2015 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (May – August)
Huh. You know, I think I saw most of the big blockbuster films this summer. So, what else came out? Not a whole lot! I mean, at least not stuff that was promoted fairly well. There look to have been some great indie gems I missed, and then your usual horror film sequels that I skipped. Plenty of international releases that look fantastic, too!
If you didn’t catch it already, be sure to check out the films that came out in January – April 2015 that I missed first!
No big introductions this time. Let’s get going!
Infini – 5/08/15 – 36%
A search and rescue team is transported to the far side of the galaxy in order to rescue the survivor of an outbreak on a mining colony. The method of transport, called “slipstreaming,” has a high rate of malfunction, however, and may result in death or the person’s particles becoming contaminated during the process. Naturally, this is a story about how such a contamination can and will cause havoc for those who are willing to take the risk, and how such a problem may eventually lead to the death of human life as we know it. I think. Reading the synopsis was kind of a headscratcher without getting too many spoilers. It looks like a competent enough sci-fi/horror flick, but apparently I wasn’t alone in finding the plot confounding, as even those who saw it weren’t really able to follow what was still apparently a very familiar-feeling zombie flick. What a shame.
Piku – 5/08/15 – 83%
Juggling her work as an architect and caretaker of her hypochondriac father, Piku finds it hard to live out the rest of her life to its fullest with all her responsibilities. Now her father, Bhashkor, has also blackmailed her into taking him on a road trip to his hometown, Calcutta, necessitating that they hire a cab driver, Rana, who agrees to take them both on what turns out to be more than just a journey from one place to another. It sounds kinda like your typical romantic comedy with quirky characters and such, but the film did well with critics, who liked the cast, which includes Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan. Deepika Padukone in particular has been singled out for her role as the charming Piku, however. The trailer really did look like fun!
Saint Laurent – 5/08/15 – 52%
The following copied from last year’s review, since it only just now got release in the U.S.: Based on the life of the iconic French fashion designer, this French import … wait… Didn’t we do this already!? Yes, this is another biopic about the life of fashion pioneer Yves Saint Laurent, released just months after the previous one, Yves Saint Laurent, which premiered in June [in France]. Saint Laurent doesn’t get an international release until May 2015, granted, but its soft release was already enough for the film to garner similarly mixed reactions from critics, with the biggest complaints are seemingly aimed at the film being overlong at 2 hours 15 minutes and being far less illuminating about its central figure than it should have been. Gee, where have I heard that last one before?…
I’ll See You in My Dreams – 5/15/15 – 92%
Carol, a widow and former singer, is starting to feel old and bored with life, but she realizes that it doesn’t have to be that way. With the help of her three friends, she decides to embrace life anew, befriending her pool maintenance man, reconnecting with her daughter, and finding new romance. While the trailer has a few cute gags (including one where in the quartet of older ladies partake in some marijuana), this actually looks to be like a far more mature comedy than what you normally would expect about an older protagonist trying to embrace life again. Played by Blythe Danner, Carol seems to be allowed to age with grace, class, and dignity rather than become the subject of jokes about conforming to modern youth culture (and recreational drinking and marijuana use is hardly something that developed after Danner’s time). The film was very well received, too, with Danner’s performance being praised. How could I not be interested?
Time Lapse – 5/15/15 – 71%
A trio of friends discovers in their mysteriously disappeared neighbor’s home a special camera that is able to take pictures 24 hours into the future. Naturally, they decide to use it to their advantage and make some money off of it. Unfortunately for them, their streak of good luck catches the eye of a dangerous bookie, and they must then use the device to ensure their survival while also figuring out the whereabouts of their neighbor and how to get out of their current predicament. Honestly, it sounds like fun, and I’ve been meaning to watch this one for quite some time, and it’s been in my Netflix queue for a while. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but don’t be surprised if it shows up on a future list.
Embrace of the Serpent – 5/21/15 (Colombia) – 100%
Set to debut in the U.S. on 2/17/16, this Colombian film (now nominated for an Oscar!) tells the story about the rocky friendship between two foreign scientists and an Amazonian shaman, who is the last of his tribe. It’s hard to sum up from the brief trailer and synopsis, but it looks like the film has quite a bit of action and adventure … which I guess is appropriate, since that’s the genre! … I’ll try to remember this for the U.S. release.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns – 5/22/15 – N/A
This sequel to the 2011 Hindi film Tanu Weds Manu finds the titular couple growing tired of their relationship, deciding to give it one last go when an old friend’s upcoming wedding draws them out from their wedded life in London and back to Delhi, where Tanu makes friends with a new neighbor and encounters a number of her old boyfriends and, eventually, her ex-fiancé, while Manu becomes infatuated with an athlete named Datto, who looks exactly like his wife but acts nothing like her. What does this mean for their relationship? Will the couple make it out of their crisis intact or split to pursue other people? … I really don’t know, as I’ve never seen either film. But this one was apparently a pretty big hit, even critically, with lead actress Kangana Ranaut receiving particular acclaim for her dual role as Tanu and the sportier Datto. Despite no familiarity with the series, I admit I see the appeal in this romantic comedy.
