2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (May – August)
I’m not going to waste too much time this year on introductions. For this second part of my review of films I didn’t see, we’re going through the summer blockbuster season, which is typically where a lot of hopeful franchises and big, loud, action-packed spectacles are typically placed. That doesn’t mean that they’re stupid or anything, as some of them look quite good, but don’t expect too many of them to be all that deep or groundbreaking.
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 May to August 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.
Walk of Shame – 5/02/14
Elizabeth Banks stars as a reporter who has a fling with a guy she meets at a club who gets a call from her station that could change her life forever. However, with her car being towed at the worst possible moment, she must then traverse from the guy’s apartment in the middle of the night and in a bad neighborhood, all the way to work, enduring a series of mishaps, including being mistaken for a prostitute, drug dealers, and a boy who will only lend her his bicycle if she shows him her boobs. I like Elizabeth Banks. She’s funny and not ashamed to play up the juxtaposition of her glamorous looks and some often filthy, even unusual material. She even managed to wring some life out of her segments of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. That being said, I can’t for the life of me imagine her carrying this terribly received comedy (13% on the Tomatometer) that can’t even muster enough laughs to pack its trailer with. Better keep my image of Banks intact by not even going here.
Devil’s Knot – 5/09/14
Inspired by the true story of three teenagers convicted for the murders of three young boys who became known as the West Memphis Three, Devil’s Knot stars Reese Witherspoon as the mother of one of the murdered children and Colin Firth as a private investigator representing the defendants. The film was criticized for needlessly retreading information that was explored by the highly acclaimed documentaries in the Paradise Lost series, only this time in a more dramatic but somehow more lifeless fashion. I’m not so certain calling it pointless is entirely accurate, but given the film’s poor reception and lack of much fanfare for even a film this packed with a talented cast that also includes Dane DeHaan, Bruce Greenwood, and Amy Ryan, Devil’s Knot may just be the victim of bad execution as a whole, making it seem like a pointless endeavor.
Ah. This one. I remember being sick of the trailers for this one. Why, then, did I forget it so soon after? Keira Knightley features as a grown woman who befriends the teenage girl who asked her to buy her beer, falls in with the teen crowd as part of her arrested development, and then, presumably, advances into adulthood quite quickly when she falls for the girl’s dad, played by Sam Rockwell. The material could have easily backfired as yet another film about pretty 20 to 30-somethings pining for the days of their youth and not knowing how to advance in life before learning some big lessons, but Laggies was generally well received, so it might not be a bad idea to give it a go as a lazy night, easily digested feel-good flick.
The Immigrant – 5/16/14
Many thought that Marion Cotillard would get nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her role in either this movie or the later Two Days, One Night (for which she actually was nominated) this year, forgetting that Oscar time frames do not necessarily line up with wide release time frames, as this was technically a 2013 Cannes Film Festival release, so it would not qualify for the 2014 nominees. Still, with that kind of buzz, people could be forgiven for letting such a purportedly magnanimous performance whisk them away. Cotillard plays the titular immigrant, who is separated from her quarantined sister at Ellis Island and is taken in by a man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution when she finds herself with nowhere to go. It’s heavy material, for sure, one that Cotillard is undoubtedly suited for. This movie is actually on Netflix streaming right now and has definitely been added to my queue.
Jon Hamm joins the ranks of Denzel Washington, Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Diane Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Dennis Quaid, and Mark Wahlberg in Disney’s ongoing series of true life-inspired inspirational sports films with Million Dollar Arm – purportedly the true story of J.B. Bernstein and his discovering talented baseball players in the most unexpected of places: India. As part of a reality TV contest, he coaches two Indian cricket players in the fundamentals of baseball. Though nobody really expects them to be all that great, the charming men from a far off land prove everyone wrong by being astonishingly good at this new sport. Everyone learns not to underestimate people, despite possibly whatever villain role they’ve assigned someone who would undoubtedly feel the need to shake off any accusations of prejudice on account of the players’ nationality. Throw in a romance subplot with the neighbor next door, and, bam, you have a recipe for yet another feel good sports movie that goes down easily. Some might like it. I, personally, actively avoided it just on account of the fact that I actually got tired of these movies when everyone would not stop raving about Remember the Titans back in middle school.
