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2015 IN REVIEW: The Fifth Annual One of These Things

January 4, 2016 1 comment

Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens - Starkiller Base Engages

2015 is over. Can you believe it? For me, this was probably the most looked forward to year in movies since 2012, when The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises premiered. In fact, 2015 was in a lot of ways exactly like 2012 and had a lot of follow-ups to major films of 2012 – an Avengers film, a new James Bond film, a Hunger Games film, a new Quentin Tarantino film, a prestige Steven Spielberg historical drama, a new David O. Russell film featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro, a new film about Alfred Hitchcock, an Aardman Animation film, a new Pixar film featuring female leads… Yup, pretty much a repeat of 2012, only 2015 featured even more familiar cash-ins than even then, with even more familiar brands making their return to the silver screen: Mad Max, the Terminator, Jurassic Park, Rocky, The Transporter, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Vacation, Taken, the Fantastic Four… Oh, and Star Wars. Can’t forget that one!

Vacation (2015) - Christina Applegate, Steele Stebbins, Skyler Gisondo, Ed Helms

But a lot of other films did come out this year beyond just major franchises and major brand releases. I can’t say that I saw everything that was released this year, of course, and I do have to make a confession about my film viewing habits this year, too: I saw far more of those major releases over the minor ones than I had actually intended. Oops. I feel like a bad critic, particularly since I am pretty much about to break another record for number of movies I have seen for a single year. (I count Redbox and streaming services and also post-New Year’s views, too, so long as they’re before I complete the year in review, just to let you know.) I had a rather personally tumultuous year, you see, and so I do believe this resulted in me not exactly engaging my brain nearly as much as I wish I had, and so I feel like I got a little lazy in seeking out the particularly great but overlooked films that were released throughout the year. I might very well break my streak of seeing every Best Picture Oscar-nominated film in a year, in fact, which I have managed to maintain since I first did it for 2012. — Hey, look! Another 2012 parallel!

Room - Jacob Tremblay, Brie Larson

As a result, I am going to do things somewhat different this year for my year in review, but only slightly.

The major change: I am no longer covering films that were released solely in foreign markets. You see, when I first decided to start doing these year in reviews, I intended for the reviews of film I missed to reflect what was going on in the world of cinema outside the United States, too. I had good intentions, and the list of films supplied by Wikipedia was pretty extensive, particularly for Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu language films releasing out of India, and I mostly had a lot of fun finding out what was making waves in foreign box offices. However, the process of researching these films was exceedingly exhausting, as trailers were rarely in English, and so I had to seek out synopses for these films before I could even provide any sort of commentary on them. Sometimes this resulted in pure ambivalence that I feared could be misconstrued as condescension. I just don’t think I have the energy this year to do it, and I’d really like to make 2015 the year that I get the year in review completed at least by the end of January again, and so I had to sacrifice researching films I really had no chance of seeing in the first place. Foreign films won’t be completely absent, of course, as I’m still including particularly significant or interesting films that I curated while doing preliminary research, as well as foreign films that at least had limited theatrical releases here in America. So, yeah, I’m not being xenophobic, you see! It just made the most sense to lighten my workload in this area of all areas.

Timbuktu - cast

The minor change isn’t really an alteration of my process as much as it is an alteration of the changing way in which we watch movies. Yes, since this was the year in which Netflix decided to start releasing original films, I am now also including significant films that debuted on streaming media services from here on out, as well. (Many of them also saw limited theatrical releases, anyway, so I’m not sure how much this counts as a real change, like I said.)

Also, this year, I will actually continue to separate my Best of the Year list (or whatever I end up calling it) by genre, as I did the year before, since I find it unfair to judge the excellence of a side-splitting comedy against the excellence of a tear-inducing art house drama and declare one the victor when they set out to do completely different things and may have equally excelled at those goals, different though they may have been. I am still going to rank the Worst of the Year list by level of craptitude, however, ’cause I have no problems ranking my level of gut level disdain for each individual film!

