“Spock is definitely one of my best friends. When I put on those ears, it’s not like just another day. When I become Spock, that day becomes something special.”
“Spock is definitely one of my best friends. When I put on those ears, it’s not like just another day. When I become Spock, that day becomes something special.”
I know I originally did this list way back in late December, but it would be kind of stupid of me to have watched all those movies I watched for Oscar season and having had my opinion evolve without re-doing the list. So, uh, here you go.
20. Big Hero 6
Genres: Animated, superhero, comedy
Directed by: Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt)
Voices of: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, Daniel Henney
I’m personally still pissed that it won Best Animated Feature, but I’m also not going to deny that Big Hero 6 is an incredibly likable movie, if not the most original or unpredictable. To be absolutely truthful, this movie probably wouldn’t rate as highly in my mind if it wasn’t for Baymax, but the other characters hold their own in terms of likability, especially Hiro and his brother, though the side characters get their share of laughs as well.
They really should’ve picked one way to pronounce “Hiro” and stuck with it, though. That’s pretty goddamn annoying.
19. The Lego Movie
Genres: Animated, comedy, adventure
Directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street)
Voices of: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman
I didn’t love The Lego Movie nearly as much as some people did, but, again, I still thought it was a great movie. I thought the buildup was kind of weaker than I expected, but the rest of the film is pretty terrific fun. It’s definitely the best piece of incredibly conspicuous product placement ever made, if nothing else.
18. 22 Jump Street
Genres: Comedy, action
Directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (See above)
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, Ice Cube
The second straight Phil Lord/Christopher Miller project on my list had, like The Lego Movie, kind of a weak buildup that kind of disappointed me. Thankfully, when it does pick it up, it grabs hold of the intensity knob (Heh) and turns that shit up to 11 (Out of a possible five).
It’s not quite as good as the first movie, but as long as Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube keep delivering, I genuinely wouldn’t mind seeing some of the joke sequels that were teased during the credits.
17. Edge of Tomorrow
Genres: Science fiction, action
Directed by: Doug Liman (Swingers, Go, The Bourne Identity, Fair Game)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
Admit it, you took one look at the trailer for Edge of Tomorrow (Or All You Need is Kill. Or Live. Die. Repeat.) and rolled your eyes. “Oh great, another Tom Cruise sci-fi movie. Why can’t this Scientologist prick just fuck off into irrelevancy and take his smug-ass demeanor (As well as his tremendous talent for making action movies) with him?” Then you learnt about the plot. “Oh, fucking brilliant. Oblivion meets Groundhog Day??? Jesus Christ, are there no more original ideas in Hollywood?”
And then, you actually watched Edge of Tomorrow. That made you feel pretty stupid, didn’t it?
Genre: Biographical romantic drama
Directed by: James Marsh (Man on Wire, Project Nim)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Maxine Peake
This movie has gotten a lot of recent criticism for essentially being just another paint-by-numbers Oscar movie, but even so, I really like it. I definitely understand the complaint that it’s a merely okay movie with good performances, but when those performances are as good as the ones you get from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, I frankly don’t see that much reason to hate it all that much. I can understand being adverse to it, but I enjoy it, personally.
Genre: Historical drama
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Touissant, Stephen James, Wendell Pierce, Common, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey
It’s bullshit that Ava DuVernay didn’t get nominated. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Genre: Historical thriller
Directed by: Morten Tyldum (Headhunters)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, Mark Strong
Much like (Although maybe not quite as much as) The Theory of Everything for being another “Oscar-bait” movie, and while I do generally have a problem with that term, I can see what people get at when they criticize it. That said, even more than The Theory of Everything, I love this movie, mostly for Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance.
13. John Wick
Genre: Action thriller
Directed by: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem DeFoe
Oh, just read the entry for Edge of Tomorrow again.
12. Top Five
Directed by: Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove, Cedric the Entertainer, Tracy Morgan
Cedric the Entertainer is fucking disgusting. This movie has convinced me of that.
Also, DMX has the voice of an angel.
Directed by: James Gunn (Slither)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro
I saw this movie four times in theatres, and it got a little better each time for me. I’m sure most of you are sick to death of it by now, so I’ll just say that if you haven’t seen it yet, do so immediately.
10. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Genres: Anime, drama, fantasy
Directed by: Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko, My Neighbors the Yamadas)
Voices of: Asi Asakura, Kengo Kora, Takeo Chii, Nobuko Miyamoto, Atsuko Takahata
English dub: Chloe Grace Moretz, Darren Criss, James Caan, Mary Steenbergen, Lucy Liu
I haven’t talked very much about Studio Ghibli, as I’m just now starting to get into Japan’s answer to Disney, but The Tale of the Princess Kaguya sold me on them. As cliched a noun as “beautiful” is in describing movies, it’s a perfect word to describe this dreamlike movie. The art style in this movie is brilliantly executed, and the last fifteen to twenty minutes or so are composed of some of the best animated sequences I’ve ever seen. Also, the soundtrack in this movie is terrific. It figures that I’d get into Studio Ghibli right when they decided to go on a hiatus.
9. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Genres: Animated, fantasy
Directed by: Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon)
Voices of: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington
As much as I loved Princess Kaguya, it just couldn’t beat out my highly developed Western ethnocentrism.
Genre: Crime thriller
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
It’s bullshit that Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t get nominated. That’s all I have to say about that (Again).
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo (Community)
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson
Terrific movie, but did we ever ind out what happened to Red Skull in the first movie? That kinda seems like something you wouldn’t wanna gloss over.
