Films of 2014, #164: Transformers (Bay, 2007)

There’s cars, they turn into big robots. And there’s some Megan Fox for all the straight dude to glare at. And Shia La Beouf is there, and so is John Turturro.

That’s about it. There’s some sort of story, but whatever. The robots are big and clunky, and all the action is clumsy. There’s even some “humor” that involves these robots, still not sure what was going on with this film, or why anyone thought it would be a good idea.

I will not be watching the THREE(!) sequels.

Rating: 1 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #163: Waking Life (Linklater, 2001)

There’s been plenty of films that play with reality and dreams, and have the two of them intermingle. But in Waking Life, these dreams and realities are skewed, and put under some very deep conversations. Our main character goes in and out of dreams, and he’s having some complex and intelectual discussions with people inside of these dreams. Waking Life might be too much for most people, but it’s a great film that shows how magical and exploitative cinema can be. It’s a smart picture, and it’s one of Linklater’s best. While he would go back to this animated style in Scanner Darkly, there’s something so singular about Waking Life, and over ten years after it’s release, it still seems fresh. Linklater also brings back some characters from Slacker and Before Sunrise.

Rating: 9 out of 10. 

Films of 2014, #162: Boyhood, (Linklater, 2014)

A film twelve years in the making, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is one of the most organic movies I’ve ever seen. From it’s opening shot of a young boy, Mason Jr., lying on his back, looking into the sky, to it’s final shots of showing Mason growing up and starting his first day in college, Boyhood is one of the most unique, and powerful films about growing up ever made. Of course an obvious comparison would be Michael Apted’s Up Series, that looks at the real lives of several individuals every seven years. But Boyhood works because it’s scripted. There’s been plenty of films that pride themselves on their realism, but never before have I seen life unfold in such a natural way as in the near three hours of Boyhood. We see Mason’s divorced parents, the handful of lesser men who his mother dates, his father’s attempts at being the “cool dad”.

Much like anyone’s life, Boyhood is made up of smaller, more intimate scenes that don’t seem like much, but it all adds up to something very special. By not giving us any obvious markers of the time period (although there are some nice musical touches that make things clear), it’s never confusing. There’s a series of years that the film goes through, but the final scenes are the best one here. Many scenes wouldn’t work in an ordinary film, and there’s even some lines delivered that would have sounded overly sentimental, but it works. Richard Linkater had already given us a story that spanned years with his romantic trilogy of films, Before Midnight, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, but Boyhood's compact runtime works in it's favor. We only get certain slices of Mason's life, but that's how life works. We don't have huge moments, just smaller ones that add up where we are now.

Rating; 10 out of 10.

NOTE: The R rating for this picture is one of the worst things the MPAA has ever done. Boyhood should have been a PG-13 film. It was rated R for “language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use”. If anyone should be watching Boyhood, it should be teenagers. And having teenagers do, well, teenage things like drinking and talking about sex isn’t shocking or anything. The MPAA needs to take a step back and realize the content and audience of a film.

Films of 2014, #161: The Fall (Tarsem, 2008)

Every once and a while a movie will show the power of the cinema in the most pure way possible, and The Fall is one of those rare films. Filmed in over 28 countries, it’s a stunning picture that has more vast landscapes than most films. And I still find it hard to believe there’s no special effects here.

It’s a simple, straightforward story of a movie stuntman who after getting injured is stuck in a hospital where he encounters another patient, a little girl named Alexandria. The man starts to make up a tale, and we see this tale unfold through Alexandria’s imagination.

There’s vast desert landscapes, massive architectural wonders, and an interesting tale that gets wound until it unravels in a very powerful, and direct of love of cinema.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #160: Sacrifice (Tarkovsky, 1986)

Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film before dying of cancer is a somber work that shows the power of cinema that takes it’s time. It would be impossible for this kind of film to be made today. With all the philosophical talk dealing with the main character’s atheism, Sacrifice could have been a bore. But Tarkovsky’s directing is stunning (plus, cinematographer Sven Nyvist does some of his best work here). It’s a haunting film that has big ideas and is still simple enough to work.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Films of 2014, #159: World’s Greatest Dad (Goldthwait, 2009)

This black comedy shows the power of celebrity and how we treat the departed. It left me uneasy, watching this after Williams’ suicide. World’s Greatest Dad has Williams in one of his more dramatic roles as a father who’s son, Kyle, has some deep problems with himself. He’s mean to everyone at his school, sexist, and treats his only “friend” as a piece of shit. 

