Rating with Ears

Sep 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

Sep 08

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.

Sep 06

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.

Sep 04

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.

Sep 03

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.

Films of 2014, #154: Beyond The Black Rainbow (Cosmatos, 2010)

This sci-fi film takes more than a few things from eighties sci-fi films, with it’s grainy look and music score. Beyond The Black Rainbow takes a very simple story of a girl who has some sort of powers and is locked up in a facility, and makes the entire film seem like so much more. It’s perfectly retro from it’s opening segment showing a cult leader in some sort of ad for his new age religion, to the ongoing Illuminati symbolism throughout. There’s some nods to Kubrick’s 2001, Blade Runner and THX 1138. But there’s nothing quite like this. Beyond The Black Rainbow is a dark, meditative film that slathers you in atmosphere (and lots of red tones!)

Rating: 8 out of 10. 

Sep 02

Films of 2014, #153: Tyrannosaur (Considine, 2011)

One of first things that we see in Tyrannosaur is Joseph (Peter Mullen) kicking a dog until it can’t walk. It’s a brutal scene, but that’s the kind of man Joseph is. He’s a broken man after the death of his wife and spends his time getting drunk and pissed off. One day when he runs into some trouble, Joseph runs into a shop and the owner, Hannah (Olivia Coleman) prays for him and keeps him safe. She has problems of her own with an abusive husband (played eerily well by Eddie Marsan). And while the story does run into some of the obvious plots and themes of redemption and the past, Tyrannosaur is such a raw, unforgiving, brutal film that everything works.

Rating: 8 out of 10. 

Sep 01

Films of 2014, #152: Seeking a Friend at The End of The Universe (Scafarira, 2012)

The apocalypse has been a big part of film over the past few years, with Melancholia and 4:44 Last Day On Earth. With Seeking a Friend at The End of The Universe, we get to see the lighter side of the world ending. Dodge (Steve Carell) is life insurance salesman who continues to go work after finding out that an asteroid is headed for Earth. His wife leaves him, and the people around him are too busy having some last minute sex and drugs. Dodge doesn’t seem to care much and ends up meeting his neighbor Penny (Keira Nightly) and they go on a road trip to seek out some friends and family before everything goes to shit. It’s a promising film, and it’s lighthearted nature is refreshing for the first half hour. But things get convoluted and the two actors don’t have enough chemistry to carry the overlong road trip. 

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Films of 2014, #151: Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, 2014)

It’s a Jim Jarmusch vampire film.

There, that’s about it. If you’re familiar with Jarmusch’s directing style, then nothing here will come as a surprise. It’s a languid, melancholic film that doesn’t really go anywhere…

Despite this, Only Lovers Left Alive does give us some great performances from Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddelson and John Hurt. If anyone is made to play vampires, it’s these people. There’s some interesting details that I’ve never seen a vampire film before (like speed reading books or learning every musical instrument known to man) , and it’s smaller moments like that (even though the entire film is smaller moments) that make Only Lovers Left Alive worth seeing.

Rating: 7 out of 10.