Showing posts from January, 2015

Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Making lists is always fun, but putting together this list every year may take the cake.  The anticipation and hope for wonderful things to come is exciting.  It also makes for a fun list to revisit in the future.  Looking back at some of my previous 'Most Anticipated' entries, I have to wonder now 'what the hell was I thinking?'.  Of course there are also many examples of films that didn't just land on this list, but also found themselves on my year end 'Best of' list as well.

This list is compiled from what has already been released to the public.  No doubt there will end up being films that deserved to be on this list that we will learn about in the coming months.  So let's get to it, the films that I'm looking forward to the most this year are:

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):Ant-Man, Furious 7, In the Heart of the SeaMad Max: Fury RoadThe MartianMinions, Red ArmyThe Revenant, TomorrowlandThe Walk

11) Daredevil (April 10) - No…

Timmmaaaaay's Top 10 of 2014

I've had a bit of a delay in compiling my annual Top 10 list this year as I wanted to be sure to see a handful of films that were released to theaters during these first weeks of 2015 or that I was finally able to rent because I had missed them previously.  Now that I've had that chance and I've worked through my back log of reviews to get written and posted, it is time for a little fun.  A couple of quick points before we get started:
The list is pulled only from the movies released in 2014 that I actually saw (a second list comprised of the films from 2014 that I would still like to see appears after my Top 10).These are the films that I enjoyed or appreciated the most when I saw them, not necessarily the best based on their award winning potential (although that may be a happy coincidence in some cases).All of these films have had a full review posted here on the blog. If you have more interest in a particular film, click on the movie title and follow the link to my pre…

Review - The Babadook

The Babadook (2014), NR, 93 minutes - I've never been a big fan of the horror genre, but despite that, it seems that in each of the last few years, there have been one or two films from the genre that I end up really appreciating. Two years ago it was Cabin in the Woods, in 2013 it was Mama, and it's looking like The Babadook will be that film for 2014.

The Babadook is an Australian film written and directed by Jennifer Kent about a single mother named Amelia (Essie Davis) who is trying to cope with her son Samuel's (Noah Wiseman) basic childhood fear of monsters. Each night, she checks all of the usual monster haunts to show him there are no monsters lurking about.  Then one night she reads him a bed time story from a mysterious pop-up book that he finds on his bookshelf called Mister Babadook.  His fear and paranoia increase dramatically and he begins acting out not only in school but in other social settings with other children such as his cousin's birthday party. …

Review - Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 (2014), PG, 102 minutes - Big Hero 6 is the latest film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and is based on the Marvel property of the same name created by Man of Action in the late '90's. It marks the first Disney animated film to feature Marvel characters since it acquired the comic/film company back in 2009.

Hiro Hamada is a young robotics genius who has taken up entering and betting on underground robot fights because he is bored by the usual activities of a fourteen year old kid. In an effort to push Hiro in a more productive direction, his older brother Tadashi convinces him to apply to his university where he is a student in the robotics department. In order to gain admission, Hiro must enter the robotics exhibition, from which only the most impressive inventors are accepted into Professor Callaghan's program. Hiro's microbot presentation earns rave reviews and he is accepted. As Hiro, Tadashi, and their friends Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred…

Review - Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice (2014), R, 148 minutes - I'm not familiar with Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same that is the basis for this film, but the trailer caught my eye with its kooky 'who done it?' feel, 1970's setting, and expansive cast led by Joaquin Phoenix.

At the urging of his ex, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), private investigator Larry 'Doc' Sportello (Phoenix) decides to look into the disappearance of real estate mogul Michael Wolfman (Eric Roberts). She was concerned about her lover's safety after having been asked by Wolfman's wife and her lover to join a plot to disappear him and split his enormous wealth. The plot only gets more convoluted from there, but pulls in Los Angeles Lt. Det. Christian F. 'Bigfoot' Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), a drug cartel known as the Golden Fang, the Aryan Brotherhood, and an undercover police informant (Owen Wilson's Coy Harlingen), among other things. Basically, along each step of his investi…

Review - Selma

Selma (2014), PG-13, 128 minutes - There are certain historical figures that society almost demands a certain level of quality from the finished product when a film is being made about their lives (or a portion thereof). Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of those figures, and Selma lives up to those lofty expectations.