Williams comes home one day to find his son dead. He rearranges the scene and writes his son’s suicide note. Suddenly, everyone at school is sad that Kyle is gone and talks about what a good guy he was. The dad teaches at the same school and has been a struggling writer for years. After the suicide note gets passed around, he comes up with the idea to share Kyle’s diaries (written by Williams).

World’s Greatest Dad takes celebrity status and makes it a very dark, but alluring status. And despite the darkness of the story, it’s also a very funny movie at times. Seeing Williams as a dad who then tries to help other students by telling them that suicide isn’t the answer is one of the deeply awkward things I’ve seen in some time.  

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #158: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Hunt, 1969)

I’ve seen almost every Bond film (there might be a few from the 80’s or some Roger Moore films that I skipped over). And I always passed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There was something about it being the only film to have George Lazenby that seemed off to me. But upon viewing this film I can say that it’s easily one of the best Bond films out there. Much like the recent Daniel Craig releases, this film puts just enough of a spin of the formula of Bond to stand out from many of the others in the series.

Yes, the story is the same as always. There’s a guy trying to do all sorts of evil things, and Bond steps in and saves the day, and gets the girl. It’s all here. There’s a few moments where Lazenby is obviously not right for the part, but he does a great job overall. It’s sad that this is the only film for him, I would have loved to see where he would take Bond, especially after the shocking ending. There’s also some great set designs and action scenes, plus one that served as a very obvious inspiration for Nolan’s Inception.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #157: Jakob The Liar (Kassovitz, 1999)

This Holocaust film tries to bring in the humor of Life of Beautiful but still be an impacting drama. Jakob The Liar tells the story of Jewish shopkeeper who is in the ghetto and tries to bring some joy into the community by telling tales of what he overheard on a radio. With a supporting cast of Alan Arkin, Liev Schreiber and Bob Balaban, there’s some really nice acting here. But the story doesn’t do enough, and never kept my interest through the entire film.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #156: Olympus Has Fallen (Fuqua, 2013)

Somehow two films about a terrorist attack on The White House came out last year, and Olympus Has Fallen does a better job at almost everything compared to White House Down. The terrorist attack is more believable and more suspenseful. The main guy is played by Gerard Butler who runs most of the movie with a grin that cannot be held by too many action stars today. I’m not into a lot of violence, but there were multiple moments that I thoroughly enjoyed here.

Sure, the movie is ridiculous at times, but it works quite well on the most basic level. The story of Butler leaving the secret service after the death of the first lady makes sense. Even though the fact that he’s the one guy who ends up back on the grounds at the moment of the attack is unlikely, oh well. But there is the issue of Arron Eckhart at president. While he looks like a politician (and plays one in The Dark Night and Thank You For Smoking), he fails as the president. Maybe that’s the “point”, but it’s a weak one. Not to give anything away, but he fails horribly towards the end, and then tries to redeem himself by being a badass in the final scenes. UGH.

This movie seems smart next to White House Down, but this is still a very dumb movie. Although Antone Fuqua gives us several great landscape shots of The White House (there’s specifically one or two moments of the American flag in tatters that’s great).

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #155: Night at The Museum (Levy, 2006)

Ben Stiller plays a man who starts working overnight at The American Museum of Natural History only to find out that everything in the museum comes alive at night. Tiny cowboys, Teddy Roosevelt, Gengis Kahn, and the skeleton a tyrannosaur all show up here. It’s stupid, and doesn’t make an ounce of sense. How have they not broken out by now? How does Stiller put up with this? Why doesn’t he just run away the first night? How does his boss, played by Ricky Gervais, not know about all the crazy stuff that goes on in his museum? These questions don’t matter though. This is a kids movie. Despite a good cast (the one good thing about this movie), Ben Stiller, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson and Robin Williams, none of this movie really adds up.

Rating: 3 out of 10.