Cesar Chávez – 5/28/14
Michael Peña is due for an Oscar nomination one of these days, and Cesar Chávez was likely meant to be that film to earn him that right. Diego Luna directs Peña in this biopic about the famed labor rights activist and cofounder of the United Farm Workers. There’s certainly merit in telling this story, and Peña seems like the right person to feature in such a film, but reviews were tepid, with many feeling that the film was more like a form of hero worship than an actual portrait of the man at its center. I honestly skipped it because, sometimes, there’s nothing more boring than a mediocre film that’s too caught up in its own self-importance.
This is one I’m surprised I haven’t yet watched, as it’s been available on Netflix for a while and was actually on my radar for long before that. I just never got around to watching it. Crude and, yes, filthy looking, the film features James McAvoy as a dirty cop who uses warped methods and has very few scruples about the way he behaves… until all the debauchery starts to catch up with him, and it’s time that he makes a change for the better. As I stated, the film looks to live up to its title and looks pretty insane, but in a good sort of way. I still intend to watch this, and don’t be surprised if this shows up later on in my review of films I saw.
Korengal – 5/30/14
Sebastian Junger’s sequel to his Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo, Korengal returns to the war-torn Korengal Valley with unused footage shot between 2007 and 2008 by Tim Hetherington, who was tragically killed while reporting on the Libyan civil war. The follow-up hasn’t received nearly the same acclaim as its predecessor, but this film takes a more intimate approach with the individual soldiers that were featured previously, managing to make this stand out as a welcome and enlightening companion piece. This is another film that you can stream from Netflix as of this writing, and it’s probably well worth the time.
Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty – 6/05/14 (India)
A Hindi remake of a Tamil language film, Thuppakki, this film follows an officer, Virat, who is actually a secret agent pretending to be on holiday while secretly working to take down a secret, villainous organization, all while wooing his girl with your typical Bollywood musical numbers. The film sounds a bit tone deaf, with the only Rotten Tomatoes recorded review noting Virat will at one moment be cutting off someone’s finger and the next breaking into song. It’s certainly an interesting contrast, but its humor will have to be especially insane for that kind of thing to hold up well, honestly.
The Case Against 8 – 6/06/14
My mind was obviously elsewhere when I saw the title and thought it was something about John and Kate Plus 8. I dunno why. My mind is weird, sometimes. More logically, it’s actually an HBO-produced documentary about the legal battle to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which infamously made same sex marriage illegal in California by legally defining marriage as being solely between one man and one woman. With five years of material going into it, it’s a good thing the documentary was well received, earning the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. If you’re at all interested in these kinds of social issues, whether for or against, it’s probably one documentary to consider.
Romantic films about diseases are weird. I don’t mean romantic in the sense of sexual attraction or anything like that – I mean romantic as in having such an idealized perspective on it to the point where you might even find yourself kind of wishing you were in that situation – whether it be the one afflicted and suffering or the one suffering alongside the afflicted who has the added advantage of taking some kind of life lesson from the afflicted person’s suffering, too. I’m not saying that it’s bad to learn from terrible situations, obviously, but films like Lullaby – in which a young man reunites with his family and old acquaintances, makes new friends, and rekindles a relationship with that one true love at a time when his terminally ill father has announced that he will take himself off life support within 48 hours – have this weird tendency to make it look like you’re doing it wrong if you’re not looking on the bright side of life at least most of the time. I’ve been the one suffering alongside a family member who was sick for a long period of time (which, thankfully, did not result in death) during what was already a particularly hard time for us all, and it’s hardly what’s so often portrayed in these stories. I can accept that they’re fictional and often manipulate these situations to send a message to audiences about the importance of life and all that it contains, though, and sometimes that can be very effective or even – dare I say it? – inspiring, but this is hard to do, and so often films of this ilk come off as condescending, manipulative, romantic drivel, which Lullaby apparently did.