The Ridiculous 6 - Taylor Lautner

That’s really about it, otherwise! I will continue to breakdown these lists into multiple posts, starting with a 3-part review of the films I managed to miss, a review of the middle ground films I saw and didn’t feel especially strong in either direction towards, a review of the most terrible films I saw from the year, and concluding with my favorites (’cause, again, I sometimes still really like fluff entertainment that has flaws as much as I like an expertly rendered cry! I’m dynamic like that). As per usual, here is the schedule:

Christmas (and Other Associated Holidays) Movie Month 2015

December 1, 2015 Leave a comment

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Christmas Tree

Good grief, it’s Christmastime again, isn’t it? Geez, the year flew by! Alrighty then…

So… I will keep this introductory post brief, as I have already done this sort of thing four times previously, and I feel like any further explanation will be extraneous, and… yeah, you get the concept of a theme month, right? Right!

If you don’t know, I love the Christmas season, and so every year, I dedicate a majority of the month of December to reviewing Christmas movies. By this point, as I’ve pointed out before, I’ve reviewed most of the ones I love the most, quite honestly, and so there is a slight possibility of me being a bit of a Scrooge — or a Grinch, if you will. Then again, I’ve also discovered some really enjoyable films in the past, too — Joyeux Noël and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale come to mind — so I’m not ruling anything out. I probably also maybe forgot a few more iconic films I’ve thought about in the past, even, so, yeah… Who knows?

I might also throw in a few other movies (and possibly even some non-movies) that are appropriate for this time of year, such as when I reviewed the only Hanukkah-appropriate movie almost anyone can ever think of, Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights or some New Year’s movies. As with this year’s Halloween Movie Month, I really have no firm plans this year, quite honestly, apart from one exception…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Millennium Falcon vs. Tie Fighters

Yeah, I’m pretty much guaranteeing that I will be reviewing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, regardless of whether it’s actually a Christmas movie itself. Hey, we can all pretend it’s a gift to the masses if that makes you feel better!

The Star Wars Holiday Special - Lumpy

So… yeah, it’s Christmastime, so get in the holiday spirit and, if you have trouble waiting for the next review, go ahead and peruse the films I’ve reviewed in the past below!

 

Bad SantaArthur Christmas

Bad Santa (Director’s Cut)

Batman Returns

Disney’s A Christmas Carol (Part 1, Part 2)

A Christmas Story

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Die Hard

Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights

Elf

The Family Stone

Home AloneHappy Christmas

Home Alone

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Home Alone 3

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

It’s a Wonderful Life

Jingle All the Way

Joyeux Noël

Love Actually

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas

Miracle on 34th StreetMeet Me in St. Louis

Miracle on 34th Street

The Muppet Christmas Carol (Part 1, Part 2)

The Nativity Story

New Year’s Eve

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Polar Express

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rise of the Guardians

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Kirk Cameron's Saving ChristmasKirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

Scrooged (Part 1, Part 2)

Tokyo Godfathers

White Christmas

 

UPDATE: To Boldly Go…

Star Trek - warp

Just a small update for now. I’m not certain how many of you out there reading read regularly, but I’m still doing this just ’cause, for myself.

I’m currently working on something a bit more challenging than just a mere review, as I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, but for some reason have been held back by a number of things, most of them personal. I really want to write this, however, and it’s somewhat of a personal writing that will shed some light on why I love the film medium so much. Basically, it’s going to be sort of a mission statement, but in the form of a personal, semi-biographical perspective.

I am also planning on tackling more diverse films, not just to grow myself, but hopefully to help anyone out there who is reading to grow, as well, which was my original intention with this blog, beyond just keeping up a writing hobby. I’ll have more details of what kind of idea I have in that article, but, for now, I just wanted to get this little teaser out of the way, as well as just motivate myself to get it done by making this announcement. I’m excited to share it, and I’m excited for some changes I’m going to hopefully have the willpower to enact on this blog — even if only for myself.

Categories: Update Tags: ,

2014 IN REVIEW: It’s The Viewer’s Commentary’s Fourth Annual Year in Review!

January 6, 2015 1 comment

Guardians of the Galaxy - Awesome Mix Vol. 1

It’s January! That means that we’re all looking forward to a year of new movies while looking back on the year past and nitpicking all the stupid things that we think Hollywood should avoid in the future while totally ignoring the fact that they’re all really going to just keep doing the same stuff over and over again.

