Movie Reviews – Winter 2014

Here we go with movie reviews from films that came out late last year. We had some really good ones!

The Equalizer – Surprisingly violent. I bet a lot of people weren’t expecting the level of carnage in this movie. It was still good though. A decent action movie but nothing spectacular. I’m sure I’ll be watching it again on video. Marton Csokas was especially fantastic, and Chloë Grace Moretz is suffering from the same problem Natalie Portman did, in that the older she gets the worse her acting ability becomes.

The Maze Runner – My daughter convinced me to see this. I was reluctant to see another based-on-a-young-adult-book movie since they usually bore the crap out of me. I was pleasantly surprised. The story and setting were interesting and the movie managed to keep me invested. The young actors weren’t annoying, which is a feat. I strongly recommend this movie if you’re a sci-fi fan.

Atlas Shrugged, Part III – Good GOD. First Expendables 3, and now this. What a massive disappointment. They take one of my favorte books of all time and make a very boring and lackluster first installment. Then they make a second installment that was a little better, but not much. This third installment was ghastly beyond belief. The last third of the book is the best; this could have been a great movie. Too bad it failed on every level. Horrible direction, editing, acting, everything. It was painful to watch. They honestly should have stopped with Part II.

Gone Girl – An extremely well done, if strange movie. It has the plot of something you’d see on TV in the 80s. It’s also strongly anti-marriage and at least somewhat anti-woman, which is amazing considering it was made in Hollywood. It’s a testament to director David Fincher that he had the clout to A) get the movie made in the first place and B) craft it was well as he did. Even Ben Affleck was good! One of my future wives is also in the movie (Rosamund Pike) and she was fantastic. Hell, everyone in this movie was fantastic. An extraordinarily well-realized movie and I highly recommend.

Dracula Untold – A pleasant surprise. This was one of those movies I was expecting to be very blah, but it turned out great. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have no major complaints. Charles Dance is one of my favorite actors and he’s always perfect. Apparently this is the first in a series of movies that reboot many classic monsters like the Mummy, the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and others. If they’re all as entertaining as Dracula Untold, I’m sold. Make more!

Fury – Dark, dirty, depressing, and I loved it. I’ve noticed people either love or hate this film, and I understand both feelings. I’m a sucker for WWII movies and this movie is almost as good as Inglourious Basterds, and I realize that’s high praise. The cramped and grimy life inside a tank was well illustrated, as were the harsh realities of being a soldier in war, even a just war. Such a contrast to the happy 1950s WWII movies of old.

Birdman – Everyone is freaking out over this movie. I mildly enjoyed it, but that was about it. I think you’ll love this movie if you’re really into the craft of making movies or if you love artsy films. I still liked it, mostly because of all the comic book references I understood. The acting was also very good but I’m really starting to get tired of Emma Stone. Good movie though.

John Wick – Here it is, the second-best action movie of all 2014, just behind The Raid 2 (which was one of the best action movies made ever). It’s amazing. Yes, I know. Hard to believe with Keanu Reeves, but I’m telling you, this is the action movie to see. If you love action films and you missed this, you must see this when it comes out on video. I’ll be purchasing my own copy. It’s stylish, gritty, brutal, angry, well-acted, and well-edited. Great, great stuff. I almost went back to the theaters to see it a second time. It’s that good. We need more movies like this!

Nightcrawler – Another fantastic film. You need to see this just to watch Jake Gyllenhaal. His acting, his character, and the dialog are all seamless. You can’t pull your eyes away from the screen when he’s playing the part of a goal-oriented sociopath. It’s creepy as hell and good stuff. I also think this is the best part Rene Russo has ever played in her life. She was all over the place in the 90s, but never really did anything amazing. She’s astounding here as the stressed-out, go-getter older woman. My only minor complaint is that I expected more violence in the film, but whatever. You must see this movie.

Interstellar – I really, really love Christopher Nolan movies. Memento is one of my all-time favorite films and The Prestige is not too far behind. The Dark Knight is the best superhero movie ever made. So I went into Interstellar with my expectations sky-high. I was expecting to see a complex plot with huge and complex surprises along the way. Sadly, the movie didn’t meet my expectations and very little of that is part of the film. I guessed at most of the twists before they happened and that’s never a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. This is a very good movie; it just doesn’t measure up to the Nolan standard. I hope he gets back on track with his next film.

Horrible Bosses 2 – The funniest movie of the year. I laughed almost non-stop throughout the entire movie. 22 Jump Street was also funny (despite the usual men-are-either-pussies-or-gay stuff so prevalent in today’s comedies) but Horrible Bosses 2 is better. Almost every character in the movie is a moron, and those kinds of stories are hard to tell and entertain. This one does it though. If you can relax and leave your brain at the door, this movie is awesome.