The Signal – 6/13/14
Independent sci-fi films can only be a good thing, as a whole, even if they aren’t necessarily all that good. At the very least, they can inspire new ideas in new directors and serve as stepping stones to something greater, and often their ideas can be fascinating enough for at least a single watch. I’m thinking of films like Europa Report, Upstream Color, and Safety Not Guaranteed, which are hardly your typical action-sci-fi blockbuster romps. The Signal, produced by indie powerhouse Focus Features, is along the same lines as those films, this time with the film being a take on the alien abduction trope, with three college students finding themselves being studied by a group of very likely government-funded scientists after a close encounter with the third kind. There seems to be a romantic subplot between the lead character, Nic, and the girl that came along with him and his buddy, though, and so I can’t be certain that this movie will necessarily shuck all the usual sci-fi tropes. The film was met with mixed reactions, but it looks interesting enough to give a go if there’s not much else interesting you.
Clint Eastwood is generally and justiably considered to be a good director, and he’s even been been nominated for various awards for some of the scores he’s composed for his films, so it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility for him to turn out a solid musical, particularly one that was based on an already acclaimed, Tony Award-winning jukebox musical stage production. Clint’s adaptation was found to have lacked the necessary energy and spark to make this adaptation work in its new format, however, resulting in a film that was praised for its musical numbers and very little else. Ah well. At least Clint made up for it later in the year.
Think Like a Man Too – 6/20/14
Sequel to the 2012 film based on Steve Harvey’s semi-serious advice book on how to keep a man in a relationship with them, Think Like a Man Too has the cast heading out to Las Vegas for a Hangover-style night out on the town, only this time the women are getting involved on the PG-13-level raunchy fun, too, as the title implies. Previews for the film seem to imply that it’s nothing but a string of tired jokes about strippers, the never ending war of the sexes, getting in trouble with the law, and blowup dolls, though. Plus, I never saw the first, and I don’t really care for Kevin Hart all that much – shrill is rarely enjoyable. Pass.
Third Person – 6/20/14
I don’t really know what to make of this film. It looks about as pretentious as people make Paul Haggis’ Oscar-winning film Crash, though I admittedly saw that after the film’s reputation as being overrated garbage had been around for a few years, and I didn’t think Crash was all that terrible once I finally got around to it. Third Person seems to center on one man who is channeling his own issues into his literary characters, whose lives also play out on screen in dramatic fashion. Oddly enough, this movie kind of sounds like a serious version of what would happen if the fantastic Stranger Than Fiction tragically mated with one of those terrible Garry Marshall interconnected ensemble malarkeys I can’t seem to forgive him for. In that context, yeah, I can see why Third Person, was maybe not the best received film of the year.
Yves Saint Laurent – 6/25/14 (France)
Based on the life of the iconic French fashion designer, this French import seemed to strike most critics as being far too focused on the antics of Laurent was known for rather than any real insight into his life and work. A number of biographical films were released in 2014, some of them generating Oscar buzz. I can’t say that this film’s reception nor its subject matter have inspired in me very much interest, myself, I can tell you that there were far better films you could have seen from the past year that met the expectations critics had for this one.
The trailer for this Dinesh D’Souza co-directed documentary reminded me immediately of something that Michael Scott from The Office would have produced if he were to attempt to direct a documentary on the awesomeness of the United States of America, gracefully and naively forgiving her for her many indiscretions on behalf of others just because she’s just so gosh darn awesome in most other regards. Don’t get me wrong – I consider my country to be pretty awesome, even in spite of its faults, too. I just don’t think there’s any good in handwaving its past faults, though, particularly by refusing to investigate how that may have had lasting repercussions later on down the line for all of us, including our mindsets. The documentary, as with most political documentaries, seems to be heavily biased, and the fact that the film was helmed by a man who previously directed a film about how Obama was going to be the end of our great country and was also arrested for illegal funding contributions to a Republican Senator, I’m hardly going to recommend such a film as being a trustworthy source of opinion-changing information.