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) – 5/22/15 – 19%
I can’t believe this series made it to three movies, but, then again, I don’t know if I’m the target audience for this unlikely schlock horror trilogy wherein people are sewn together, front-to-rear, in order to … create a human centipede, this time with the goal of creating one 500 people long, purportedly as a means of punishing inmates and deterring criminals through their example. Of course, the prison wardens doing this are pretty corrupt, and I assume the film was made as a sort of commentary about the justice system? This would make sense with the idea purportedly stemming from a joke director Tom Six made about punishing a pedophile by doing the same thing to him at the rear of a “fat truck driver.” I don’t know. I never really had a desire to see these movies, and I can’t believe they were popular enough to make it a whole trilogy.
Entourage – 5/27/15 – 32%
I grew sick of Entourage before even seeing an episode of it, thanks to the show’s popularity in college and all the people in my classes talking about it and asking about whether I’d seen the latest episode and then being shocked that I hadn’t seen any of it. I knew of its reputation, however, and the people who were most adamant about their dismay at my Entourage abstinence were usually the ones who proved the show’s reputation to be true: it was a douchebag show for douchebags. (Not that you’re a douchebag if you genuinely enjoyed it – just if you passive aggressively insulted people for “not getting it.”) Approximately four years after the show ended, however, they apparently felt the need to revive it for the big screen, telling the story about how its lead character, Ari, is now going to take himself from being a breakout star to a breakout director, amongst other side stories. Critics generally disliked the film for being nothing but a weak extended episode of the show and an excuse to roll out a series of random celebrity cameos, plenty of which were already spoiled in the trailer, anyway. I’ll hand it to the movie, though – becoming a movie made me briefly consider seeing if it could show me what all the fuss was about. Briefly.
Heaven Knows What – 5/29/15 – 84%
Autobiographical and only partly fictional, this film is based on the experiences of its star, Arielle Holmes, who, from the age of 12, had been addicted to various drugs ever since. Homeless and only finding work as an unpaid intern, she was discovered and hired by co-director Joshua Safdie to write a memoir of her experiences, and then they set about making this semi-fictional film together based on it, helping Arielle get off the drugs in the end, as well. An intriguing, touching background apparently led to an overall excellent film from the Safdie brothers and the first time star, who also received praise for her portrayal of Harley, her fictional counterpart, and has already reportedly earned herself a second role opposite Shia LeBeouf in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey.
Results – 5/29/15 – 83%
Another film I’ve been somewhat interested in but never really got around to watching it before now. Results is about a very odd love triangle between two high-strung physical fitness trainers, Trevor and Kat, and a miserable, schlubby, but rich divorcee, Danny, who falls hard for Kat, leading to a lot of awkward conversations. Again, it’s an oddly specific twist on a familiar scenario, but apparently that’s what the film has going for it, along with a likable cast that has Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders playing the two fitness freaks and Kevin Corrigan as the unhappy rich guy.
Tu dors Nicole – 5/29/15 – 100%
Stuck in a post-college malaise, Nicole and her friend Véronique spend their summer wandering around their hometown aimlessly, as in their teenage years, not knowing where to go next. (The title does translate to “You’re Sleeping, Nicole”.) When her older brother returns home with his rowdy bandmates in tow, however, Nicole realizes that she’s just bored with her life and decides that she needs to make a change for herself if she’s ever going to get out of this funk. The black and white, French-language film was nominated for six Candian Screen Awards, including three for acting, one for director Stéphane Lafleur, one for Best Original Screenplay, and also Best Picture, and has also gone on to acclaim in the U.S. I’ve already added it to my Netflix queue!
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – 6/03/15 – 88%
Okay, this movie’s trailer had me immediately laughing at its dark, deadpan sense of humor, so, yes, I might watch this, too, before my final lists. The film is a sort of anthology of shorts, with novelty salesmen Sam and Jonathan taking the audience on a journey through small moments in people’s lives that illustrate various universal aspects of what it means to live. It sounds pretentious, I know, but I think that’s really the point. The film is directed by Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson and was brought over by Darren Aronofsky and Alejandro González Iñárritu, so if those names mean anything to you, you might want to check it out. Another added to my Netflix queue.
Insidious: Chapter 3 – 6/05/15 – 60%
The first Insidious was decent enough, though I didn’t find it terribly compelling, so when the sequel was rushed out and got negative reviews, I didn’t even bother. As a result, this third film – a prequel that features a whole new family at its center – basically became anathema to me. I didn’t know the reviews had improved somewhat, but I still really don’t care much to check out the second chapter in order to feel like I’m giving the third its proper dues. At least, not any time soon. Maybe someday…
United Passions – 6/05/15 – 0% (Yes, not N/A, but actual ZERO PERCENT!)
