Films of 2014, #111: We Need To Talk About Kevin (Ramsay, 2012)

Based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a disturbing film that puts the audience into the mind of a mother who’s son has committed a terrible crime at his school. Through the film’s loose structure, we see everything through Tilda Swinton’s eyes, as she goes through her day by day after the events to find her alone and ostracized by other parents (by everything from breaking her eggs in the supermarket to vandalizing her house). We find out through flashbacks that she always realized that her son was, for lack of a better word, evil. The theme of nature vs. nurture is the primary thing here, and it’s not easy to arrive at a solid conclusion.

We see Kevin (played as a teenager by Ezra Miller) show nothing but contempt for his mother while he always appears happy around his father (John C. Reilly). We Need To Talk About Kevin could have ended up being a bad, TV movie of the week because of the subject matter. Instead director Lynne Ramsay takes away all the cliches that should have come with a story like this and focuses solely on the relationship between mother and son and how the mother tries to understand why her son ended up the way he is. Swinton gives her strongest acting here as she is stricken over and over with shock. It’s not an easy film, and it’s not a short film either, but it’s all there for a reason.

Rating: 8 out of 10. 

Films of 2014, #110: Enemy (Villeneuve, 2014)

Based on Jose Saramago’s 2002 novel, The Double, this thriller takes a page or two from Hitchcock without being a rip-off and ends up being one of the most thrilling films to come out this year. Starring Jack Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell, a professor who upon watching a DVD of a little known film comes across an extra that looks exactly like him. He starts to do some research and finds out that the actor is named Anthony St. Claire and he then tries to find him, and things get out of hand as the movie keeps going.

Are they brothers? Are they the same person? There’s never anything plainly said, things are left up to the viewer. Enemy not only gives Gyllenhaal some great acting to chew on with two roles, but it gives the man one of his best roles. I was hesitant going into Enemy because of director, Dennis Vinneneuve’s previous film, Prisoners, but this was surprising film that worked with some great direction. The use of yellow tents and shadows in the cinematography stood out and fit the mood of the film perfectly.

While it’s a very simple film, there’s enough left open for people to ponder over with a handful of scenes that come out of “nowhere” and an odd ending. Although it’s quite obvious to me what this imagery means, I imagine there’s some confusion with viewers. But I won’t give anything away, just see Enemy and discover for yourself the greatest film to borrow from Alfred Hitchcock while still retaining a very original film that’s one of the most arresting films of the years.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #109: The Uninvited (Allen, 1944)

A pair of siblings buy a massive house for relatively cheap and it ends up being haunted. There’s some good scares for a film this old, and it’s quite entertaining. One thing that makes The Uninvited stand out from other horror films, is it’s use of comedy. It’s a well written film with plenty of good dialogue that has a nice ending and good acting from everyone.

Rating: 7 out of 10. 

Films of 2014, #108: Centurion (Marshall, 2010)

How did one of the best actors around today end up in such a disaster? Michael Fassbender is the kind of actor who’s work is layered and subtle, so how did he end up in Centurion, a film so flat and surface level that no character is even a character, but just a thing with limbs to hack off other limbs? I would bring up some plot specifics about how this film is about Rome and all that, but why bother when there’s no sort of care put into the historical events in first place? Centurion moves quickly, but it’s still a mess that’s remarkably cheap with some bland direction by Neil Marshall. Fassbender is as pointless as anyone else in this film, and it’s hard to watch him working with such a flat character.

Rating: 1 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #107: Filth (Baird, 2013)

Disgusting characters have always had a certain home in cinema, and Filth has one hell of a gross character at it’s center. Played by James McAvoy, detective sergeant Bruce Robertson is up for a promotion, but he has to beat out the other detectives by solving a case of murder. McAvoy is unforgivingly rotten throughout the entire film, he never lets up. The story has some twists and whatnot, but is that enough to deal with all the drug addiction, sex and drunkenness that McAvoy indulges in throughout the entire film? Almost. If it wasn’t for McAvoy’s fantastic performance, Filth would have been an empty shell. Instead we get a film that slaps enough gross attitudes and situations to turn people off, but it’s all spiked with humor. And it’s actually funny most of the time. Especially when when we enter into the dream state of Robertson to find a psychologist played by Jim Broadbent.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #106: Jobs (Stern, 2013)

Apple CEO Steve Jobs deserved better than this. It’s not that Jobs is bad movie, but there’s too much of the same motions that happen in every uplifting film and it gets tiresome. Ashton Kutcher looks quite a bit like Steve Jobs, but there’s never any doubt that the person on screen is Ashton Kutcher, not Jobs. The man was innovative, but the movie never gets close what made Jobs tick. While there’s some of the huge moments that defined his professional career, there’s never enough backstory behind any of it, we never see exactly how anything came to be. Things just are, they just happen and we’re left wondering exactly how. Steve Jobs was a complex person, but that never comes through here. There’s too many times where the film tries to be inspirational, but it’s just cheesy and reminds me of some cheap films from the nineties. It’s sad that Ashton Kutcher gave a very good performance, and most of it wasted on such a sub-par film.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #105: Solaris (Soderbergh, 2002)

I finally saw the original Solaris earlier this year, and it was easily one of the best sci fi films I’d even seen. So, naturally, I had to watch Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 remake. This Solaris is still the same story with it’s strong focus on the themes of memories and death. But because it’s Soderbergh, it’s very clean and precise. It’s not a bad movie, not by the standards of many today’s sci-fi films. But it doesn’t stand up to the original film.

While the original film had some stunning sets that showed the decay of the space station, this was a very clean and well-kept space. Plus, the original did a perfect job at the tone and mood with a two-plus hour run time. This Solaris is over after an hour and half. The use of George Clooney isn’t a bad thing, but there’s no denying that it’s George Clooney and not an astronaut (this also happens in Gravity). While this is Solaris for dumb people, it’s still smarter than most of the sci-fi out there.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #104: Doc of The Dead (Philippe, 2014)

This documentary about the history of zombie film, and the origin of zombie myth is only mildly interesting and quickly gets boring. Mixed in with all the film clips, George A. Romero and arguments over fast and slow zombies are some dreadful clips of fake music videos. Plus, there’s sequences that talk about “zombie culture” and the possibility of a real zombie attack that make Doc of The Dead not just a mess but hilarious. The good moments bring up things that any horror film aficionado already know, so really, there’s nothing here to see.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #103: C.O.G. (Alvarez, 2013)

Based on a short story by David Sedaris, C.O.G. tells the story of a young man who just graduated from Yale and goes to work at an apple farm. The use of the short story structure is perfect here and the main plot points are great. Although there’s a few scenes where things don’t add up to much, it’s all well done and there’s an honesty in C.O.G. that almost never comes through in comedic films. Johnathan Groff (Glee, The Normal Heart) is perfect here, and the always underrated Dennis O Hare (American Horror Story, Dallas Buyers Club) gives one of his best performances.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #102: Hopscotch (Neame, 1980)

This spy film is no doubt entertaining, but there’s not too much here either. Walter Matthau stars as a CIA agent who plans on writing and releasing a book that exposes all sorts of secrets on the agency (and the KGB). From there we get a big cat and mouse chase that involves shooting up a house and leaving snide tape messages. Hopscotch is an odd one with it’s upbeat and humorous tone. It’s hard to imagine a film like this today, and while it’s fun, it’s also very one note and I can’t see myself watching this ever again.

Rating: 6 out of 10.