Director Deng Chao also stars in this comedy as Mei Yuangui, a man who makes his living breaking up with significant others on behalf of his clients. I can’t really figure out how this all plays out, with the trailer featuring a bunch of strange situations in which Mei dresses up in various costumes and engages in outrageous behavior, but apparently the bulk of the film involves him clashing with a girl who puts his unique set of skills to the test. I suppose it could be amusing, and it looks energetic, so I can’t foresee getting bored with it, at the very least.
Ek Villain – 6/27/14 (India)
Calling itself “a love story with no heroes,” Ek Villain (“One Villain”) is a thriller that mixes romance, violence, and mystery when a young woman is murdered, and her husband is the prime suspect and cannot be captured. It wasn’t without its fans nor its detractors, with most citing the film as being, at the very least, pretty stylish. It did well at the box office, too, so it may be worth a go.
Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie – 6/27/14 (UK)
A big screen extension of the BBC sitcom Mrs. Brown’s Boys, the film features Irish matriarch Mrs. Brown (Brendan O’Carroll, who looks fairly convincing in old woman drag on the show but looks a bit more obvious in the film’s trailer) taking on a large company trying to shut down her business and livelihood. Obviously, the tough old lady isn’t to be trifled with, and hilarity and wacky hijinks ensue… or so it would seem. While the clips of the show that I looked up looked like some pretty funny stuff, critics were not impressed with Mrs. Brown’s big screen adventure, which is apparently full of errors and terribly unfunny jokes. Like with many TV shows, sometimes they should just remain TV shows.
Deliver Us From Evil – 7/02/14
Based on the supposedly true stories recounted in the book Beware the Night, by cop-turned-demonologist Ralph Sarchie and journalist Lisa Collier Cool, Deliver Us From Evil is about as good and accurate as most “based on a true story” horror movies in that it’s not at all on either count. Eric Bana stars as Sarchie, who is portrayed as teaming up with a priest during his time as a cop to solve a case that the priest believes to be demonic in nature, with Sarchie going from non-believer to, basically, a paranormal investigator. The movie was helmed by Scott Derrickson, who previously brought us Hellraiser: Inferno, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Sinister, which was the only film of his to get generally positive reviews, something that Deliver Us From Evil can’t claim. While he doesn’t have the best track record, maybe Derrickson can pull a Joe Johnston and make his post-horror Marvel Cinematic Universe contribution, Doctor Strange, a return to good form.
The found footage format makes its way to family movies with Earth to Echo, a film about a group of kids who encounter an alien lifeform and then attempt to help him get home. Yes, this is indeed a modern found footage take on E.T., only this alien at least looks a little more conventionally cute than that movie’s, so if you were kind of skeeved out about the pudgy, long-necked guy, here’s a little guy that’s sure to be more appealing and who also looks like a tiny Transformer. I suppose it could be decent, but given the format, the Disney Channel-esque performances seen in the trailer from its young cast, and the completely derivative nature of the project (something Super 8 did, but to much greater acclaim, not to mention input from the director it was ripping off), not much about Earth to Echo piqued my interest, and I didn’t even get around to renting it at the Redbox.
The Anomaly – 7/04/14 (UK)
Directed, co-produced, co-written, and starring Noel Clarke, Clarke casts himself as a former soldier who is trying to figure out who has captured him and why his consciousness is being transferred across parallel existences every 10 minutes. The film also stars Ian Somerhalder, Alexis Knapp, Brian Cox, and lesser known elder Hemsworth, Luke in supporting roles. While it’s an intriguing premise, the film has been ravaged for being an absolute mess of a vanity project for Clarke, who apparently also really likes to show off his body. I didn’t really need to know all that, though, thanks to the trailer featuring some ear-grating dubstep and terrible-looking action sequences.
