Films of 2014, #59: The East (Batmanglij, 2013)

Based off the trailer and the opening three minutes of the movie, The East looked like an interesting take on today’s times that showed an activist group taking matters into their own hands and giving the evil doers (oil companies, pharmaceutical  companies) a taste of their own medicine (quite literally at times). Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard star as two of the people in this group, and Brit Marling is the newcomer who’s actually there as a double agent to find out information on the group and their upcoming targets. The film’s attempt at “social ambiguity” is muddy, and pointless. Also, the tone seems off as well, with much of it happening in the woods and not really evolving into much of anything. Plus, the ending seemed to cut out right when things were getting really interesting, even if the ending was something that we saw coming from the start.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

“I was struck by the shot in this where Don lies in bed, watching the movie Lost Horizon with Megan at his side. Lost Horizon is about a world that exists somewhere outside of time, almost, a land that people are drawn to when modern life has driven them to dreams of a simpler time. The name of that land is Shangri-La, a place that is synonymous with the word “Utopia.” And that took me back to season one’s “Babylon” and Rachel Menken, who told Don that one of the meanings for Utopia is a place that cannot exist, no matter how much we might wish it did.”
— Todd VanDerWerff in his review of Mad Men’s Season seven premiere for The AV Club. 

Films of 2014, #58: Somewhere (Coppola, 2010)

Remember Lost in Translation?

Picture that movie with Stephen Dorff.

Dorff plays an actor that takes some time off after having an arm injury and ends up reconnecting with his daughter (Elle Fanning). Oh, and he an extremely obvious midlife, existential crisis that gets solved by the end.

Dorff isn’t an interesting actor, Fanning is alright and Coppola is doing nothing but repeating the past. Boring.

Rating: 3 out of 10. 

Films of 2014, #57: V/H/S/2 (2013)

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The sequel to the found footage anthology is another found footage anthology that does all the same stuff as the previous one, only it’s even less likely than before. From the story about ghosts, to the one about alien abduction (seriously), to a massive cult. There’s not much else to say about this horror anthology, except that none of it was scary. Plus, how the hell do all these people have cameras for the exact moment all the crazy shit goes down?

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #56: Oldboy (Lee, 2013)

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Spike Lee’s remake of 2003’s South Korean cult film puts Josh Brolin the spotlight and he ruins most of it. Brolin tries to be compelling, but he continues to choose projects like this. There’s a promising start, but just like the original, the ending gets weighed down and bloated. Samuel L. Jackson gives a bland performance with some crazy costume and hair design. Spike Lee seemed very bored and uninspired, it’s not even called “A Spike Lee Joint”.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #55: The Way Way Back (Faxon, Rash, 2013)

Another quirky comedy that Hollywood has made to earn money, by trying to sell it to the people who like Little Miss Sunshine. This film lacks all the joy that Little Miss Sunshine had, and there’s no laughs either! Our main character is a kid who goes on a very long vacation with his mom and her new douche boyfriend (played by Steve Carrell). The kid gets a job at a water park, where Sam Rockwell works. That’s about it. The attempts of making another charming, heartfelt, quirky, indie comedy falls flat. The Way Way Back almost never works even with some decent actors in the mix.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #54: Kill Your Darlings (Krokidas, 2013)

Recently there’s been a handful of films dealing with The Beat Generation, and they’ve all been quite good, but there’s something about Kill Your Darlings that makes it even greater than the others. While Howl tried to capture the spirit of Ginsberg’s poem, it took everything too literally. On The Road was great, but something was slightly off the casting, and the plot didn’t really work as perfectly on screen as in written word. However, Kill Your Darlings works in almost every respect. The entire film takes place over a very short course of time and deals with only a handful of people, and only in the exact moment that we see them. Yes, all the main guys are here: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, but someone could watch this film and enjoy it without knowing those names or their writing.

Kill Your Darlings has some great casting from Ben Foster (Six Feet Under) as Burroughs to Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg and Michael C Hall (Dexter) as David Kammerer. These roles are done perfectly, and never once do they feel weighted down the real people being portrayed (unlike Franco’s Ginsberg impression in Howl). There’s some great scenes that perfectly show what this group of young men were going for in their writing and how their lives shaped their art. The film is also a crime film that by not labeling itself as such, ends up being stronger for it. While I can claim to know more than most about The Beat Generation, this murder has never really been discussed to the extent that Kill Your Darlings does.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #53: Passion (De Palma, 2013)

‘Passion’ Review: De Palma Regurgitates Everything in His Bag of Tricks

Brian De Palma’s work hasn’t been too good over the past few years. And Passion is another parody that’s been done better by the director. He’s run out of ideas, as Passion is nothing more than a mix of Dressed of Kill and Femme Fetale. The plot is basic, and a bore. The acting isn’t bad, but it’s still nothing worth seeing. Noomi Raplace and Rachael McAdams have girl-on-girl tension that’s just bad enough to laugh at. The story has one turn after another, and it’s never fun.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #52: Machete Kills (Rodriguez, 2013)

Of course there was going to be a sequel to Machete. Yes, there were plenty of problems with Machete, but it was fun. Now Machete Kills gives us some fun moments, but it’s all too ridiculous to accept even for a film like Machete Kills. Director Robert Rodriguez continues to continue making sequels and there’s even a trailer for the next Machete movie at the beginning of this movie! Enough!

Machete (Danny Trejo) gets involved with the US Government to bring down an arms dealer and there’s also a “revolutionary” who just so happens to be schizophrenic. Over-the-top stuff all over with Charlie Sheen as the President and Mel Gibson as a mad arms dealer who plans to take over the world. And only Machete can stop them!

It goes on and on, and there’s not a single moment to enjoy here. Machete was a mess, but this is a catastrophe. The “villains” don’t work, and every single action scene is unbelievable.

Rodriquez fails again with tons of massive action scenes, but they’re all done cheaply. Yes, cheap is part of the point, after all Machete came about after a fake trailer for Grindhouse. But it’s not cheap enough. The big effects and huge stars distract. It’s not gritty, it’s superficial. It’s like an Instagram filter.

Rating: 2 out of 10.