Sunday, March 29, 2015

First Quarter of 2015


Well, it's pretty much the end of the first quarter and therefore it's time for my quarter end review.  In general it was a pretty bad quarter for wide theatrical releases (even for the first quarter of the year, which is traditionally the worst quarter.)  Almost all of the movies worth seeing were released on video on demand at the same time as or even before their very limited theatrical runs.  So you can get caught up on the best ones without even leaving home.

Below is a summary of my grades for the 81 films I saw that were released in the U.S. this quarter.  If I wrote a review, links are included for your convenience.

  1. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO)     Grade: A+
  2. Kingsman: The Secret Service      Grade: A+
  3. Match       Grade: A
  4. It Follows       Grade: A
  5. Faults      Grade: A
  6. Predestination      Grade: A
  7. The Loft      Grade: A
  8. Focus       Grade: A
  9. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (HBO)     Grade: A
  10. The Salvation      Grade: A-
  11. The Immortalists      Grade: A-
  12. Bluebird        Grade: A-
  13. Maps to the Stars      Grade: A-
  14. Digging Up the Marrow      Grade: B+
  15. Wild Card      Grade: B+
  16. Wild Canaries      Grade: B+
  17. Road Hard      Grade: B+
  18. The Rewrite      Grade: B+
  19. Mortdecai       Grade: B+
  20. The Wedding Ringer      Grade: B+
  21. An Honest Liar      Grade: B+
  22. Black Sea      Grade: B+
  23. Hot Tub Time Machine 2      Grade: B+
  24. '71      Grade: B+
  25. Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere      Grade: B+
  26. Son of a Gun      Grade: B+
  27. These Final Hours      Grade: B+
  28. Still Life      Grade: B+
  29. Enter the Dangerous Mind      Grade: B+
  30. Buzzard      Grade: B+
  31. Welcome to New York      Grade: B+
  32. Spring      Grade: B+
  33. We'll Never Have Paris      Grade: B
  34. Two Men in Town      Grade: B
  35. The Phoenix Project       Grade: B
  36. White Rabbit      Grade: B
  37. Kidnapping Mr. Heineken      Grade: B
  38. The Cobbler      Grade: B
  39. Zombeavers       Grade: B
  40. Everly      Grade: B
  41. October Gale      Grade: B
  42. Vice      Grade: B
  43. Get Hard       Grade: B
  44. What We Do in the Shadows      Grade: B
  45. The Lazarus Effect       Grade: B
  46. RPG      Grade: B
  47. Cymbeline       Grade: B
  48. Little Accident     Grade: B
  49. The DUFF      Grade: B
  50. Run All Night      Grade: B-
  51. The Duke of Burgundy      Grade: B-
  52. Voices      Grade: B-
  53. Kill Me Three Times      Grade: B-
  54. The Last Five Years      Grade: B-
  55. Seventh Son      Grade: B-
  56. McFarland USA      Grade: B-
  57. Project Almanac       Grade: B-
  58. Seymour: An Introduction      Grade: B-
  59. The Infinite Man      Grade: C+
  60. Kung Fu Elliot       Grade: C+
  61. Taken 3      Grade: C+
  62. Out of the Dark      Grade: C+
  63. The World Made Straight      Grade: C+
  64. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel      Grade: C+
  65. Alien Outpost      Grade: C
  66. Blackhat      Grade: C
  67. Jupiter Ascending      Grade: C
  68. The Boy Next Door      Grade: C
  69. Fifty Shades of Grey      Grade: C
  70. Veronika Decides to Die      Grade: C
  71. Hits      Grade: C
  72. Divergent: Insurgent      Grade: C
  73. Unfinished Business       Grade: C-
  74. Nightlight      Grade: C-
  75. Preservation      Grade: D
  76. The Gunman       Grade: D
  77. Serena      Grade: D
  78. Chappie      Grade: D
  79. [REC] 4: Apocalypse      Grade: D
  80. All the Wilderness      Grade: D
  81. Wolfcop      Grade: F
 
Films Not Reviewed:
Accidental Love
Against the Sun
Amira & Sam
Appropriate Behavior
Ballet 422
Champs
Cinderella
Dark Summer
Deli Man
Do You Believe?
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Girlhood
A Girl Like Her
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Home
Home Sweet Hell
Killers
Like Sunday, Like Rain
Love, Rosie
The Lovers
Manny
My Life Directed
Outcast
Paddington
Queen and Country
The Riot Club
The Search for General Tso
Song One
Spare Parts
SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Strange Magic
Three Night Stand
Tracers
Treading Water
Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death
The Wrecking Crew
Wyrmwood

Friday, March 27, 2015

In Theaters Now - 3/27/15



(new releases in green)


A Most Violent Year        Grade: A  (also available on Video on Demand)