Exodus: Gods and Kings – This is one of those movies that you like while you’re watching it, but then completely forget about it when it’s over. It’s not a bad movie. I don’t think Ridley Scott can make a bad movie. It’s just…forgettable. If you really like Bible movies, historical movies, or special effects movies (I tend to like all three), then check it out. Otherwise pass.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – Watching this movie and enjoying it was a complicated endeavor for me. I’m a Tolkien nerd and Middle Earth purist, and taking the short book The Hobbit and making it into nine hours of movies requires some massive changes to Tolkien’s story. But once I accepted that yes, Peter Jackson is going to completely change this thing, then I found I could enjoy all three Hobbit movies, including this one. This film is almost non-stop action, and it’s good action. Hobbit-accurate or not, these films are a work of art, and I really enjoy them on that level. They’re not perfect; in this movie armies of orcs die way too easily; even children kill them with rocks. But beyond that, it’s a great fantasy action film if you view it as such, rather than as a faithful adaption of a fantasy novel.

The Interview – Like most modern-day comedies, the first third of this movie was really funny, and the final two acts were very ho-hum. Also like most modern-day comedies, the primary male characters act gay. Both primary male characters are also easily manipulated by women during the entire movie. It’s sad to watch. Horrible Bosses 2 had dumb male characters, but at least they were still men, often strong men. Another sad sign of the times I guess. I am glad this movie was released since I am a free speech absolutist, and very happy that the movie was released online and made money that way. I hope Hollywood learns from this and starts releasing more films online.

The Gambler – The bad: This movie has a plot that make absolutely no sense . As an experienced blackjack player myself, the gambler in this movie uses no skill whatsoever. He just gambles and wings it. Mark Wahlberg is also terribly miscast; he was completely out of place in this movie and playing this character. The good: The movie does a very good job at portraying a man who hates life and hates himself. If you ever want to see the opposite of long-term consistent happiness, go see this movie. It’s dark but well done. Also, the speech John Goodman gives about what to do when you win $2 million is priceless, and the best part of the whole film. “Buy a house, get a 20-year roof, invest your money at 5%, and you’re set for life!”

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  • David
    Posted at 03:49 pm, 21st January 2015

    Thanks for the reviews BD.

    The only two I’ve had a chance to see myself are “The Equalizer” and “The Gambler”. I agree with you wholeheartedly on The Gambler: Wahlberg was completely miscast and it was slightly too dark for my taste. And like you said, the speech by John Goodman was gold.

    With The Equalizer, the whole time I was thinking “This is the way all those Punisher movies should’ve been made”. I mean, it really was like watching a black Frank Castle in many ways. Solid movie for the most part.

    Have you had a chance to see American Sniper yet?

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 07:26 pm, 21st January 2015

    With The Equalizer, the whole time I was thinking “This is the way all those Punisher movies should’ve been made”. I mean, it really was like watching a black Frank Castle in many ways. Solid movie for the most part.

    They have yet to make a really good Punisher movie. The best Punisher movie would be the action of the 80s Dolph Lundgren movie, with the tone of the Thomas Jane movie, and the actor from the last movie (Ray Stevenson makes a perfect Punisher).

    Punisher is my all time favorite superhero (I’ve been him for Halloween many times) and I think at some point Hollywood/Marvel will get Punisher “right.”

    Have you had a chance to see American Sniper yet?

    I’m going to see it tomorrow then Blackhat on Friday! Can’t wait! (Taken 3 was terrible!)

  • Alejandro
    Posted at 12:32 pm, 25th January 2015

    “(Taken 3 was terrible!)”

    Damn. I really had my hopes up for that one. Taken 1 was so good I giggled like a schoolgirl when the guy said “good luck” in the trailer. What an awesome throwback.

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 06:33 pm, 25th January 2015

    Taken 3 was really, really bad. Sad bad. And yeah, the trailer for it was fantastic. Just goes to show: never judge a movie by its trailer.

  • Korg
    Posted at 07:01 am, 29th January 2015

    Thanks for the reviews. Really like them.

  • Gil Galad
    Posted at 08:09 am, 18th December 2016

    CJ, I’ve been thinking about the perception and representation of libertarians, and rewatching Battle of the Five Armies gave me an idea, if you’d like to comment on it. The short version: libertarians look wrong and are unpopular much less because of their principles than because of the attitude they are portrayed to have while expressing them, and they would grow in numbers if they strategically changed that.

    The long version, based on Thorin in The Hobbit: the way he is portrayed, especially in the movies, reminded me of how socialists might portray a libertarian. When Thorin refuses to give a share of the treasure to the Men and Elves at his door, he does it in such a manner (calling them beggars, throwing arrows, acting “treasure-drunk ” and suspicious of his friends …) that most spectators now see him as the villain. But he actually has a point: he refuses to give anything until negotiations can be done from a position of strength (until dwarf reinforcements come) and not with an army at his gate. When you remove Thorin’s *attitude* and specific wording and just keep his *actions*, it is basically “I’m not opposed to helping the poor, I just don’t want a government putting a gun to my head to do it”, as there is no evidence that Thorin *really* intended to give *nothing*. Same when Alfrid (the coward dude in the film) flees while crying “leave the cripples behind”: in theory it isn’t criminal, though not heroic, to run for your life when staying for the cripples would mean dying with them; but when you *say the words* you look like human trash. Too many instances of a person disagreeing with a libertarian can be summarized as “you’re right, but you’re being mean while saying it, so fuck you, you’re still wrong”.

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