And that really was the general consensus regarding 2014, from what I can tell. While 2014 had plenty of films we hoped were going to be good, there weren’t very many movies that we could look forward to with certainty of their excellence, either. Examples:

  • There was a freaking movie based on LEGO blocks…
  • Marvel was hedging their bets on two of their most ambitious films yet. The first was a sequel that completely changed up the series’ tone from the retro sci-fi cheerfulness of its predecessor to a more serious, pessimistic, and shockingly violent espionage flick, despite it being helmed by a duo who were heretofore better known for working in TV comedy and directing You, Me, and Dupree. The second was a film set at a far point in the galaxy with all sorts of weirdness going on, including a talking raccoon and a tree with an extremely limited vocabulary in two of the lead roles.Divergent - Shailene Woodley
  • Hunger Games fever was seeing its first major me-too film adaptations in The Giver, The Maze Runner, and Divergent while the actual Hunger Games film series continued with the first part of the cash-grabby, two-part Mockingjay adaptation. What’s next? Hobbit knock offs?
  • Disney was following up their smash hit, Frozen, with their first ever Disney-branded Marvel adaptation in Big Hero 6, which took serious liberties with the X-Men-related comic book source material, including moving the story from modern day Tokyo to the far future hybrid city of San Fransokyo.
  • No Pixar film, while DreamWorks was churning out an update to a classic cartoon in Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a sequel to How to Train Your Dragon, and a spinoff of Madagascar starring the Penguins of Madagascar… titled Penguins of Madagascar.
  • Teenage romance films in the same vein as the seemingly never ending Nicholas Sparks adaptations, one of which was a remake of a crappy 1980s teenage romance film, one involving a girl on the brink of death while roaming around in a ghostlike form, and, perhaps the most egregious sounding of the three, an adaptation of a novel about two kids with cancer who happen to also fall in love.

The Fault in Our Stars - Ansel Elgort, Sam Trammell (foreground)

  • More reboots:
    • Godzilla. Another one. Made by Americans.
    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, courtesy of producer Michael Bay, who was meanwhile continuing his Transformers series with a reboot of sorts, too.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past, which actually managed to make erasing the previous series of films from the new timeline a part of the storyline.
    • Veronica Mars, which was a crowsource-funded restart of a cancelled TV series.
    • Left Behind, which also managed to shove in freaking Nicolas Cage in there in one of his most baffling roles of his career. Speaking of which…
  • Christian films reached both an all time high for popularity, at least as far as theatrical release goes, and a nadir for quality, the most offensive being the latest Kirk Cameron atrocity.

Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas - Kirk Cameron's dancing...

Yeah, 2014 looked like it was going to be a pretty bland year, even if you weren’t into the serious dramas and independent film scene, which… I honestly don’t keep up with nearly as much as I probably should when it comes to pre-release buzz.  I can’t imagine that there are that many who do beyond actual paid professional critics, of which I am tragically not.

In the end, it was indeed a pretty off year for films, but I’m actually not so sure that’s a bad thing. While there were plenty of terrible movies, most of those were easy to spot from a mile away, and many of those uncertain major films actually managed to prove themselves to be a non-issue, while some of them actually turned out to be pretty fantastic, in fact! Yet more unexpected gems also emerged from the darkness to surprise everyone with how good they were… or, at the very least, they surprised me. Looking back, 2014 was a year that the expected gave way to the unexpected — and it was refreshing and satisfying.

Godzilla (2014) - It's coming...

On a personal level, 2014 was also pretty great for my film habit, by the way. I managed to buy myself a surround sound system finally thanks to a nice Christmas bonus. (Yay for being freaked out about whether the neighbors will complain!) It was the first year in which I rented a film that was also still playing in theatres — some of them either not available in my area and some just because I was a lazy bum who didn’t want to make the trip. I don’t anticipate me doing this for every release in the future, though, as I still love going to the theatre, and the prices for these films are pretty much comparable despite my TV and sound system not matching that of a theatre, but for things like documentaries or limited releases that are playing just too far away from my apartment, it’s proven to be a pretty convenient medium — particularly when I managed to get some free Vudu rental credit.

Life Itself - Roger Ebert

Consequently, this was also the year that I broke a personal record for the number of films I saw before the year’s end: a whopping 104, either through theatrical release or rental. By comparison, in 2011, the year I started blogging, I’d only seen 32 from that year in total, with some spillover into 2012 for the viewing time frame. With the added incentive of blogging from the very start, 2012 saw an increase to 58 by the time I posted my last year in review entry. 2013 again saw an increase to 68, meaning my 2014 viewing habits increased by nearly 53% from the previous year — and I’m not done yet, as there are still some films I want to see that I’ll likely watch before I complete this review series. I don’t know whether I should be proud or not… but  I choose to be proud. I’ve already told my friends and family, anyway, and it still didn’t inspire them to stage an intervention, so I think I’m good.

