (no special order) (most of these weren’t necessarily bad, just boring): A Most Wanted Man, Only Lovers Left Alive, Noah (okay that was bad), Three Days to Kill, Transformers: Age of Extinction

And that’s a wrap folks. On to 2015! See ya at the movies! Or something.”

The Penguins of Madagascar

“Dang, I resisted this for a while, didn’t I? I meant to see it opening weekend, after Horrible Bosses 2. But that film felt way longer than it was, and I just felt like getting back home. And it wasn’t really a priority. I’m not a fan of Madagascar, but the Penguins are funny in the same way that the Minions are. THe rest of the movie is okay, but their moments are good, so maybe a full movie would work. That and Bennedict Cumberbatch voicing a character seemed reason enough.

And I still almost didn’t end up going. It was one of only two viable movies playing this weekend that I hadn’t seen yet. Then I ended up wanting to see Birdman again. I found a way to make them both work, but it was going to depend on weather. Even though I ended up trudging back thru the snow, I made it. Yay?

It was kind of what I expected. Some clever lines scattered throughout a very thin aimed at the kids plot. Some penguins being cute. Identifying the other celebrity voices I recognized (John Malkovich and Ken Jeong) while hanging on Cumberbatch’s every regal sounding word. Was it worth going to? Sure, when the alternative was sitting bored at home.

Really, it came down to two things for me that kept me going. One was the celebrity name puns that Molkovich’s Octopus Dave kept saying (“”Nicholas! Cage them!). And the other was listening very closely each time Cumberbatch spoke, hoping he would mispronounce penguin. Spoiler alert, I did catch a couple “”pengwings”” in there.

Oh but the kids sitting in the audience by me seemed to really enjoy it. Much high pitch laughter, and even some cheering. Maybe I’ll just wait for the internet to give me a supercut of name puns and Cumberbatch.

The Penguins of Madagascar – \m/ \m/ \n”

The Notebook

“I’m pretty much the last girl on Earth who hasn’t seen this movie. Hell, even my Mom loves this movie. It’s one of the maybe 5 DVDs that she owns that I didn’t buy for her (although all are still in their wrappers). And while I do love me some Ryan Gosling (and Rachel McAdams is pretty cool too), I was perfectly happy to be the only one. Hell, I wore it as a badge of honor. I don’t do sappy romantic chick flicks, and this is the ultimate one for my generation. But when Black Friday dangles a $3.99 DVD in front of me, curiosity wins out. I don’t know if I’m in the right emotional state to watch this tonight. Actually, I know for a fact that I’m not. But I don’t know if there ever will be a right emotional state, so *deep breath* here we go…

Okay, so we start off with a whole bunch of why these movies make me gag. The unrealistically perfect couple is being all cutesy together. Nothing is really happening, but I can picture the imaginary audience around me going “”awww”” while I’m waiting for more story to unfold.

And it does start to, eventually. As soon as I see James Marsden, I can’t help but laugh. Even if I wasn’t already long spoilt for this movie, I would have known how it’d play out just for the simple fact that James Marsden never gets the girl. But at least plot things are happening.

Then they sort of don’t, but its sweet, and still unrealistic, but very convincingly portrayed. I get why it’s so well loved. I mean, I may be cynical about such things when it comes to movies, but to paraphrase from an episode of Fringe (yes, the scifi series) beneath every cynic, there is a frustrated romantic. Would I want a guy to write me letters every day for a year and build me a house and do all the other things Ryan Gosling does? Sure, in theory. Do I think it’ll happen? Not really, and even if it did, I don’t think I could handle all that sap anyways. I prefer a relationship based on sarcasm than on goopy romance.

Oh and speaking of cynics in the house, the ferocious and viscous Vampire Cat Lestat was sitting on my lap thru most of the movie. Her brother Nosferatu was sitting beside us. When the automatic feeder went off, Fehr took his time heading over, and Lestat waited several minutes before giving in (I think Fehr was suspicious of Lestat holding back), even though she’d been whining for food just two hours before. I guess this movie really does get to people (or cats).”

The Interview

“The first official movie of 2015, despite what the date on this post might say. Of course Laredo wasn’t cool enough to be showing this, so I had to wait to get back to Boston.

By now, we all know the controversy surrounding this film’s release. When all of it was starting to play out, and the film was getting pulled, my first thought was “”but hey, I genuinely want to see this movie””. It’s no secret that I love Seth Rogen and James Franco. There is much documented proof of that. I sincerely thought this would be a movie I enjoyed, and I genuinely wanted to watch it.

Then things happened. Besides being sad about possibly not ever seeing this film, I was upset about the precedent it was setting. I was scared for the future of cinema and the suppression of free speech. I figured there was much more at play than what they were telling us, and it angered me that the decision on whether or not to watch a film was being taken out of my hands, and possibly jeopardizing future films. But then the film did start to roll out, and I just had to get back to my dirty water town and it’s wonderful independently owned movie theaters, and all was well.

Although, it was disconcerting to be walking up to the theater and seeing a fire truck pull up alongside. Thankfully, it went away by the time I got to the door.