Oh gosh, this movie. I kept meaning to watch it, too, but for completely opposite reasons from other movies I’ve meant to watch but didn’t. Apparently one of the worst movies of the year, this FIFA-commissioned film about their own glorious history that inexplicably features actors like Tim Roth, Sam Neill, and Gérard Depardieu. Despite its subject matter and respectable cast, the film remarkably made only about $900 at the box office its opening weekend in the U.S. and, at most, $200,000 in other territories on a $25 – 32 million budget. Ouch! I’m certain that it made back a bit more just by word of mouth about how horrible it was, and it’s currently streaming on Netflix, which is where I was going to watch it. I’m still determined to watch this movie and add it to my Worst of 2015 list, but I figured I might as well address it now, just in case…
Minions – 6/11/15 – 55%
I don’t necessarily hate the Minions themselves as much as I hate their ad campaign and the obnoxious memes fans have created with these gibberish-speaking sentient crazy pills. I mean, why are they suddenly the unofficial spokesmen for supposedly common sense advice and passive aggressive criticisms delivered in bitchy tones, huh? Geesh… So, yeah, I really couldn’t make myself go to the theatre to see this movie, even though it actually looked somewhat entertaining – more so than the original Despicable Me films, at least, which I didn’t think were awful so much as just bland and obviously designed to market itself to people. This one did, too, but I kinda liked the demented idea of actually returning the franchise to its root idea and have a dark comedy for children, thanks to the premise of these guys seeking out the evilest of villains to work for throughout history. The movie got mixed reviews, but I admit I don’t know how much of that is critics being sick of these guys, too.
Every Last Child – 6/12/15 – 100%
So many good documentaries seemingly came out in 2015. I really need to get better at catching and watching these things. Director Tom Roberts here documents the medical crisis in Pakistan, where polio is once again on the rise, thanks to a widespread distrust of the vaccination process there. To make matters worse, the people who are trying to dispel these beliefs and administer the vaccines that could save the lives of so many people are being targeted with hatred and even death, thanks to a campaign the Taliban had led against vaccines. The film follows those who have suffered from the disease as well as those who have suffered and struggled in their efforts to eradicate it from their country in what should be such an obvious course of action.
Dude Bro Party Massacre III – 6/13/15 – N/A
5 Second Films’ faux low budget, VHS-filmed, ‘80s slasher film parody doesn’t have enough reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to garner a proper score, but it’s worth noting that there are four of them, they are positive, and the film also features cameos from Patton Oswalt, Andrew W.K., and Larry King. The film is basically about what its title says, with a bunch of frat guys having a party and getting massacred in a non-existent horror franchise. It’s currently only available on Blu-Ray or via their website in two forms: the VHS quality original version or the HD “VHS-free” version, which… I dunno – that kind of sounds like it would take the fun out of it, but I guess it’s cool that they have it, if only for illustrating how much aesthetics can make for a more appealing film.
Irrational Man – 6/17/15 – 42%
Woody Allen sticks to what he knows: older, purportedly brilliant, yet troubled men starting up romantic, banter-filled relationships with much more attractive younger women. Here it’s Joaquin Phoenix, playing a professor who changes career paths and moves into a smaller school, causing everyone to take notice of his presence, particularly that of a fellow professor (Parker Posey) and one of his students (Emma Stone), striking up relationships with both of them. Guess which one he prefers! The film was criticized for its familiar self-reflexivity and its overwrought dialogue and philosophizing, but it does have its admirers. Hearing about this after the painfully dull Magic in the Moonlight, though, I’d rather he go back to more original works, as with Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine.
ABCD 2 – 6/19/15 – N/A
Disney’s sequel to this Indian dance film series features a whole new dance crew heading off to Las Vegas for the World Dance Championship. Dance choreography looks to take center stage here, with a few plot threads for the characters, perhaps to justify the film’s existence. It looks to be quite a bit like the Step Up films, and the film looks to have garnered the same types of reviews as that series: Come for the spectacle and pretty much nothing else. It does look cool, and, like many of Disney’s films here in the U.S., the film was also released in Disney 3D, too.
Burying the Ex – 6/19/15 – 26%
A young man, Max, is stuck in a controlling relationship with his girlfriend, Evelyn, but doesn’t know how to call it off and is afraid of what she might do. Luckily for him, he doesn’t have to, as she ends up dying in a freak accident. Free to move on with his life, Max winds up falling for a new girl, Olivia, but not even death keeps Evelyn from interfering with his life when she returns as a zombie, determined to keep Max for herself, even if it means making him one of the undead. Despite the darkly comical premise and director Joe Dante at the helm, the film failed to… come alive? … live up to expectations?… resurrect his career? I dunno. Take your pick!
Advantageous – 6/23/15 – 79%
A woman and her daughter are struggling to survive as an economic and humanitarian crisis looms. The woman is suddenly fired from her job and so resorts to desperate measures with a strange new procedure in order to ensure a brighter future for her daughter. That’s about as much as I have garnered from the trailer, and I fear that reading further into it would result in spoilers, honestly. The film was well received, however, and so I have added it to my Netflix queue.