And So It Goes – 7/10/14
Michael Douglas is a soon to be retired realtor and all around asshole who finds himself taking care of his estranged son’s daughter and, thanks to her help with that situation, falling for the woman who lives next door (Diane Keaton), despite their largely antagonistic relationship. Quite honestly, this looks like one of the worst movies released last year and joins the long list of bombs Rob Reiner has directed in the last 20 years. It will not be joining my list of worst films later on, though, ‘cause I have absolutely no intention of seeing this at any time.
Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory – 7/18/14
A documentary about what benefits music therapy might have for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, some have cautioned that Alive Inside is mostly a fundraising effort in film format, but that hasn’t necessarily stopped them from praising it as an ultimately moving one, either. Though music therapy is likely never going to be a permanent answer to bringing people back from dementia, the film does point out that its methods definitely improve the quality of life for the person suffering from it, at the very least. It was also note to be a little meandering, making its point early on and then continuing to do so until the very end of its runtime, but, even so, as with the elderly patients in the film, Alive Inside will apparently lighten up your life, too, if only for a moment.
Oh, hey, this… this movie. The one in which an American preacher is framed for murder and the government subsequently unleashes said persecution upon the good Christians of America, unleashing censorship and SWAT teams upon them in the name of national security. Luckily, the preacher, John Luther, does a Harrison Ford and sets out to prove his innocence and how America has lost its way by turning away from Godly values. The movie also features Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, which I guess tells you who the intended audience is. Honestly, I really hate how politicized Christianity has become, and I don’t know whether I could watch this movie without becoming more aggravated than amused by the film’s very apparent deficiencies. It’s available to stream on Netflix right now, if you dare.
Wish I Was Here – 7/18/14
Ten years after the release of Garden State, the existential drama directed by Zach Braff that so many of my high school friends claimed as being the one film that totally got them, comes Braff’s long-awaited follow up, Wish I Was Here. It’s yet another existential drama about how, in the end, despite all our troubles, everything can actually be alright. Just know that you’ll only realize this by being bombarded with so many of those trite platitudes about how awesome you are and how awesome you can be if you just realize it. I couldn’t help but laugh when so many of the friends I made after high school started posting the trailer for this one on their Facebook alongside some of my older friends, discussing their excitement for its release because apparently a ton of people from all over, and not just my class, really did go through that Garden State phase of their life. I didn’t see that movie until after I had already graduated from college, to be honest, which was when I gave myself the gift of Netflix and started exploring all the films I wish I’d seen earlier. I can’t blame them – it was a perfectly fine movie, particularly for a first time director like Braff, who was still best known for his role on Scrubs. (And still is…). The movie had enough fans, apparently, that Wish I Was Here managed to be made thanks to Kickstarter contributions, which is pretty impressive. It ultimately got mixed reviews, but, as with Garden State, I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually.
Pokémon the Movie: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction – 7/19/14
Hey, look… another Pokémon movie. Umm… Did you know that I used to watch the TV series? I’m pretty certain I can still do the Team Rocket motto from memory. Watch: “Prepare for trouble!” “And make it double!” “To protect the world from devastation.” “To unite all peoples within our nation.” “To denounce the evils of truth and love.” “To extend our reach to the stars above.” “Jessie!” “James!” “Team Rocket, blast off at the speed of light!” “Surrender now, or prepare to fight!” “ME-OWTH! That’s right!” Did I do it? Was that correct? Ah well…
When Marnie Was There – 7/19/14 (Japan)
You know what? I’ll cover this for 2015, when this Studio Ghibli film gets its America release…
The legend of the infamously awful E.T. Atari game being buried in a New Mexico desert landfill became far more widespread in 2014 when the cartridges were located and excavated for a documentary funded by Microsoft. Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, another crowdfunded film, is based on that true legend, with the internet personality going on an adventure to unearth not just the original cartridges but also a mystery surrounding its connection to the nearby Roswell UFO sightings and Area 51. There’s also something in there about the release of a sequel and saving his fans from playing the worst game ever, despite their propensity for buying the very games he warns them about. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of director and star James Rolfe’s character, you’ll probably enjoy this film on some level. I never got into him myself, but over the past couple years, I have admittedly grown fond of a few internet personalities myself, so I can’t blame them. It’s an impressive effort, having gotten a small theatrical release, an even bigger VOD release, and even getting famed composer Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to do the score.
