2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – April)
I’m not going to waste too much time this year on introductions. We all pretty much know this is the dumping ground for lesser films prior to the summer blockbusters and awards season after that. Still, it’s worth mentioning that this was a slog to go through, and I didn’t even see these movies; I just charged myself with reviewing why I never got around to them.
Yes, 2014 may have been a record year for me seeing the most movies from that year, but there were still movies I never got around to or never even had the ability to see due to either foreign or limited release. I still like going over them, however, as this process often leads to me finding some unexpected gems that I might enjoy. Some of these I might become so interested in that I see them before I even get to the films I did see, so there is actually a possibility you might see these films reappear in this 2014 in Review series if that becomes the case.
Anyway, here are many of the films from January to April 2014 that I didn’t see, for one reason or another. It’s by no means complete, but that’s what you get when you’re using Wikipedia and Best of/Worst of lists from other sites.
Jamesy Boy – 1/03/14
Though not necessarily the mark of a bad film, the fact that this was relegated to the slums of January in limited release in theatres with a simultaneous on-demand debut didn’t bode well for this biographical crime film about a troubled youth who turns his life around thanks to the help of a much older convict while serving time. While it has the potential to be a solid film, the reviews were ultimately pretty negative, largely citing the lack of depth and compelling storytelling. While it’s currently on Netflix streaming, you could probably do far better. Look up Starred Up, for instance.
Starring, written, produced, and directed by former TV’s Lex Luthor himself, Michael Rosenbaum, this is a film about a guy going through a midlife crisis and reliving his glory years by going back home and… God, I can’t even finish that sentence without getting bored. It also features Nick Swardson and Harland Williams in supporting roles, for further context. You know, just in case the nerd rep brought by the former Lex Luthor and voice of the DC Animated Universe’s Flash and costar Morena “Inara from Firefly” Baccarin enticed any of you into being convinced you should see this wannabe-Adam Sandler film.
Dumbbells – 1/10/14
This movie about a former college basketball star and his gym’s upcoming reality TV debut features Tom Arnold, Fabio, and Jaleel White in varying capacities. Nnnnnnnoooope.
Divin Enfant – 1/15/14 (France)
A French import, this one’s apparently about a Christmastime dispute over the paternity of a certain child. Wacky hijinks look to ensue. I … I dunno. I’m more curious as to why a Christmas movie came out in January, to be honest. Oh well. Didn’t get a US release, it seems, anyway.
Supercondriaque – 1/15/14
French comedian Danny Boon directed, wrote, and starred in this film about Romain Faubert, a hypochondriac whose only friend is the doctor he continually seeks treatments from, Dimitri Zvenka. Dimitri seeks to solve Romain’s problem by prescribing him some romantic companionship, which ultimately leads to Romain’s falling for Dimitri’s sister, Anna. It’s a solid premise for a film, one that I could easily see someone like Simon Pegg taking over for an English language remake. From what I can tell, however, it’s not been given a US release in its current form.
Devil’s Due – 1/17/14
Oh look. It’s another found footage horror movie. This time, a newlywed couple finds out they’re doomed to give birth to the Antichrist, I guess. The movie was apparently pitched as a found footage version of Rosemary’s Baby, which I guess makes this yet another unnecessary 2014 revisit to that material alongside the TV remake. From the trailer, this looks pretty terrible, and according to its 18% Rotten Tomatoes score, that’s a pretty fair observation. By the way, this was the movie that promoted itself with that scary demon baby in the remote controlled stroller.
From what I can tell, this very limited release (like… it got a theatrical release on Jan. 17 and was out on DVD in four days) is entirely set within the titular freezer, where Dylan McDermott plays a man who is being held there against his will by Russian mobsters. The mystery surrounding his capture slowly unfolds for the audience between scenes of his escape attempts. The trailer did not impress, and neither does its 33% Rotten Tomatoes score.
The Guest – 1/17/14
This movie went completely under my radar, which is a shame. Made by the guys who brought us the unexpectedly entertaining horror action flick You’re Next, that pedigree alone should’ve made me take notice of The Guest, which looks almost as equally crazy fun, as it features a war veteran coming back from Afghanistan to help take care of the family of a friend who died in combat. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that he’ll be leading a quiet life, as the obvious badass ends up bringing with him a bit of trouble. It doesn’t look like much in the trailer, and it doesn’t look to have scored at the box office, either, but critics loved it, with the film garnering an 89% approval rating out of 95 reviews. What a shame.
Hellion – 6/13/14
Aaron Paul, hot off of Breaking Bad, plays a father who attempts to reform his life and make good with his two sons, one of whom has been taken away from him by CPC and another who is making his own bad decisions and is well on his way to a life of crime. It has mixed reviews, with many critics having both good and bad things to say about the film, with Josh Wiggins’ debut performance as the oldest son standing out as a common point of praise. Not a terribly interesting-looking film, but it could be worth a go.