Was it all worth it? Eh. Again, I love Seth and James, but this wasn’t their best. Without thinking too hard about it, I’d say This is The End was their best and I’d still rank Pineapple Express above this one. It did take a while for the film to find it’s footing. I felt like Franco was trying too hard, really mugging for the camera and trying to milk every line, and it was all too much. As much as I love a cleverly written line of dialog, if the delivery isn’t right, the line doesn’t work, and there was a lot of that going on. I think James should leave the comedy to lil bro Dave, who has been rocking that lately, and James can focus on some of the more serious stuff, with small cameos of comedy or straighter characters in comedic roles. Rogen, on the other hand, has hit his stride. He was the straighter of the characters, but he kept himself (and the film) grounded, without letting it drift off too far to the absurd.

And about all the controversial material? I fully understand why it was a big deal, and maybe not the smartest move to make. When asked about how he got away with The Producers, Mel Brooks smartly replied that he “”waited until Hitler was dead!””, which may have been wise advise. I think the biggest point that was missed is that the main subject of ridicule is not North Korea or its leader. The main subject of ridicule is the naive and dumb Americans and the misguided American media. Most of the jokes are at our own expense, and the statement being made is against us. Not NK. Yet that’s what’s shadowing this film. But hey, ten years ago, Team America was even more offensive, yet turned out to be a much better film. While there were some golden lines here and there, (including one particularly nerdy one that had me laughing out loud hysterically, only to find that no one else in the theater found it funny), it wasn’t quite the comedy I’d hoped for. Maybe it was just the one we deserved? Eh, maybe not. Try again next time boys. But no really, please try again. I want to see more of you two!

The Interview – \m/ \m/ \n”

Big Eyes

“Last official movie of 2014 (despite what the date on this post may say). There’ve been a lot of movies this year that have truly been visceral experiences, where the emotion of our charaters is so strong, I feel it in my seat, to an uncomfortable level. Big Eyes may not have had the extreme effect on me that Whiplash did, but it did feed a minor anxiety attack that still hasn’t quite subsided.

Abandoning the stranger darker films that haven’t quite been working for him in the past few years, Tim Burton takes on the story of the Keanes, artists Walter and Margaret, played by Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams. I love the tagline for the film: She created it. He sold it. And they bought it. Basically, she painted some rather stunning paintings of children drawn with oversize eyes. Walter started selling them, claiming that he was the artist. As the paintings get more and more popular, Walter gets more and more successful, and the lies get bigger and bigger.

I’m not even that sure where the anxiety came in for me. I think it was just in seeing Margaret swallowed up by the scheme, not being able to dig herself out of it, not being able to make herself heard. Adams gave such a masterful performance, really capturing and conveying everything without doing a lot. Waltz, on the other hand, may have been doing too much. Really getting caught up in the spectacle of the character, going far more over the top than could be believed. But then again, it’s a stranger than fiction story, so he had to give a larger than life performance.

The film decisively sides with Margaret’s despite Walter denying the allegations to his grave. That choice certainly made it much more effective emotionally, but I wonder what it would have been like if it was more ambiguous. Maybe more playful and mysterious. Either way, I’m thrilled that Burton seems to have found his footing again, by starting from scratch. New story, new cast, new magic. It gives me hope for him in the future again

Big Eyes – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Unbroken

“Continuing another holiday tradition: after Christmas shopping. Conveniently there’s now a movie theater at the mall back home. Get dropped off. Grab a Chic-Fil-A (after making a donation to the Human Rights Campaign to counteract that purchase). Scour Hot Topic. Find pants somewhere. Watch a movie. Go home. Pretty much the same every year. This time, the movie was Unbroken.

I’m often turned off by obviously Oscar bait-y movies, and if this was ten or fifteen years ago when Unbroken would have been a shoo-in, I don’t know that I’d have been so excited for it. But now that the film landscape has changed a bit, these sweeping dramatic and emotional movies are welcome as one of many different types of movies that are out there right now. There was no denying that this was going to be incredibly moving and inspiring.

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini. Raised by Italian immigrants, as a young boy he was perpetually in trouble, until he focused his energy into running track, eventually representing the US in the Olympics. Shortly thereafter, he went to fight in WWII, where his plane crashed into the ocean. He drifted on a raft for over a month, until he was captured by the enemy and held in a Japanese prison camp. Not an easy story to sit through, but his strength and courage was incredible to watch.

I absolutely fell in love with actor Jack O’Connell who played Zamperini. Such fire and charisma. Director Angelina Jolie (yes, her) said she chose him because she saw the same spark of rebellion that was in Zamperini, and it came across on screen quite well. This wasn’t just a guy who sit back and let his hope rule him. No, he was defiant, and he fought back, and he never took anything lying down. That’s what was inspiring. Not that he survied (oh um spoiler?), but how he survived.

But yeah, can I see O’Connell in more things please?

Unbroken – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Warriors

“This movie was mainly on my radar because of Frailty, one of my all time favorites. In an early scene (before things start getting crazy and the kids follow their dad around as he kills supposed demons), the two brothers are arguing as they go to sleep. The younger brother wants to go see Meatballs again, but the older one wants to see The Warriors. Color me curious. Then again, it really doesn’t take much to get me curious about a film.

Okay first thing that strikes me, the one big downside to catching up on all these older movies is the awful synthesized scores. Who thought those were a good idea? Lots of people I guess. Well, lots of people were WRONG.

Yeah not really getting that into this movie. I’m all for violent films, but this isn’t quite grabbing me. Maybe I was too distracted early on. Maybe there’s not enough plot. Maybe the bad score killed it. Idk.”