The Fluffy Movie – 7/25/14
Like Gabriel Iglesias? Yes? Then go see this. Enjoy.
Hercules – 7/25/14
I already saw another Hercules-centered movie earlier this year, and I debated whether that obligated me into seeing this other Hercules film starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner or if that exempted me from it. Despite Ratner, this was ultimately the better received film of the two, despite the mixed reception. It attempted to ground the demigod character in a more realistic manner, ostensibly showing us the origins of the myth we know now. Mr. The Rock is more than likely to be a lot more charismatic than the mannequin known as Kellen Lutz, as well. I’ll probably still get around to this, but I don’t know when. Perhaps when my own life has inspired a mythical being that people believe to be the son of a god, too? … Hey, I’m not saying that’s a good thing. I’m just saying it could happen.
Kick is another Hindi remake of a Telugu language film, also called Kick, which was made in 2009, remade in 2010 in the Tamil language as Thillalangadi, and then twice in 2014 with this Hindi film and the Kannada language film Super Ranga. All of them are action/romance comedies of sorts, with Kick 2014 breaking domestic box office records, likely helped by the presence of Salman Khan, who is quite popular, if you didn’t know already. It was pretty well received, overall.
Lucy – 7/25/14
I’m not certain how much longer films think that they can continue to use that age old myth about us only using or having access to a small percentage of our brain’s true potential at any given moment, but that old trope really needs to die a quick painful death, as it should have long ago in the first place. That being said, Lucy does look quite slick, and if you can overlook its scientific errors and such, apparently you’ll find quite the entertaining stylish action flick held together by Scarlett Johansson and Luc Besson’s stylish direction. I honestly meant to see this in theatres, particularly given the fact that it stayed there for a particularly long time, but I just… never really got around to it, somehow. Guess I’ll have to rent it.
Dark Mountain – 8/01/14
I actually came across this found footage horror movie while browsing through Amazon Prime’s movie offerings, and there’s a good chance this movie might show up again on the “Worst of” list, as it’s apparently pretty awful. It’s also somewhat local, so, why not?
Get On Up – 8/01/14
It’s musical biopic time again! This time around, we’re talking about the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, played by Chadwick Boseman, who you might remember also played Jackie Robinson just the year prior in the movie 42. The film also features Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Dan Aykroyd, and, at the helm, director Tate Taylor, who previously brought us the unexpectedly massive hit The Help. Get On Up didn’t get nominated for any big awards this year, but that didn’t stop it from being a critical hit, all the same, particularly for Boseman, who is quite a rising star these days thanks to his work in another historical biopic, 42. I was admittedly just not into the idea of seeing a musical biopic when it was around, though I nearly did thanks to my friend’s recommendation alongside the critics’. I’ll definitely rent it.
While it may sound like a throwback to older live action Disney productions, The Strange Little Cat actually centers on a German family and their daily life as the two eldest children come home for a visit. The film progresses as a set of vignettes from their daily life, interacting with and observing one another, with the audience observing them at randomly selected moments of interest from afar. Yes, like a cat. The film is Ramon Zücher’s first as both screenwriter and director, and it won over several critics at the Toronto International Film Festival. Given the intriguing premise and unusually short runtime of 72 minutes, it’s probably worth keeping an eye out for it, even if you’re not really into experimental films.
The Inbetweeners 2 – 8/06/14 (UK)
The stars of the British sitcom return in a sequel that sees them going to the Land Down Under for one final adventure. I admittedly had no idea what the original premise of the original series was beyond having heard of it, and, even then, that may have been because of scant mentions here and there of the US adaptation that aired on MTV for a single season before being cancelled. Apparently it was a series that followed a group of four teenage guys going through their teenage lives and dealing with their teenage issues. Presumably, The Inbetweeners 2 was meant to tie up all the loose ends and show them finally moving on with their post-teenage lives. Given that the movie did fairly well critically, even as a sequel to a film that was based on a TV series, it’s probably essential viewing for fans of the show. For others, they should probably start with at least the first film for some context. Or catch the show, which is streaming on Netflix.