Selma retells the story of the struggle for equal voting rights for African Americans in Alabama in 1965, specifically the organization of a non-violent march between Selma and the capital of Montgomery led by Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo). A law had previously been passed granting African Americans the right to vote, unfortunately, there was no legislation keeping local governments from blocking that right to vote for any number of completely arbitrary reasons. One such reason portrayed in the film was an African American woman trying to register to vote. She had completed all of the necessary paperwork, but when she submitted it, she was asked how many distr…

Rental Review - Boyhood

Boyhood (2014), R, 165 minutes - The poster for Boyhood states that it is 'A Moving 12 Year Epic'.* I'm not sure I've ever seen a more succinct or more truthful pull quote/tag line for a film.

Boyhood is a visionary work from the mind of writer/director Richard Linklater, who gathered his cast together for a short time once a year for twelve years in order to film this story of a young boy's journey into adulthood (from age 5 to 18). Think about that for a minute. This film wasn't made over the course of one summer, substituting actors and actresses in and out to show the characters at different ages. It was made bit by bit, piece by piece over those actor's and actress's actual lives, providing this film with a level of continuity never before seen in film.

The film focuses on Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his immediate family: his divorced parents - mom (Patricia Arquette) and dad (Ethan Hawke) - and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Other friends…

Rental Review - Life Itself

Life Itself (2014), R, 120 minutes - Anyone who has ever dabbled in critiquing movies, whether it be around the water cooler, writing professionally, or as a hobby (such as myself) owes it to themselves to watch this film. Life Itself is a documentary covering the life and career of Roger Ebert.

As most people over the age of twenty five probably know, Ebert was a Pulitzer Prize winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times that went on to co-host the long running 'At the Movies' film review show with Gene Siskel. The film tells the story of his life, and follows him through the last months of his battle with cancer.

I'm not even going to try and summarize his accomplishments or the stories told in this film as there are far too many. What I can tell you is that I remember coming across 'At the Movies' or maybe its predecessor 'Sneak Previews' on weekend mornings on PBS when there was no Earthly reason for a kid my age to be up. I had yet to develop m…

Review - Whiplash

Whiplash (2014), R, 107 minutes - Whiplash is a very unique film, one that looks at what happens when a talented young musician is paired with a hard-assed and abusive instructor.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a first year drumming student at a prestigious music conservatory where he first catches the ear of Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), who then invites him to join his Jazz ensemble as an alternate.  Andrew can tell from the get go that Fletcher is cut throat and a perfectionist but he is driven to earn his instructor's approval.  What becomes evident to the viewer is that while Fletcher is tough on all of his musicians, he truly lets the most talented ones - Andrew in particular - have it.  Pushing and pushing and pushing them towards perfection.  Their conflict becomes personal and even causes Andrew to quit drumming for a short time.  Their temporary reconciliation is just an example of the lengths Fletcher is willing to push the abuse, driving Andrew from the stage mid-performance bef…

Review - Wild

Wild (2014), R, 115 minutes - At first glance, Wild didn't look like the sort of film that I would want to see in theaters.  But after having seen everything else locally that I wanted to, it became the obvious choice from what remained due to the high praise being received by Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

Wild is based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir titled Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, and recounts her thousand mile hike in the wake of a divorce, her mother's death, and drug abuse.  Witherspoon portrays Cheryl, and Dern her mother Bobbi, a strong willed woman who escaped the abuses of Cheryl's father, taking Cheryl and her younger brother with her.  Years later, after losing her mother to cancer, Cheryl goes into a tailspin, growing distant from and cheating on her husband, then eventually turning to heroin as a means of escape.  After being read the riot act by a close friend, she decides to venture off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail begi…

Review - American Sniper

American Sniper (2014), R, 132 minutes - I've said it here many times, but it probably bears repeating for those new to the blog: I grew up in a house of Clint Eastwood fans.  His numerous westerns are some of the earliest films I can remember watching on television with my parents.  As I've grown older and my love for movies has increased, so has my appreciation for his work both in front of and behind the camera.  I have also found myself becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Bradley Cooper over the last couple of years as he's strung together a handful of Oscar nominated performances.  In short, there was no doubt that American Sniper was a must see film for me.