Everest – 6/23/15 – 73%
I wavered in interest quite a bit with this film, based on the true story of the disaster on Mount Everest in 1996 when a blizzard killed eight people hiking to the summit in just two days, and 12 people total over the entire season, the deadliest until 2014. The film follows two teams determined to make it to the top, when the blizzard strikes and causes things to go haywire. The film has received general praise and admittedly started to grow in its appeal to me, too, but by that time, it had already left theatres, where it was probably best seen. I kinda regret that now…
What Happened, Miss Simone? – 6/24/15 – 81%
Liz Garbus’ Netflix-produced documentary, filmed in cooperation with Nina Simone’s estate and with Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, serving as executive producer, documents the life and influence of famed singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone. To be quite honest, I’d never really been exposed to Simone’s work, at least not consciously, but as soon as this and other films were put into production (including a Zoe Saldana-starring independent biopic that’s still languishing in post), I knew that I’d missed out. This one’s been sitting in my queue for a while on Netflix, and I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
The Princess of France – 6/26/15 – 64%
An Argentinian stage director reuinites with the cast of his pervious production, Love’s Labour’s Lost to do a radio version of the production and finds out that they all want him in some way. The film is apparently a love-it-or-hate it film that’s short on substance, though some might find it “charming.” It’s also really short, at 1 hour 10 minutes.
Hard To Be a God – 6/30/15 – 93%
On the distant planet Arkanar, which is much like our own, but a few centuries behind the times, a group of scientists from Earth lands and attempts to study these people without interfering in their development. However, one of the scientists, Don Rumata, finds himself instead being worshiped as a god who can bring order to the chaos during Arkanar’s brutal Middle Ages. The film is based on the 1964 novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and was directed by Russian filmmaker Aleskei German, who actually died in 2013, having apparently been consumed with the film for several years. Filming began in 2000 and would continue sporadically over time, though German would pass away before it was fully completed. His wife and son took over the reins and finished what little was left to complete, however, premiering it in 2013 to mixed response in Russia, though the film made quite a splash in the U.S. Something to consider!
Faith of Our Fathers – 7/01/15 – 10%
This faith-based, Pure Flix-produced film about the Vietnam War buddies and their sons who happen to meet by chance and also become buddies features a cameo by one of the Duck Dynasty guys. And he tells one of the distraught younger guys that he has jerky so good “you’ll punch your mama.” I … I really don’t know what that means. All I know is that I do have a desire to punch this movie, which I’m fairly certain is a sentiment that makes a bit more sense.
Cartel Land – 7/03/15 – 91%
Given unprecedented access to the drug wars at the U.S./Mexico border, director Matthew Heineman documents the efforts of Mexican vigilante groups to take back their homeland from the drug cartels and American groups that have been set up on the other side to keep it all from spilling over into the U.S. The documentary has few detractors, with most of them pointing out the film doesn’t have much of a point to prove so much as a bunch of footage to hand over, but I’m not particularly concerned about that when it comes to documentaries, personally – sometimes you need something a lot more objective when it’s capturing things as they are, not as the director sees them to be (though there will always be an aspect of that, regardless). The footage looks incredibly unnerving, rather than entertaining, so I’m not certain that was necessarily a factor in making this film, anyway.
Microbe et Gasoil – 7/08/15 (France) – 86%
Directed by Michel Gondry (who directed one of my favorite films ever, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) directs this French language film, which hasn’t yet seen a wide release in the U.S., but nonetheless I included because of the director. Two kids, both bullying victims thanks to their opposite but prominent quirks, decide to team up, build a house on wheels, and runaway from their hometown together, away from the jerks who judge them. The film was a quiet release in France, but it’s probably the best received film he’s had in a while, too, with critics noting that it’s a bit of a mess but still ultimately an entertaining, charming comedy, with the director showing some necessary restraint with his own usual quirks, in case that’s something that would concern you. I’d watch it, either way, for sure.
The Gallows – 7/10/15 – 15%
I could’ve sworn this movie came out a year or two ago, but… well, I guess it was only mid-2015. Or maybe it just seemed like it did and just ended up being that familiar-looking. The Gallows is about a group of high schoolers who are putting on a school play – one that hadn’t been performed in 20 years, thanks to an incident that happened 20 years prior, when a student was killed during the production. Naturally, this triggers a series of violent deaths, possibly by a vengeful spirit or … something. I don’t know. You want to watch panicky teenagers stare into a camera, breathing heavily and sobbing as something picks them all off? The Gallows may be for you.
Self/less – 7/10/15 – 21%
A rich, dying man (Ben Kinglsey) has his mind transferred into the body of a younger man (Ryan Reynolds), hoping it’s just the first stage in his newfound immortality, but soon there’s a battle going on in his new head, as the supposed “empty vessel” he thought he was moving into turns out to be a family man whose family misses him – and he misses them, too, it seems, leading to not only an internal struggle, but an external one, as the company behind the technology tracks him down to keep him quiet. The initial premise of the movie sounds extremely promising, quite honestly, and I could see it leading to some (original) Total Recall-style fun even with the chase scene stuff. The film failed, however, with the biggest complaint being that the action chase portion takes precedent over everything, and it’s not very well done, either. That’s a freaking shame.