Obvious Child – 1/17/14
Singled out for its treatment of the always controversial subject of abortion, Obvious Child, starring Jenny Slate as a stand-up comedian who gets pregnant after a one night stand, still managed to garner a lot of praise from film critics. I’ll admit to being curious about the film, if only to see how it handled that very sensitive of subjects. Ultimately, however, it kept slipping my mind as newer films got released to Redbox and took away my attention. I still intend to see it, however.
Oh, hey, this movie. I only remember the trailer for this because a friend of mine sent it to me as an example of a fairly ridiculous concept, with a grief-stricken man who lost what he believed to be his one true love but finds hope that he might find her again when his scientific studies seem to prove that not only have we evolved, but they may also be proof of reincarnation, with a girl in India rumored to have the exact same iris pattern as his lost love. Or something along those lines. It doesn’t seem nearly as cut and dry as that, but that is the general premise. Its intention of examining the relationship between science and spirituality and whether they might not just coexist but exist in relation to one another is interesting, and, given that director Mike Cahill’s Another Earth managed to do well with a similarly bizarre concept, there’s reason to give this film the benefit of the doubt. It received mixed reviews, but with films like this, it might be that some people just don’t get or don’t appreciate such a concept, so it’s probably best to just watch it when the timing is right for you.
Jai Ho – 1/24/14 (India)
A Hindi remake of a 2006 Telugu language film called Stalin, Jai Ho (“Let victory prevail”) stars a man whose name is also Jai who takes on a corrupt politician as part of his mission to help those in need. The film received mixed reactions in India. Perhaps it was a matter of the film being the third step in a game of telephone, with the original Telugu film apparently drawing inspiration for its plot from the Haley Joel Osment film Pay It Forward, though I don’t remember Osment riding a motorcycle and smashing people’s faces against girders and stuff. Probably would’ve made for a lot more pleasing ending to that film than the cheap shot that film gave us.
The Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukōgawa e! – 1/25/14 (Japan)
Based on the Bandai Namco lifestyle/rhythm video game series of the same name, The Idolmaster Movie follows a group of girls who are training to be pop idols and apparently unleash some magical powers they have to deal with… I think? Judging by the trailer, there’s way more drama contained in those less than 4 minutes than there are in whatever number of seasons of American Idol there are. I’m not going to pretend like I was that interested in learning about the longstanding video game series, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I hope you enjoy it, if you’re into this sort of thing.
As the title suggests, this film is set in a kingdom where women rule. In this kingdom, the men are treated like second class citizens, forced to wear hijabs and succumb to the whims of the powerful women around them. Jacky, a young man who seeks to fulfill his dreams, in spite of this oppression, and apparently catches the attention of a powerful leader, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. It looks like it could be good for a laugh, but it hasn’t really had much of a release here in the US, so I have no clue.
Best Night Ever – 1/31/14
Brought to us by the guys who made such classics as The Starving Games, Vampires Suck, and movies Scary, Date, Epic, and Disaster, this film at the very least seems to abandon the whole random references to pop culture schtick that Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have been relying upon for all their past films, but it’s not exactly the most original premise, either, going for a found footage style chronicle of a group of women going out for a night on the town in Vegas. So, even though it’s not exactly parodying a genre, it’s nonetheless till ripping off better films like The Hangover, Bridesmaids, and probably even Bachelorette. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 0% (admittedly out of only 13 reviews as of this writing), it’s hard to imagine a film that would’ve been even more poorly received, though.
Labor Day – 1/31/14
A boy and his mother take in a man in need who, initially unbeknownst to them, is an escaped convict. Directed by Juno and Up in the Air director Jason Reitman, Labor Day looked like all sorts of contrived romantic melodrama, with the convict and the young boy’s mother falling in love with one another and sharing a Ghost-like moment while making a pie… It wasn’t especially well received, despite the presence of Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, and the trailers never did anything for me, either, so I never bothered.
Man, someone really populated the Wikipedia “2014 in Film” entry with French films. Anyway, this French (live action) production features Blue is the Warmest Color’s Léa Seydoux as Belle, who takes her father’s place in punishment for his stealing one of the beast’s roses. It looks like your typical Hollywood, somewhat dark retelling of a classic fairy tale that everyone knows, particularly from the Disney-adapted variation, but despite its CGI spectacle and familiar material, La Belle et la Bête
Les Trois Frères, le retour – 2/12/14 (France/Belgium)
A sequel to the film Les Trois Frères, this film sucked up too much of my time in trying to find a synopsis. The trailer I guess looks like it could be funny. I don’t mean to be flip, though, when I say I’m writing this late at night and would rather just move on.