Stand by Me Doraemon – 8/08/14 (Japan)
The robotic cat Doraemon has been around since 1969, and though he’s never really caught on in America, there’s a good chance you’ll probably recognize the time travelling, earless blue cat with the magic pocket anyway. This film is a loose adaptation of the first seven volumes of the manga series, with the series’ human protagonist, Nobita Nobi, being visited by his great-great grandson, Takeshi, and his pet, Doraemon. Takeshi warns Nobita, still just a schoolboy struggling to get good grades, that his future will be disastrous if he doesn’t shape up soon. Doraemon is left behind to help Nobita along, with strict orders not to return to the future unless Nobita succeeds. The film was a massive success in Japan and did or will open in several other countries around the world, including some rather unexpected places like Iraq, Libya, Eritrea, and the Vatican. Strangely enough, the US is not yet among those countries, despite an English dub of the TV series airing on Disney XD.
At this point, there’s really no other reason to watch any of the Step Up movies unless you just want to see some captivating dance sequences, but, for some reason, the films still feel the need to distract from the main attraction by throwing in some kind of story, perhaps not realizing that these films would likely do just as well, if not better, had they just stuck to the dancing. The latest film pretty much stands as the movie equivalent of a greatest hits album, anyway, assembling past cast members to face off against each other in a Las Vegas dance battle. Watch it for the visuals and you’ll probably get your money’s worth.
Let’s Be Cops – 8/13/14
Built on the premise of two dangerously irresponsible guys going to a costume party being mistaken for real cops, Let’s Be Cops actually had the potential to be quite a laugh riot. Sure, it was counting on riding the coattails of 22 Jump Street, but its premise was just different enough to justify its existence. Sadly, it was not meant to be. That it starred New Girl cast members Damon Wayans, Jr. and Jake Johnson just made it all the more sad that this movie absolutely bombed with critics, who criticized the film for being incessantly, obnoxiously juvenile and idiotic. I guess it was to be expected, coming from the director of the Rob Schneider opus The Animal. I probably should’ve looked up the credits for this one before getting my hopes up.
Septic Man – 8/14/14
No doubt inspired by the other gritty eco-vigilante, the Toxic Avenger, Septic Man aimed a little too far to the right when piecing the story together and turned into a too-serious horror thriller about a sewage worker who attempts to expose the criminals responsible for contaminating a small town’s water supply. Captured and imprisoned in a septic tank, he mutates into a hideous, vengeful creature, calling himself the Septic Man. It looks like really corny crap, if you’ll pardon the disgusting pun, but it could’ve easily saved itself if it hadn’t taken itself so seriously. This is the kind of material that could easily become the next cult classic with just the right touch. Like so many things portrayed in the movie, this is a human byproduct that you’ll probably want to avoid touching.
Anjaan – 8/15/14 (India)
I haven’t mentioned this for previous Indian films, but in India, when a film mixes up genres like action, romance, and musicals freely, they are generally referred to as “masala films,” which is derived from the word for a mixture of spices used in Indian dishes. Why do I mention it here instead of earlier? Well, 1) I forgot. And, 2) Anjaan, a primarily action-driven masala film, didn’t really get a good reception in India, so I might as well let you know here instead of backtrack and edit. (It’s late, as I write this…)
Infamously dumping Bruce Willis due to a paycheck dispute over an additional $1 million, the third installment makes up for it by introducing Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Kellan Lutz, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, and… Kelsey Grammer? Yes, Frasier himself joined this action-packed movie as a former mercenary who helps bring the new team together for another ‘splosion-filled action flick. Also of note, the director confirmed that the characters played by Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger are a couple. So… there’s that. Uhhhh… Yup. Apparently they’re making a fourth, and Pierce Brosnan will be joining them. I wonder if they can also talk David Hyde Pierce into joining, too. Hey, it worked spectacularly well for The Simpsons back in the day.