So, yeah, I’m actually pretty excited to talk about the films of 2014. I anticipate that it’s going to be interesting and pretty different compared to past years. As always, I’m going to roll this out in stages, first with three entries discussing the films I didn’t see, then an entry discussing just the middle ground films I saw, an entry on the worst films I saw, and, finally, my favorite films from the year. (I say “favorite” because, while they’re all good, in my opinion, I do not rank them in order of excellence but rather personal favor. The “worst” list works pretty much the same way, pretty much, but in the reverse.)

The LEGO Movie - Batman and Benny

For a rough schedule, here’s how I anticipate it working out, though it’s subject to change if I need to space it out (I will have seen over 104 films, after all, and I might choose to break up the middle ground film entry just due to numbers):

The Fourth Annual Christmas Movie Month!

November 30, 2014 Leave a comment

MST3K Christmas with Joel

It’s that time of year again: Christmastime! And, for the fourth time, we here at The Viewer’s Commentary will celebrate in traditional fashion by reviewing nothing but season-appropriate films until 12/25. (And by “we,” I of course mean “me,” since I’m the only one who writes for the site….)

I might get in a theatrical release, if the urge strikes me so (I’ve been meaning to write a review of the fantastic Interstellar, so that might pop up), but, for the most part, I’ll be expending what energy I might have into writing about Christmas movies — though I do also keep putting off a review of a Hanukkah film, too, but can you really blame me when the only major one anyone seems to have made is Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights? Seriously, someone make a respectable Hanukkah film! Or at least point one out to me if there has been one and everyone just chooses to ignore it or something!

Then again, I’m probably going to be reviewing a lot of stinkers this month. I’ve burned through my favorites already and found a few new ones I love, but, really, of the films I’ve seen so far in preparation for this, most of them have been pretty awful. I’m talking equal to or even worse than A Madea Christmas awful. One of them, currently out in theatres and featuring a certain Growing Pains star, shouldn’t even qualify as a film since anyone who sits through it should be entitled to some kind of justice and compensation.

Ah well. Since this is the fourth time I’ve done this, that means that there’s been three previous months dedicated to the Christmas season. Luckily, for you, I’ve got them all listed below, with a bonus New Year’s appropriate film for you to ignore because, like Eight Crazy Nights, it’s just… horrible. Trust me.

MST3K Christmas with Mike

Update! You know, not that anyone was really worried…

September 23, 2014 1 comment

So, I’ve been meaning to write more, but something suddenly came up. Along with the work related stuff, I’ve made a sudden, new addition to my life’s obligations in the form of… a new kitten!

wpid-wp-1411538558914.jpeg

D’aaaaaww!

I know! And his name is Marty McFly!

He's got the red hair of the Eric Stoltz version and the tiny size of the Michael J. Fox one!

He’s got the red hair of the original Eric Stoltz version and the tiny size of the Michael J. Fox one!

 

Now I have a cat named after my older (but still enduring) passion of video games with Zelda and my newer and primary passion, film! I got him pretty unexpectedly but not exactly by accident, either. Was looking for a new friend for Zelda after my other cat, Kairi, passed away in April, and this little guy just stood out. (And, yes, Kairi’s name was from Kingdom Hearts, which, come to think of it, was a merging of film and video games!)

And, on that note, while I spent the better part of the last week and a half ensuring my cats were not going to kill each other and destroy my place in the process and such, I’m ready to start writing again and still totally intending to publish my Tron: Legacy review this week before starting up the Fourth Annual Halloween Movie Month next week! I’m also hoping to get in a review of a crucial Batman film I have yet to review in celebration of the character’s 75th anniversary, but whether or not I’ll have the time before October is up in the air. It’ll come, though…

Anyway, that’s what’s happening. Looking forward to writing with some peace of mind now that my cats are getting along!

wpid-wp-1411539304229.jpeg

D’AAAAAAAAWW!

So tired….

July 18, 2014 Leave a comment

 

asleep

Yeah, I’m taking a break this week. Was so busy and stressed out this week, I don’t even have the attention span! Need a vacation. Gotta rest up to go see Boyhood in the morning, then probably Life Itself!

I’ll be back next week, for sure, though. Until then, go see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes! It’s fantastic!

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

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