Tangerine – 7/10/15 – 96%
Working the streets of Tinseltown on Christmas Eve, Sin-Dee finds out that her pimp and lover is cheating on her from her friend Alexandra and goes on a mission to track him down and confront him about it. That’s the basic premise of this indie comedy, pretty much. Both characters are played by transwomen, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, which is factored into the story, but I’m not certain if that’s really any more of a point than it is just a fact within the story itself as it is in reality. The film has received accolades from critics, including for its lead performance with Rodriguez.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan – 7/17/15 – N/A
Pavan, Indian man from a family of wrestlers, encounters a small Pakistani girl who is mistakenly left behind at a railway station, separated from her mother. Determined to do the right thing and get her back home, Pavan sets out with her on a long journey, one that sees them encountering political opposition and unrest, thanks to the bitter relationship between his and the girl’s native governments. Starring one of India’s biggest stars, Salman Khan, the film has a solid premise, too, though some noted that the film falters into becoming a bit saccharine.
Bin Roye – 7/17/15 – N/A
The Rotten Tomatoes summary on this was a bit of a convoluted mess, but I was able to figure out that this is a tragic love story between an old fashioned, possessive girl, Saba, and her cousin Irtaza, a man who desires to go off to the U.S. and get an education in new and exciting things, and he promises to return to Saba after he’s done with his education – only, he finds an enticing new possibility with Saman, who is a lot more modern, like him, presumably leaving him feel torn between the two. Irtaza, if I may suggest? … Go with the non-possessive girl who isn’t your cousin.
The Look of Silence – 7/17/15 – 96%
A companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer’s previous documentary, The Act of Killing, in which a participant in the genocide of over 1 million people in Indonesia was challenged with recreating his acts as part of a film, The Look of Silence tackles the same atrocity from another side, with a family discovering the identity of one son’s murderers, and their youngest son, born after the events, confronting his brothers’ killers one-on-one. The killers, it turns out, are people who hold a lot of power in their area, and they only live just down the road, having never seen justice for their acts. Seriously disturbing in concept, the film has earned itself several accolades, including an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
Bad Night – 7/21/15 – N/A
A film featuring YouTube stars Jenn McAllister and Lauren Luthringhausen which premiered exclusively on Vimeo on Demand (which is… ironic?), Bad Night is about two high school girls finding themselves caught up in an art heist when they sneak out of their fieldtrip motel room and go for a night out, ordering a ride under pseudonyms that also happen to be the names of two of the thieves. The film features some familiar faces, even if you’re not familiar with the YouTube stars, including Matt Walsh, Molly Ringwald, Casey Wilson, and a few others. This film’s trailer didn’t look especially promising, though. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say that this is for fans of the two YouTubers only.
Baahubali: The Beginning – 7/24/15 – N/A
The first in a two part story about an exiled prince returning home to take on his brother and take back the throne, Baahubali: The Beginning, a Telugu and Tamil language film, was the first south Indian film to earn over ₹100 crore in its Hindi-dubbed version and went on to receive quite a bit of praise, leaving audiences eager to see the 2016 The Conclusion (assuming they’re not going to split it up at the last minute, a la The Hobbit…). The visuals look pretty captivating, though the affinity for slow motion amidst elaborate action looks a bit obnoxious. Just one obvious knock against it, though.
Horse Money – 7/24/15 – 92%
Sequel to Pedro Costa’s previous “docufiction” film, 2006’s Colossal Youth, Horse Money picks back up with its subject, an elderly Portuguese man named Ventura, several years later, finding him in poor health. Pedro Costa here captures both reality and performances of Ventura’s memories, some of which may or may not be true, but are real to Ventura.
Phoenix – 7/24/15 – 98%
A Germna-Jewish woman, Nelly, is brought out of a concentration camp, having survived a disfiguring wound to her face that requires extensive reconstructive surgery, leaving her with an almost completely new face. After the war, she begins to rebuild her life, as well, finding an apartment and a roommate, but she wishes to be reunited with her husband, Johnny, despite being warned that he may have been the one to surrender her to the Nazis. She locates him, and he doesn’t recognize her, but is immediately taken by her and her familiar enough looks and requests that she assist him in claiming his supposedly late wife’s inheritance. Naturally, suspicion builds, and Nelly is stuck deciding between whether she believes her husband to be complicit in her imprisonment or not. This fictional story reportedly borrows a lot from noir cinema, and the lead performance from Nina Hoss as the conflicted Nelly is said to be a highlight. Fans of mysteries and historical drama would likely be right at home with this tense and extremely well-received German thriller.