Gunday – 2/13/14
Bikram and Bala, childhood friends who grew up in poverty together on the streets, become smugglers and bandits as adults who are inseparable until they both fall in love with the same woman, a famed cabaret dancer. Amidst their petty squabbling the two continue to run afoul of the authorities, and their loyalties and friendship are put to the test as a result. Gunday was well received by most, with some finding it to be a bit over the top and silly but ultimately won them over. Could be fun.
Barefoot – 2/21/14
“My mom says that this is how you earn love…” It wasn’t until that trite little line in the trailer that I realized that I’d seen this trailer before, as a weepy Evan Rachel Wood stares back at her love after polishing the fireplace. That’s when the familiar sense of annoyance at this supposedly whimsical romantic dramedy took hold of me again. It’s the classic tale of rich troubled boy proving to his family that he’s fixed by bringing home a random girl who has never had much adventure in her life, and the two falling in love as she charms everyone in his family, though not without some trouble along the way. Meh.
Studio Ghibli isn’t the only anime studio to be producing more serious films that would appeal to more mainstream audiences. This film, produced by Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Psycho-Pass), follows two boys in post-World War II who live on Shikotan, an island that was taken over by the Russians at the end of the war, leading to two Japanese boys befriending the Russian child who has moved into their home before being sent off to the harsh conditions of a Russian internment camp. It’s subject matter rarely, if ever, explored by Western animation, but anyone who has seen the film Grave of the Fireflies knows that animation is, in fact, a viable medium for this type of subject matter. Reviews have been strong for this one, as well.
Vengeance – 2/22/14
Danny Trejo stars in this film about a man seeking… vengeance… as a criminal turned vigilante (or is that vigilante who is also a criminal?). According to Wikipedia, a sequel is coming out, complete with parts for people who gave out free copies of this movie. The movie also features 50 Cent in a supporting role, which… I guess is a reason to see it?
The Bag Man – 2/28/14
Remember when everyone was like, “Oh gosh, everyone likes John Cusack!”? That might be true, still – I am unaware of any reasons to dislike him as a person, but I think John Cusack, the actor, might very well have lost his appeal long ago. Here he plays a man named Jack who is hired by a man named Dragna to do some underground… stuff. Something about a woman… Crime thriller crap… I don’t really care, honestly.
Repentance – 2/28/14
Anthony Mackie, Forest Whitaker, and Mike Epps star in this film about a mentally troubled man who takes captive a self-help book author who is attempting to build up his career and help out his brother. Whitaker looks to be hamming it up as the unstable captor, while I’m certain that Mackie’s self-help author is going to learn some lessons through his ordeal, possibly in ripping off people with crap? Anyway, this looks weak.
A young man falls in love with a girl and seeks out the counsel of the elderly gentleman who was the only one who managed to woo the girl’s apparently picky mother. It’s kind of amazing how much the film’s trailer looks so much like a mediocre American comedy, including a somewhat recognizable song and what looks like an obligatory intergenerational gay joke as the older man teaches the younger man the old ins and outs of fine dining, complete with a knowing wink from the waiter. Eh.
Better Living Through Chemistry – 3/14/14
I like Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, and Michelle Monaghan, which makes it all the more sad when the two show up in crummy movies. Rockwell plays a pharmacist who ends up cheating on his wife (Monaghan) with a woman he delivers prescription meds to, played by Wilde. Soon they go on a wild ride of crazy sex and debauchery, including drug dealing. It’s a decent enough premise for an amusing comedy, but critics haven’t been kind to it. It might be worth a shot anyway, as it’s currently streaming on Netflix, but you’ve really gotta like these actors.
Dark House – 3/14/14
Featuring Tobin Bell, of Saw series fame, Dark House is about spooky things happening in a scary house where scary things happen and people get killed and stuff. Apparently there’s also some mystery about the origin the powers of telekinesis and the horrors that might befall everyone if something has passed no to the lead’s unborn child. The trailer kind of makes this look like a dark comedy, even, but it also just kind of looks stupid in general. Plus, it’s directed by Victor Salva. Eck.
Based on the memoir of director Rithy Panh, the Oscar-nominated Cambodian documentary The Missing Picture chronicles the Khmer Rouge massacres of 1975 – 1979 through the use of archival footage and dramatic recreations using ceramic figures. By all means, this is an important film, one that is available for streaming on Netflix
Sabotage – 3/28/14
Hey, look! It’s two Terminators in one movie! And that guy from Lost! A team of DEA agents find out that there’s a traitor in their midst who is killing them off one by one after a major takedown. Could be fun, you say? Yeah, it could be. It apparently wasn’t, though. Eh.
Draft Day – 4/11/14
Kevin Costner stars in this film about an NFL manager who [insert sports-related plot drama]. It got a decent enough reception. The reason I didn’t pursue watching it? It’s a Kevin Costner-starring sports drama. No thank you.