American Sniper is based on the autobiography of United States Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in United States military history, having racked up 160 confirmed kills.  It's a fascinating story of a confident but humble man who was instilled with a strong set of values at a young age and decided t…

Review - Dumb and Dumber To

Dumb and Dumber To (2014), PG-13, 109 minutes - 1994's Dumb and Dumber is, to this day, one of my favorite comedies of all-time.  Friends of mine will tell you that it is one of a handful of films that are repeatedly quoted by me on an almost daily basis.  2003's prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (made by no one associated with the original) is a film the world is better off not remembering (my apologies for mentioning it here).  So when the Farrelly brothers announced that after twenty years, they would be releasing a sequel with original stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, I was curious to say the least.

Dumb and Dumber To takes place twenty years after the events of the first film.  Time has passed, but Harry and Lloyd haven't changed a bit.  They embark on a quest to find Harry's up-to-know-unknown-about daughter Penny, and reunite her with her mother Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), whom we've heard of in passing from the first film.  During thei…

Review - Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher (2014), R, 134 minutes - In the beginning, this story doesn't seem all that odd. The Schultz brothers had each won an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1984 Los Angeles games. While training together in preparation for the upcoming World Championships, Mark (Channing Tatum) accepts a sponsorship offer from millionaire philanthropist John du Pont (Steve Carell) and moves to the private du Pont estate, Foxcatcher Farms in Pennsylvania. Mark conveys that the offer is open to David (Mark Ruffalo) as well. While being completely supportive, David declines, feeling that the time isn't right to uproot his young family.

Mark trains on his own, then helps select other wrestlers to round out the Foxcatcher team. He becomes the group's coach and with the financial freedom to focus entirely on training, he takes home the gold medal at the 1987 World Championships. Capitalizing on the exposure of the world title, Mark joins John at more and more public a…

Review - Unbroken

Unbroken (2014), PG-13, 137 minutes - Unbroken is one of a slew of biopics that hit theaters this winter. Directed by Angelina Jolie and starring Jack O'Connell, it tells the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini and his fight for survival after a plane crash led to his incarceration in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in World War II.

Zamperini (O'Connell) started out as a mischievous youngster, running around doing pretty much whatever he wanted but at the same time not fitting in with the other kids because of his poor English. As he reached high school, his older brother Pete pushed him to join the track team and instilled Louis with strict discipline during their training runs. The work ethic and discipline paid off as Louis made the U.S. Olympic team and competed in the 1936 games in Berlin, Germany. He would finish eighth in the 5000 meter event, but set a world record with a 56 second final lap. Zamperini enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in 1941 and became a …

Review - The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game (2014), PG-13, 114 minutes - The Imitation Game is the type of film that seems to have been made especially for someone like me. Biopic? Check. Period piece set during World War II? Check. Benedict Cumberbatch leading a wonderful cast? Check. Educational (despite expected liberties in the story taken by Hollywood)? Check.

This film is based on the life of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), focusing particularly on his efforts to crack the German Enigma code during World War II. We're shown his social awkwardness and eccentricities as he is assigned to a team of mathematicians and crypt-analysts yet stubbornly works alone on the design of a machine that he believes is the only way that they will be able to crack Enigma within the daily time constraints (the Germans would re-key Enigma on a daily basis). Only after meeting and working with Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) does he learn how to better interact with his team, consisting of Hugh Alexander (Ma…