It Follows      Grade: A

The Imitation Game        Grade: A   (also available on Video on Demand)

Wild Tales        Grade: A-

Still Alice        Grade: B+

'71       Grade: B+

Focus       Grade: B+

Kingsman: The Secret Service        Grade: B+


Merchants of Doubt       Grade: B+

Two Days One Night        Grade: B  (also available on Video on Demand)

American Sniper        Grade: B

What We Do in the Shadows        Grade: B

Run All Night        Grade: B-

Seymour: An Introduction       Grade: B-

Fifty Shades of Grey        Grade: C

Serena       Grade: D  (also available on Video on Demand)

Chappie        Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
Cinderella
Deli Man
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Do You Believe?
Get Hard
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
A Girl Like Her
The Gunman
Home
The Lazarus Effect
McFarland USA
Nightlight
Paddington
Queen and Country
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
The Wrecking Crew

It Follows


Last year this horror movie made the rounds at a variety of over 30 film festivals.  I caught it last September at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX.  It was my 2nd favorite out of the 37 genre films I saw at that festival.  It was #5 on the list of films I told you to look out for in 2015.  And, as many other critics have also stated, it's simply one of the best horror films in recent history.  Many have already invoked comparisons to classic John Carpenter.  I'm admittedly not a Carpenter expert, but I enjoyed It Follows more than any Carpenter film I've seen.  And I will say no more except you should see it.  It's your best option in theaters now.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  It's a must see for any fan of horror movies.

Seymour: An Introduction


For the last 15 years I've increasingly become a huge fan of Ethan Hawke.  And he just wowed critics and audiences alike with his one-two punch of Before Midnight and Boyhood.  And besides being a hell of an actor, he just seems like a really interesting and nice guy.  I'm a fan of how introspective he is.  So when I heard he met a pianist named Seymour Bernstein at a dinner party and became so enthralled by him, his work, and his views on life that he felt compelled to make a documentary about him as a labor of love, I knew I had to see it.  Furthermore, critics have been raving about it.  Unfortunately, I wasn't as enamored.  Bernstein definitely seems like an interesting man, pianist, and teacher, with interesting views on life.  But at the end of the day, this doc just didn't enthrall.  Not even for its scant 82 minute runtime.  It may be worth seeing on the small screen, where it might even seem more intimate.  It's simply not big screen worthy in my opinion.

Grade: B-

Who is this movie for?  Fans of documentaries, Ethan Hawke, introspection, and classical piano might get enough out of it.  But I'd personally wait for VOD.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In Theaters Now - 3/20/15



(new releases in green)


Whiplash        Grade: A+   (also available on Video on Demand)

A Most Violent Year       Grade: A

The Imitation Game        Grade: A   (also available on Video on Demand)

Birdman        Grade: A-   (also available on Video on Demand)

Wild Tales       Grade: A-

Still Alice       Grade: B+

An Honest Liar       Grade: B+

'71        Grade: B+

Focus       Grade: B+

Kingsman: The Secret Service        Grade: B+


Selma        Grade: B+

Spring        Grade: B

Two Days One Night       Grade: B

American Sniper        Grade: B

What We Do in the Shadows        Grade: B

Run All Night        Grade: B-

Red Army       Grade: C+

Jupiter Ascending       Grade: C

Fifty Shades of Grey        Grade: C

Mr. Turner       Grade: D+

Chappie        Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
Cinderella
Deli Man
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Do You Believe?
The DUFF
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
The Gunman
The Lazarus Effect
McFarland USA
Paddington
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Unfinished Business
The Wrecking Crew

Friday, March 13, 2015

In Theaters Now - 3/13/15



(new releases in green)


Whiplash        Grade: A+  (also available on Video on Demand)

The Imitation Game        Grade: A

The Salvation       Grade: A-  (also available on Video on Demand)

Birdman        Grade: A-  (also available on Video on Demand)

Wild Tales        Grade: A-

Still Alice        Grade: B+

'71       Grade: B+

Focus       Grade: B+

Kingsman: The Secret Service        Grade: B+


Selma        Grade: B+

American Sniper        Grade: B

What We Do in the Shadows        Grade: B

The Cobbler       Grade: B  (also available on Video on Demand)

Cymbeline       Grade: B  (also available on Video on Demand)

Run All Night      Grade: B-

Red Army        Grade: C+

Jupiter Ascending       Grade: C

Fifty Shades of Grey        Grade: C

Chappie        Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
Ballet 422
Cinderella
The DUFF
The Lazarus Effect
McFarland USA
Paddington
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
She's Beautiful When She's Angry
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Unfinished Business

The Salvation


Sure, it's mainly your standard revenge western, with the cliche small town being taken advantage of by a band of baddies, and the outsider who must stand up to them.  But it doesn't stop it from being a damn entertaining watch.  Maybe it's because of its lead, played by Mads Mikkelsen (best known to American audiences as TV's Hannibal and as James Bond's nemesis in Casino Royale.)  Maybe it's because Eva Green (also from Casino Royale) is so stunningly beautiful and gives a tremendous performance despite not even uttering a single word.  Maybe it's the tremendous cinematography and interesting choices made by the Danish director.  But probably, it's all of those things combined that make this ordinary western something extraordinary.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Anyone who wants to see a cool, well shot, well cast revenge western either in theaters or on video on demand.

