Rating with Ears

Jul 22

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.

Jul 21

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.

Jul 19

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.

Jul 18

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.

Jul 17

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.

Jul 14

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.

Jul 12

Films of 2014, #101: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Webb, 2014)

I remember the first Amazing Spider-Man being a very strong superhero film. Andrew Garfield did a good job, and Marc Webb was able to balance the personal and spectacular parts of Peter Parker’s life perfectly. Sadly, we’re left with a mess the second time around. With the death of captain Stacey (Dennis Leary) still weighing heavily on both Peter and his girlfriend (Emma Stone), the two start off on bad terms, which leave us with some of the worst acting that Garfield has ever done. While he can deliver all sorts of humorous lines to his aunt May (Sally Field), when it comes time to cry or show mixed emotions. he cannot.

Sally Field and Emma Stone are the only two actors here that give any sort craft to their roles. But in a huge superhero movie, their roles are reduced to only a handful of scenes, and in Stone’s case, a bad subplot and death. But there’s plenty of time to give Jamie Foxx some pointless scenes to chew over with his nerdy, outcast turned crazy as fuck Electro. Foxx hasn’t been great in years, and this is just another bland role for him. I understand that this film is based off a comic book, but Foxx’s Electro is ridiculous with his Spider-Man obsession. Electro is given some huge scenes to destroy shit, and while there’s none of the mindless destruction of films like Man of Steel or Godzilla, there’s still excitement or emotional pull in all the action.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborne, comes back all of a sudden (how convenient) and they automatically start to hang out. Of course, Harry is the son of Norman Osborne who owned Oscorp. But the great Dane Dehanne isn’t left with much and doesn’t come close to Franco’s Harry in the first two films.

Since this movie has been out for sometime, I feel that I’m allowed to add some spoiler details. The ending could have been great with Gwen’s death, it’s a pivotal moment in the comics. And although the relationship didn’t have the charm of the first film, the ending was well done and perfectly emotional…

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. Instead of that ending, we get the fantastic Paul Giamatti reduced to some screaming, a stupid accent and driving around maniacally. I guess that needed this to set up the next Spider-Man installment to focus around the Sinister Six (this is going to a huge, fucked up mess if they go through with it).

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is slightly bloated and has too many ideas, too many villains. But the film still has good characters and emotional pull. It would have helped if there was less clutter, but it’s still a decent enough summer blockbuster.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Jul 11

Films of 2014, #100: The Devil’s Rejects (Zombie, 2005)

I’ve seen every Rob Zombie film, except for The Devil’s Rejects. I didn’t have much interest in seeing the movie, given my disappointment with most of Zombie’s other films. But I wasn’t expecting this film to be that bad. It was that bad, even worse really.

There’s a story, sure. But whatever, Zombie’s only interest here to show gross violence with little concern for any character, as they all exist just to show off whatever gross, twisted fantasy that Zombie has come up with. There’s problems right away with a chunky prologue and stupid freeze frame title sequence. We get it, it’s supposed to have a 70’s horror film feel. But this is no Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

There’s scene after scene of pointless dialog and I would say there’s moments where characters act of character, but that doesn’t apply here because none of these people are here to mean anything. God, there’s even a film critic that comes across as complete buffoon! 

With all the 70’s music, and it’s off putting ending (I know, it’s clever that the film goes out on a “high note”, whatever) The Devil’s Rejects doesn’t know what kind of film it is. Yes, it’s horror but saying there’s no scary moments doesn’t even begin to explain things. If Zombie really loves 70’s horror films, then why not actually pay tribute to them, instead of trying to make a odd, gross, disconnected copy?

Rating: 2 out of 10.

Jul 10

Films of 2014, #99: Disgrace (Jacobs, 2008)

This adaptation of JM Coetzee’s prize winning novel takes all the shock, horror and mixed emotions of the novel and places them perfectly into film. English professor David Laurie (John Malkovich) has a sexual relationship with one of his students. This ends up getting out of hand quickly, when the student tells one of her friends and Laurie ends up receiving threats. The school board discovers his escapades and ends up firing him. There’s a great scene where Malkovich is in front of the board and he displays his cockiness and better-than attitude that Malkovich does so well. He’s perfectly dry in his delivery and he’s a great fit for this character.

The script’s dryness is exactly like the novel and once the Laurie moves off to post apartheid South Africa, the movie takes a turn with Laurie living with his daughter and her friend Petrus. Halfway through Disgrace a horrible event happens to the main characters, it’s just as shocking as the book and I won’t give anything away. The choices that Laurie and his daughter have to make in the second half are tough and ambiguous, but it makes for a very powerful second half. Malkovich gives one of his best performances and it’s rare to see a film that perfectly does everything the novel did.

Rating: 9 out of 10.