Singham Returns – 8/15/14 (India)
Sequel to the 2011 original, Singham Returns finds the title character being transferred to Mumbai and coming into conflict with a corrupt Hindu saint with connections to powerful politicians. It looks ridiculous, to be honest. The action looks like it’s being manipulated by bad wire work, and the film itself got mixed reception in its home country.
A young, classically-trained cellist falls in love with a badboy rock star before she and her family are involved in a terrible car accident. The only survivor, the girl drifts between planes of existence as her body lies comatose and her spirit wanders around trying to make up its damn mind about whether to… stay… or not. This looks pretty much like the melodramatic fluff that I expected from The Fault in Our Stars, and reviews would seem to confirm that bias of mine. I nearly rented it when it made it to the Redbox, and, hey, it’s possible that it might show up again in a future portion of this list if I happen to get a Redbox code or something, but I guess I felt like I was wasting my money on too many bad movies already, so why watch another teenage romance film I knew I wasn’t going to like?
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – 8/22/14
Several years in the making, with countless rumors about Angelina Jolie’s involvement and speculation about whether Robert Rodriguez was ever finally going to go ahead and make the movie (sometimes to the point of wondering if he actually had already secretly started), and this languid sequel is what we get? Pfff… I remember being blown away by the visuals in the first film, and if this had come out soon afterward, maybe my enthusiasm would’ve motivated me to actually go into the theatre for this, but I never came around and ended up seeing other movies up until the movie left theatres. A rental is not out of the realm of possibility, but it’s definitely not on my list of priorities at the moment, either.
When the Game Stands Tall – 8/22/14
Sports. Sports sports sports sports sports. Sports sports sports. Spoooooooorts! Sports sports? Inspirational speech. SPOOOOORTS! The end.
“Hitchcockian” is a term that’s usually reserved for derivative suspense schlock, but even so, The Two Faces of January is apparently a pretty fantastic film that would have made Hitchcock proud… and I’d never heard of it until today. You think you’re keeping up with things, seeing so many movies and all, and still some slip through the cracks, I guess. The film stars Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as a couple vacationing in Greece who befriend a shady tour guide, played by Oscar Isaac. When a murder is committed at the hotel, however, the three end up on the run together, and tensions rise between them. Based on the 1964 novel by Patricia Highsmith, the film was the directorial debut of screenwriter Hossein Amini (Drive, The Wings of the Dove), who also wrote the film’s screenplay. It sounds like it should’ve been nominated for some pretty major awards, but, having first been released in the US first on VOD before a limited theatrical run, stupid, arbitrary rules likely prevented that from happening. Whatever, though, I might actually rent it, anyway. It looks great!
The November Man – 8/27/14
Based on the Bill Granger novel There Are No Spies, the seventh book in the November Man series, this movie sees Pierce Brosnan teaming back up with his Dante’s Peak director, Roger Donaldson, and also has the former Bond teaming up with the current Bond’s former Bond Girl, Olga Kurylenko, for yet another action flick featuring an aging, smart-talking spy. I know, I know. I’m probably coming off as pretty condescending here. To be completely honest, this doesn’t look as awful as its 35% Rotten Tomatoes score would seem to suggest – it merely looks mediocre, but it could still provide some passable entertainment for when the moment strikes and you’re tired of rewatching all the similar movies that came before it. The film apparently did well enough to warrant a sequel, even, with Brosnan planning on stepping back into the role of ex-CIA agent Peter Devereaux. Might as well give it a chance if it is to become a series.
Ugh. More found footage horror, this one with an archeological spin, as a young, attractive group of people uncover what appears to be the portal to hell underneath Paris. Jump scares, contorted faces, ghostly apparitions from just off camera, creepy children laughing, strange appearances from people and things from their pasts, people being flung around on wirework, occult iconography, and the black camera guy dying early on. That’s what I’m getting from the cliché-ridden trailer for this poorly received flick. Pass. Cool poster, though.
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