Run All Night


It's only March 13th and this is already the second Liam Neeson revenge action movie in wide release.  Can you say too much of a good thing?  Ever since Taken in 2009 we've been subjected to countless wannabes.  In fact, even Neeson himself seems to think he's oversaturated, as he just declared he'll only be doing action films for another two years and then no more.

OK, so with that said, how is his latest?  Well, on the plus side, I was pleased by its welcome and talented cast of old timers.  Ed Harris is always worth my time and money.  And so is Vincent D'Onofrio.  And you even get a little Nick Nolte and Bruce McGill.  So that's all good.  But, at the end of the day, Run All Night is just another Neeson revenge action film, and nothing special with regards to story or action.  It's fine, but I wouldn't go see it for anything but the cast.

Grade: B-

Who is this movie for?  It's comfort food for guys who like Neeson's schtick.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Immortalists


Most documentaries these days seem to be focused on hot button issues we face like global warming, terrorism, cancer, clean energy, or what we eat.  And while all of those issues are extremely important, seeing yet another documentary about them doesn't interest me in the least.  Conversely, there isn't a topic more interesting to me than scientists and doctors who dedicate their lives to curing aging.  If you ask them, it's not only possible, but may be only decades away.  As the great tag line states, they aim to live forever ... or die trying.  And if seeing a doc about that doesn't interest you, I don't know what will.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Anyone, like me, who enjoys docs about interesting people leading interesting lives ... and who has an interest in possibly living forever.

Friday, March 6, 2015

In Theaters Now - 3/6/15



(new releases in green)


Whiplash       Grade: A+

The Imitation Game       Grade: A

Faults        Grade: A   (also available on Video on Demand)

Birdman       Grade: A-

Still Alice      Grade: B+

The Wedding Ringer       Grade: B+

Focus       Grade: B+

Kingsman: The Secret Service       Grade: B+


Selma       Grade: B+

American Sniper       Grade: B

What We Do in the Shadows        Grade: B

Black or White       Grade: B-

Red Army      Grade: C+

Jupiter Ascending       Grade: C

Fifty Shades of Grey       Grade: C

The Theory of Everything       Grade: D

Chappie       Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
Ballet 422
The DUFF
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
The Lazarus Effect
McFarland USA
Paddington
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
She's Beautiful When She's Angry
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Unfinished Business
Zero Motivation

Faults


Once again the place to see the best new movies is none other than your couch.  VOD is where it's at these days, and Faults is one of the most interesting films of the year so far.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as a woman who has fallen victim to a cult, much to her parents' dismay.  They want their daughter back and enlist the help of a down-on-his-luck author and purported subject matter expert (Leland Orser).  But does he really know what he's doing? 

Perhaps I'm biased, since I'm fascinated by all films about cults (Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Master, Sound of My Voice, and The East to name a few recent favorites).  But I found this movie totally engaging from start to finish, in no small part due to excellent performances by both Orser and Winstead.

Faults is now available on Video on Demand and you should see it.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?   If you like the quirky Coen Brothers-esque dramas, then this one is well worth your time.

Chappie


A few days ago when news broke that Neill Blomkamp would be reviving the Alien franchise, with Sigourney Weaver on board, to send off Ripley with a bang, I couldn't have been more excited.  But now, having just seen Chappie, I couldn't be more concerned.

Blomkamp made a big splash in 2009 with his feature film debut District 9.  And since he has stuck with a similar genre with Elysium and now Chappie, he seems to be for Sci-Fi what M Night Shyamalan is for Suspense/Horror.  And unfortunately, like Shyamalan, his work is going in the wrong direction.  I wasn't the biggest fan of District 9 but I had hoped his work would get better and better.  The opposite seems to have occurred.  Chappie is terrible.  It's like a weird hybrid of Short Circuit, Robocop, Bicentennial Man, A.I. all set in the world of District 9.  And none of it works.  I can't figure out what Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver were thinking signing on for this.  (And Jackman should have learned his lesson about robot movies after starring in the equally unwatchable Real Steel.)

Grade: D

Who is this movie for?  I'd say most everyone who thinks it's for them will be disappointed.  Pass.