A boy from Delhi and a girl from Chennai fall in love while away to college and eventually become engaged, but, knowing the ramifications they might face if their families do not get along, the couple decides to wait until they agree to give their blessing. Coming from two different states, however, the two families clash and cause trouble for the couple. It looks like your typical American romantic comedy about this type of subject, but it was fairly well received in India, so perhaps it’s worth a watch on date night or if you just really like romantic comedies.
Bears – 4/18/14
Seriously, one of these days, I’m going to try watching one of these Disney nature documentaries, even if I do find the narrative they create to be a little hokey sounding. At least they’re not adding voiceovers, though, and it’s always great to get kids interested in nature and science.
A Haunted House 2 – 4/18/14
I actually almost watched this one, as it’s available on Netflix streaming, but ultimately, I didn’t because I had yet to watch the first. Yeah, I somehow felt it necessary to watch these in the proper order, despite them being, from all accounts, pretty terrible. I almost watched the first for Halloween Movie Month, as it’s also available on Netflix, but I didn’t because… I didn’t feel like it.
I lived in Japan from 1996 – 1999 and remember seeing this character every now and then, but it wasn’t until now that I looked up the character and figured out his backstory. According to Wikipedia, his name was once Jimmy Kudo, a high school detective, until he was forced to consume a poison that reverted him to a small child’s form, which is decidedly more absurd than a teenager solving crimes. In this form, he assumes the name Conan Edogawa while still solving outrageous crimes. Dimensional Sniper appears to be the 18th film based on the Case Closed manga and sees Conan taking on a particularly skilled sniper who is also drawing the attention of the FBI thanks to a connection to US military officers working in Japan. The film has grossed over 4 billion yen ($34 million) and is clearly popular enough there to merit a 19th film that’s on the way, so it’s kind of baffling why this isn’t much more popular these days in the US. Perhaps it’s because the colorful animation and wide-eyed child lead would appeal too much to children? The trailer for this movie looked rather bloody, so…
Miss Meadows – 4/21/14
Seeking to capitalize on the sweet image of its star, Katie Holmes, Miss Meadows tells the story of a prim and proper schoolteacher who secretly works as a vicious vigilante whose actions rival that of the criminals she dispatches. There’s a solid satirical premise here, and certainly Katie Holmes seems like perfect casting, but the film received mostly negative reviews, with much of the criticism being aimed at the film’s taking itself a little too seriously. Looking at the trailer, I can certainly see what’s being said. Might I suggest the insanity that is James Gunn’s Super instead? That movie knew its place and was all the better for it.
Brick Mansions – 4/25/14
One of the last films still trickling out from studios after the untimely death of Paul Walker, Brick Mansions is a US remake of the cult classic French parkour action flick District 13. Apparently it was unnecessary, however. I’d rather finally get around to watching the original and its sequel before watching this, anyway.
Documenting the struggles of the American Samoa national football team to recover from their image as the weakest in the league and their determination to qualify for the FIFA World Cup with the help of a new coach in a short amount of time. This was the first film to be made about the team, as most filmmakers were allegedly interested in their failures rather than their determination, and it’s that celebration of the underdogs that made Next Goal Wins such a critical success. So, you know, probably worth a watch.
The Quiet Ones – 4/25/14
Yet another horror film that claims to have been based on actual events, The Quiet Ones features supernatural insanity like weird tendrils coming out of a presumably possessed girl’s mouth and a dose of the found footage through old film reels. Secrets about dark forces and pasts are revealed through a scientific study on the central girl, particularly in regards to her pregnancy that presumably didn’t end well. This honestly looks boring and features some pretty unconvincing effects work.
A Brony Tale – 4/26/14
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic voice actress Ashleigh Bal goes on tour to find out more about the “Brony” phenomenon that arose after the My Little Pony brand was revived by Cartoon Network back in 2010. Bronies, if you haven’t heard of it or figured it out yet, are grown men who, despite never being the target demographic for the show, discovered it and found an unusual connection to the show, creating a cultural phenomenon of often otherwise very masculine men fawning over a show about magical rainbow-colored ponies. Why, they even discover one who serves in the military! I’m no fan of the show – I couldn’t really care about watching more than the first couple episodes that showed up on Netflix — and I admittedly think it’s kind of silly to name oneself after your pop culture affections – I love the Zelda video games, but you don’t see me calling myself a “Zeldie” or something … though, I did name my first cat after it. That being said, I’m not going to look down on them, either. This could very well be a solid and fair documentary, with Ball herself admitting she expected the worst when she heard the term, but, hey, she had the guts to give embracing it a go, and I’m actually a little more inclined to see it as a result, as I had no idea that she voiced the now fairly iconic Rainbow Dash character (and, yes, the less identifiable Applejack, too).