Smosh: The Movie – 7/24/15 – N/A
YouTube stars Anthony Padilla and Ian Andrew Hecox – collectively known as Smosh, who first made it big all the way back in 2005 with a lipsync video set to the original full length Pokémon TV series theme – make their first movie, appropriately called Smosh: The Movie, wherein the duo has to literally travel into YouTube and locate an embarrassing video before their high school reunion. I’ve personally never paid attention to these guys, but not for any reason in particular – I just… didn’t. I was aware of them, and I knew they were popular, and I knew they existed on YouTube… and that was about it. I also don’t really have much to go on as far as reviews, as there’s currently only one, and it’s from Common Sense Media, so I guess it just wasn’t good for little kids. The New York Times seemed to like it well enough, though, so there’s that. It… could be fun? Fans would probably get the most out of it, as are people who want to see a film directed by Alex Winter of Bill & Ted fame. Non-fans? Uh… rental?
Southpaw – 7/24/15 – 60%
When it comes to competing for audiences’ attention in the dramatic boxing movie category, Southpaw wouldn’t have stood a chance against Creed. Luckily, it released a few months earlier, but I still kinda wonder how many people decided not to see this thinking, “Nah, let’s see something else. We’ll see Creed when it comes out instead,” because I feel like the average movie goer doesn’t really have room in their schedule for multiple films of the same specific ilk like this, unless it’s a superhero film, which are at least more fun compared to these dramas. I didn’t see it for different reasons – it just didn’t look that compelling to me. I like the actors, of course, and, historically, I’ve actually ended up liking boxing movies, even when I have no investment in the actual sport itself. I dunno, though – this just didn’t look like the next Rocky. You know what did though…?
The Vatican Tapes – 7/24/15 – 21%
Did you ever wish The Exorcist was rated PG-13 so your kids could watch it? Did you ever think to yourself while watching it, “Yeah, this is good, but maybe it’s too good?” Then this is the movie for you, dummy!
Utopia – 7/26/15 (Afghanistan) – N/A
Formally selected to represent Afghanistan at the 88th Academy Awards, Utopia was disqualified for the Best Foreign Language Film category, as they had hoped to earn, for featuring too much English within the film itself, despite being a foreign production that is composed of 48 minutes of Dari and Hindi and 37 minutes of English, due to a central character going to the UK and being able to speak English herself. It does seem kind of silly, when you think about it, doesn’t it? Regardless, the film is about three intersecting stories of loneliness, each centered on Janan, a woman who goes to the UK to seek out an invitro fertilization after her husband is wounded in the war and can no longer reproduce. Each of the central figures is seeking out a better place and better life for themselves. Regardless of its Oscar disqualifications, however, Hassan Nazer’s Utopia has earned itself plenty of praise and other awards at various film festivals.
The End of the Tour – 7/31/15 – 91%
Based on the memoir Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky, this film is based upon Lipsky’s five day-spanning interview with author David Foster Wallace in 1996, right at the end of the tour for his latest novel at the time, Infinite Jest. Lipsky’s interviews, however, were never made public, however, until after Wallace’s suicide in 2008, when he assembled the recorded conversations he still had into the memoir. The film casts Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky and Jason Segel as Wallace, both of which have received significant acclaim for their performances here – Segel in particular, who won an Independent Spirit Award – and James Ponsoldt’s film in general has received a lot of acclaim on its own.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl – 8/07/15 – 94%
You wouldn’t expect a film with a title like this would achieve critical acclaim. It sounds like some kind of Disney Channel original film starring a Disney Channel star. I don’t think many of those are about a teenage girl’s sexual awakening after an affair with her mother’s boyfriend, however. The film is based upon the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, which went the unconventional route of combining prose with comic book-like illustrations. The film adaptation similarly goes the unconventional route of combining live action with animation. Like the novel, the film was lauded for its frankness and its amiable characters, particularly Minnie, as portrayed by Bel Powley.
To the Fore – 8/07/15 – N/A
A group of four Chinese cyclists pursue their passion, but a lack of money dissolves their cycling team and results in the four friends being split up on separate teams. Meanwhile, one of the cyclists finds romance, and… something. I dunno. I was having a hard time finding some details about the plot that would get me interested, but apparently the film wasn’t very well received, with critics citing the dull and predictable plot as the primary detractor, and all the summaries can’t really seem to muster the words to instill any excitement, either. Probably best to skip.
Dark Places – 8/08/15 – 26%
Based on the 2009 Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) novel, 2015’s second collaboration between actors Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult sees the two playing detective as they try to unravel the secret behind a massacre – one that left Theron’s character, Libby, an orphan and her brother being charged for the murder of their family thanks to her testimony, alleging he belonged to a satanic cult that encouraged him to do it. Of course, she now believes that he may now actually be innocent, and so she teams up with Lyle Wirth (Hoult), who comes from a secret society called The Kill Club, in order to figure out what truly happened 25 years ago. Critics acknowledged the considerable talent in the cast, which also features Corey Stoll, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Christina Hendricks, but while the revelations are doled out regularly, the film apparently takes so many twists that, by the end, critics were left apathetic about the conclusion. What a shame.
