Films of 2014, #178: Grand Piano (Mira, 2013)

Tensions run high with Grand Piano, where pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) plays his first concert in five years to a packed house in honor of his late mentor. Things should be hectic enough for Tom, but added is the threat of an assassin in the theater that threatens to end Tom’s life if he plays a single wrong note. It’s a skillful thriller that delivers and keeps the suspense coming until the end. There’s the obvious inspiration of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much mixed in some flashy De Palma camera angles. It’s a skillful film that takes advantage of Wood’s usual nervousness and the casting of John Cusack helps too.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #177: The Expendables (Stallone, 2010)

For such a huge cast of action stars, The Expendables just doesn’t have all the right action scenes and plotting to make for a great action film. Director Sylvester Stallone should have left this in the hands of someone else, and they could have gone with a smarter script too. With Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, this film should have been more fun. Maybe the sequels will deliver.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #176: Nurse (Aaniokoski, 2014)

I don’t mind some B-film trash every now and then, but Nurse is more than I was asking for. And while it seems like some lost De Palma film at times, most of Nurse just seems like a very poor rip-off. The story of a murderous nurse is nothing new, nor is throwing in some lesbianism and some gore. If only the film had gone the extra mile and pushed the self-aware aspect further, it might have worked. There’s also the issue of the lead actress being a dreadful actor who’s face seems stuck, and delivers her lines in the most boring way possible. If only they could have made this film with some more fun added in.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #175: We Are What We Are (Mickle, 2013)

This film about a family a cannibals isn’t quite as gross or gory as I expected, but sometimes pacing can go a long way. And while there’s long segments that look some sort of Malick directed horror flick, We Are What We Are is unique enough for the horror genre to stand out. Nothing here is really gross like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, instead it’s all just, kind of ordinary. Not exactly boring, just well paced. Plus, having Gordon Parks in a movie is always a good thing. It’s based on a 2010 Mexican film that I’ve never seen, and there’s already plans for a sequel and prequel.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #174: Gone Girl (Fincher, 2014)

Gillian Flynn’s 2012 best-seller has made it onto the big screen in the best way possible with the help of David Fincher giving his direction to this story of one fucked up marriage. Any worry that the movie would stray away from the book vanished after Flynn wrote the screenplay herself, and it’s a very strong movie because of it. What makes both the book and film work are how the twists and turns are revealed, and the pacing of these events.

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are great here, especially Pike. This role could have been a mess in the hands of somebody else, instead she plays it perfectly. And while Affleck continues to get shit for everything he does, even after winning a best picture Oscar for Argo, there’s little doubt that Affleck is one of the best leading men in today’s movies. His role is perfectly disconnected, frustrating, and confusing. Once again, this could have been a mess if handed off to someone else.

But there’s some miscasting here too. Having Tyler Perry as Affleck’s defense lawyer is mildly distracting, even though Perry has once again shown that he can act. But the real issue here is Neal Patrick Harris. There’s something off with his role. While it’s interesting to see Harris play someone with dark motives, it takes the viewer out of the film.

Since this is a David Fincher film, it’s a very well put together film that has some very precise direction. But I can’t help but see Gone Girl as the beginning of a problem for Fincher. After already doing two emotionally disconnected films adapted from books (The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), Gone Girl looks like Fincher getting stuck in a rut. While does a great job, and he’s perfect for directing it, Fincher’s failure to add in humor (yes, there’s humor here, but god, it’s so forced) hurts his movies. Yes, Gone Girl a dark film, and these people are disconnected, mean and manipulative, but it’s almost too much at times. Almost.

Gone Girl keeps fucking with the audience all the way until the end, and it works. Even though part of me is convinced that this is nothing more than a very great Lifetime movie, it’s still a very good film that keeps being interesting throughout it’s two and half hour runtime.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #173: Scanners (Cronenberg, 1981)

There’s only a few David Cronenberg movies that I haven’t seen, and Scanners was one of them. And while I wish I could say that I enjoyed this movie, I didn’t. I’m sure what was happening, I’m not sure why I should have cared about anything that happened to anyone. Maybe in it’s day, Scanners might have been shocking. But it’s just tame today, and very dated. While it’s obviously Cronenberg, it’s also obviously sub-par Cronenberg.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #172: The Rover (Michod, 2014)

This post-apocalyptic movie takes it’s time getting where it’s going, and it’s payoff isn’t as exciting as I expected. Drawing from Roger Miller’s Mad Max films, and from Cormac McCarthy adaptations of The Road and No Country For Old Men, this film is a bleak modern day western that doesn’t go far enough. Guy Peace does a great job here as a man who just wants his damn car back in the wasteland of Australia, and he runs into Robert Pattison, who mumbles…

Pattison has been trying to make some interesting moves after the Twilight films, and I can’t blame him for being on board with The Rover, but his performance doesn’t do enough, and becomes one note very quickly.

What really makes most of The Rover work is the setting, and the music. While the story drags and becomes pointless at times, the score keeps things interesting with it’s synths and loud beats. But there’s also a very distracting moment where a pop song is used, and it removes us from the very bleak atmosphere the movie had spent so much time setting up.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #171: Hercules (Ratner, 2014)

The myth of Hercules is worth filming, and while Brett Ratner’s Hercules is good, it’s just not enough. By taking the myth and making it a story of truth where Hercules is a conflicted human, like Jesus in Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, just doesn’t work here.

I went into this film expecting something stupid, big, and entertaining. And I got it! Hercules is dumb, but it’s almost too dumb. And just when it starts to go big, it doesn’t go big enough. It’s a decent film, but it should have gone bigger, and it should have played up the myth instead of focusing on Hercules as a human trying to add up the myth.

The film starts off as a retelling of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai with Hercules stepping in to help save a town, but then the film shifts off into something else towards the second half. And while I was concerned about Ratner’s directing, it worked quite well and shows Ratner’s growth as action director. The Rock isn’t a good actor, but he seems like he fully realizes what kind of actor he is at this point.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #170: The Monuments Men (Clooney, 2014)

Following the classic Hollywood style of Clooney’s other directorial efforts, The Leatherheads and Good Night and Good Luck, The Monuments Men gives us a very safe story that gets resolved nicely and has a huge troupe of actors doing some very basic work. I’m not sure why Clooney gravitates towards these old Hollywood ideas, and while it’s a bad idea, this story demanded more than just some familiar faces and mild action. Having a group of men join together to take back art from the Nazis could have a very engaging film, but everything is put together too nicely.

It’s a very safe version of The Dirty Dozen with plenty of great actors, but nothing clicks. If only this story had been handed off to a independent studio and more with more conviction and rough edges, it could have been very good. Instead, The Monuments Men has Clooney sitting back and doing almost nothing, it’s a shame all these actors were stuck with such a bland, typical script that tried too hard to mix the suspense of war with comedy.

Rating: 3 out of 10.


Jack White’s historic 2014 Bonnaroo performance will be released as a three LP vinyl and DVD set. Photo: Amanda Koellner

How is this “historic”? Consequence of Sound needs to stop.