Absolutely Anything – 8/14/15 (UK) – 8%
While Robin Williams’ last onscreen role was also released in the US within 2015 in Boulevard, his last role ever, as a talking dog, has yet to grace U.S. shores. Yup… In this film, Simon Pegg plays schoolteacher Neil Clarke, who is bestowed upon the ability to will into existence the titular absolutely anything he wishes – and if he uses them for good, the earth will be saved, but if he uses it for evil? The earth is destroyed, of course. The film, directed by Terry Jones, also features the voices of other Monty Python alumni as the aliens (their first reunion since The Meaning of Life all the way back in 1983), and it also features Kate Beckinsale and Rob Riggle in supporting roles. Williams plays Neil’s dog, Dennis, who speaks with a weird accent and is obsessed with treats and shagging – because of course he is. The film has a fun enough premise, and with the right execution could’ve been pretty hilarious, but instead it looks like a really awful knock off of Bruce Almighty, despite Terry Jones claiming the script had been lying around in various forms for a couple decades, and even had some input from the late Douglas Adams. Never the less, critics were not impressed at all, likely from a case of over tinkering. It seems to me like a lot of scripts that flounder around like that and are constantly revised by their creators to the point of being overdone. What a shame, all things considered.
Amnesiac – 8/14/15 – 25%
This movie features characters with the descriptive names Man, Woman, Detective, Postman, Doctor, and… Audrey. I guess that’s for artistic reasons. The film is about a man who wakes up from a car accident with amnesia and who is being taken care of by a woman who claims to be his wife, though he begins to suspect she’s not who she claims to be – because then we wouldn’t have a movie. A daughter is also involved, and I suspect he begins to wonder where she is, only the woman won’t be cooperative. The trailer also shows her using a saw with blood all over her face as a girl screams. Bodies are also found in closets, thanks to nosey cats drawing the man’s attention. “Guess the cat’s out of the bag!” – is something I kinda hope she says when she catches him. This movie looks a bit desperate, to be honest, and the cast isn’t that exciting, either, with Kate Bosworth as the soft-spoken lunatic and Wes Bentley as the amnesiac man. Not that I don’t doubt those two couldn’t put on a good performance, I’ll grant, but it’s not even like one of those things you watch because you’re like, “Hey, I know them!” Instead, it’s like, “Oh, hey, it’s them. … What else is there to watch?”
Go Away Mr. Tumor – 8/14/15 – N/A
Based on the Chinese webcomic by Xiong Dun, this film recounts her feelings of determination to not conform to the usual stereotypes of being a woman and a cancer sufferer. Xiong Dun sadly passed away in 2012, but her quirky work, which addressed her fears and anxieties in a more lighthearted form, became a sensation and is now a very well received film, even going on to become China’s official entry to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. It wasn’t selected, but that shows how much confidence there was in the film, all the same. It certainly looks pretty fun, at the very least!
Return to Sender – 8/14/15 – 13%
Rosamund Pike plays a nurse and cakemaker who is brutally raped while in her home. Unable to overcome her trauma after the attack, even after her attacker is jailed, she begins a relationship with her attacker, William, in the hopes of getting some closure. When he’s paroled, however, she sees the perfect opportunity to use their relationship to her advantage and get revenge. How… exploitative. I have no idea when the film went into production for Pike to have joined the production, but it must’ve been before her Oscar nomination was announced, ‘cause I question why she would need to slum it in this trashy looking flick. Then again, Oscars are not a guarantee of plenty of work. Just ask fellow nominee and costar Nick Nolte.
Mistress America – 8/14/15 – 82%
Director/producer/screenwriter Noah Baumbach’s second film of the year didn’t get nearly the attention that was granted While We’re Young, but fans of previous collaborations with fellow screenwriter and star of the film Greta Gerwig will recognize the potential for this comparatively under-the-radar film about a college freshman named Tracy (Lola Kirke) moving in with her soon-to-be older stepsister Brooke (Gerwig) and is taken by all of Brooke’s various antics. Yes, it’s probably a very explicitly hipster movie on the surface, but, again, as with their previous collaborations, if you look past that, you might be able to see the appeal in this film, which managed to entertain plenty of critics.
Ten Thousand Saints – 8/14/15 – 55%
A teenage boy, Jude, and his dad, Les, in the midst of reconnecting with one another, take in a girl named Eliza, who is the pregnant teenage girlfriend of Jude’s best friend, who has died from a drug overdose. Jude, who has secret feelings toward Eliza falls in with a group of guys who are really into hardcore music, and he still struggles to reconnect with his father, who has a new woman in his life, Diane. Based on Eleanor Henderson’s book of the same name, the film has gotten mixed reviews, but it looks like it has some solid performances from a very likable cast that includes Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Ethan Hawke, and Emily Mortimer. Perhaps worth a watch.
Hitman: Agent 47 – 8/21/15 – 9%
Rebooted after a single disastrous film all the way back in 2007, the video game series gets another film adaptation and botches it this time around, as well. Agent 47, as his only identifier suggests, is the 47th in a series of increasingly more deadly genetically engineered assassins, but there is an mega-corporation who is interested in making that no longer the case, which naturally means that he will be facing a lot of people out to get him that he must kill in the most stylistically absurd ways possible and assure his place at the top of the awesomeness scale while uncovering some shocking details about his past. I can’t help but picture some kind of grotesque lab of mutated Rupert Friend clones, one of which is barely surviving and begging to be put out of his misery by his more perfect counterpart, Alien Resurrection style, but I can’t imagine that this film is even that interesting.
Sinister 2 – 8/21/15 – 14%
Jump scares happen and children do creepy things in this sequel to the 2012 flick about a boogeyman parallel named Bagul, whose name sounds like a dish an Italian mobster would order and whose design looks like the lead singer to some death metal band. I didn’t see the original film, which does have a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so that’s something. This one has a 14%, though, so… I don’t even know if fans of the first need apply.
We Are Your Friends – 8/21/15 – 41%
A young DJ named Cole from the San Fernando Valley has been working with his friends on mixing the one track that will make them all big stars, but when he meets James, an older DJ who takes him under his wing, Cole finds himself at a crossroads that has him choosing between his friends, his passion, and his newfound love with Sophie – who also happens to be his new mentor’s girlfriend. I saw the previews for this presumptively titled movie constantly over the summer of 2015, which only intensified my disdain towards this superficial looking film more and more. The film was not well received by critics, and few people saw it, as the film became, for a short while, the fourth worst film debut for a film released on 2000+ screens with an average of $758 per theatre (later to be surpassed by fellow 2015 underperformers Rock the Kasbah and Jem and the Holograms). The film, for me, has nothing going for it, and I’d honestly much rather watch either of the two films that surpassed it, since at least those have the novelty factor of either Bill Murray or being a terrible adaptation of a 1980s cartoon that nobody asked for. This one just has Zac Efron as another pretty boy who gets all the girls and must decide which awesome destiny he has in store for him while playing obnoxious music. Yeesh.
Queen of Earth – 8/26/15 – 91%
Okay, this film has my attention. The trailer has this hilariously deadpan, gravel-voiced expositional voiceover that reminds me of the silly trailers for psychological thrillers that preceded a lot of movies my family had on VHS back in the 90s. The film, directed by Alex Ross Perry, is about Catherine, a woman who is going through a psychological meltdown after her famous artist father passes away and she is dumped by her boyfriend, James. Her friend Virginia offers to let Catherine stay at her vacation lake house to get some much needed rest, but Catherine finds it hard to adjust, as it only brings back memories of her time spent there with James. Virginia then comes to join her, sparking a relationship with a man named Rich while there, and thus neglecting Catherine, setting her further on her downward spiral into madness. Elisabeth Moss looks completely unhinged here, and seemingly taps into a dark sort of comical madness that I’m sure will draw the line between funny and disturbing all at once. Consider me interested.
A War – 8/27/15 (Denmark) – 90%
Recently nominated for Best Foreign Langauge Film, this Danish film (known as Krigen in its native coutnry), A War is about a Danish army commander, Claus M. Pedersen, who is stationed in Afghanistan with a wife and three kids back home. During a routine checkup mission, however, Pedersen and his men are caught in Taliban crossfire, and he makes a decision that results in his survival but has severe consequences for everyone involved – his men, the civilians also caught in the action, and his family. It’s not often that you see a film about a conflict that the U.S. is involved in from the perspective of an ally, and A War looks to be a beautifully introspective film about the difficult decisions made in the heat of war.
The Second Mother – 8/28/15 – 96%
Val has spent 13 years as the nanny and maid to rich family in São Paulo in order to help support her daughter, Jéssica, who had to be left with relatives so that her mother can provide a better life for her. After having not seen her for 10 years, Jéssica wants to apply for college and be closer to her mother, who hardly recognizes her on arrival. Jéssica moves in with her mother in her small room in the mansion and is immediately put off by the rules that she finds her mother observing under the family’s employ, including a strict no access rule regarding the pool. Her defiance sets off the balance of power that has been in place for the past 13 years, with a horrified Val caught in the middle. That’s a pretty great premise for a comedy, and critics who saw it pretty much all agreed.
Muhammad: The Messenger of God – 8/29/15 (Iran) – N/A
I included this Iranian film because of its controversial nature, attempting to tell the early life of Muhammad without actually depicting the prophet’s face on screen, which is forbidden by most Muslim beliefs. This didn’t stop criticism of the film, however, due to it still having some portions of the man on screen, including from various angles that merely obscured his face, leading to several leaders and organizations to denounce the film and call for its ban, leading to the once acclaimed director also being derided for his film. Nevertheless, there are plans to expand into a trilogy, depicting Muhammad’s teenage years into his 40s and then from his 40s until he becomes the Prophet of Islam. As a film, it was met with mixed response, with some calling it beautiful in both intent and form, and others calling it a little overwrought in its production and unusually amateurish for a film director who directed the first Iranian film to ever be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar back in 1998, Children of Heaven.