Directed by: Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom)
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric
The Grand Budapest Hotel is actually the only Wes Anderson movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s tough to think that any of his movies could possibly be better than The Grand Budapest Hotel. Just give me dark, whimsical, occasionally crude humour in formal, colourful environments and I’ll be putty in your hand, I guess.
5. Gone Girl
Genre: Psychological thriller
Directed by: David Fincher (Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris
Blood…. So much blood… Poor Ben…
4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Genre: Science fiction
Directed by: Matt Reeves (Let Me In)
Starring: Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee
It’s bullshit that Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell… Ah, fuck it.
Directed by: Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X2)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicolas Hoult, Evan Peters, Ellen Page, Peter Dinkage, Shawn Ashmore
With all the love that Marvel movies keep getting, it’s easy to forget that Fox has been churning out quality X-Men movies (Brett Ratner and shitty Deadpool aside). Days of Future Past (Based on the popular story arc fro mthe comics) continues on in that tradition, combining the older actors from the original trilogy with the newer actors from X-Men: First Class. Hopefully, X-Men: Apocalypse is just as good. Also, while we’re hopin things, I hope the sexual assault allegations against Bryan Singer turn out to be false.
One of those definitely seems more likely than the other. But hey, Channing Tatum’s gonna be Gambit and Nightcrawler is coming back, so it all works out in the end.
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
Until I saw Whiplash, I thought for the longest time that there wasn’t any real competition for my favourite movie of the year. It didn’t quite get there, but hey, 2nd place ain’t bad. J.K. Simmons especially did a really good job-“
Oh, uh, Doctor Fletcher, I-
I’m no sabotaging it, I, really loved it, I-I-
(Starts straight-up bawling)
Whiplash is my favorite movie.
Whiplash is my favourite movie!
WHIPLASH IS MY FAVOURITE MOVIE!!!!
WHIPLASH IS MY FAVOURITE MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Genres: Surreal comedy, black comedy
Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan
No, I’m not bandwagoning. I loved Birdman even before it won Best Picture. If you really want me to go into it, read my review, or my Oscar predictions, for that matter. It’s my favourite movie of this year, possibly one of my favourite movies of all time, and that’s really all you can ask out of a year in movies.
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
– Groucho Marx
So, the Oscars are over,and I’m happy to say that the good guys won. I mean, there’s stuff from the ceremony that I’m mad about (Big Hero 6 winning Best Animated Feature over How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Joan Rivers getting the shaft in the In Memoriam section, a shitty In Memoriam section in general), but on the whole, I was happy that Birdman, Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash killed it, I though the musical performances were great, and I enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris’ hosting (Come at me, literally everybody else who watched the Oscars!!!).
Those of you wondering where my Razzie reviews and predictions are (As if there are any of you) should stop expecting them, because they’re not going to happen. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find a single stream of Saving Christmas anywhere, and, somehow, I don’t think watching that piece or garbage will build up my integrity as a reviewer. It’s a Kirk Cameron religious movie, for god’s sake. After Left Behind, I’d rather gouge out my eyes then watch another preachy-as-hell evangelical propaganda movie again.
So, as you might have guessed, I’m kind of burnt out on movies after having solely released movie reviews, Oscar-related material and Quotes of the Day since my Tarantinoverse Deathmatch way back on November 30 and December 7. So, I think you have more than enough reason to forgive me if I won’t be doing much new movie reviews until the start of the summer movie season, during which I’ll be totally overcome with the joy of seeing Avengers and Jurassic World, among others.
Anyways, this is what’s going to be going on over the next couple of months.
Quotes of the Day: Yeah, I kinda like them. They’re definitely only to be used as between-post filler, but I don’t see myself abandoning them altogether.
TV Reviews: After the whole Flash/Gotham/Legend of Korra debacle, I’m kind of reluctant to do this again, but it’s not like I can not review Game of Thrones. If that goes okay, I might review some more stuff. No promises, though.
Movie Theories/Rants: I still haven’t done as much of these as I would like, but I have a couple ideas kicking around that might end up semi-decent.
DEATHMATCH!!!: It’s currently on hiatus until I can think of a solid second episode (And maybe a better way to present it) but I had too much fun doing the first one to even consider ditching it.
Movie Reviews: Just because I’m burnt out on them doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing them.
I’m probably reviewing: Chappie, Cinderella (I still like Disney. Sue me), While We’re Young, Insurgent, Ex Machina, Clouds of Sils Maria
I might review: These Final Hours, It Follows, Get Hard, Home, Furious 7 (If I watch the first six movies first), True Story, The Water Diviner
Of course, some of these movies are just coming out in limited release, so maybe I shouldn’t be making promises I can’t keep, but when have I ever been one to learn from experience?
Also, my Top 20 movies of 2014 should be posted soon, so yeah.
By the way, I encourage anybody reading this to start commenting on my posts and maybe spreading the word about PKTM. Believe me, I’m grateful a million times over for whatever meager traffic I get, and if I’m stuck at 44 subscribers, so be it, that’s 44 more than I ever thought would be on board when I started almost two years ago. However, I would like to reach a larger audience if at all possible, so if anybody who likes any of my posts could comment, like and/or follow, I would be eternally grateful.
Sorry to go all PBS on you guys just now. I expect my god complex to kick back in anytime now, so I’ll cut this short before then.
Ah, the Oscars! The award show where the old, rich, out-of-touch white men of Hollywood engage in the biggest circle jerk of the year and hand out golden, vaguely phallic trophies in order to congratulate each other for making pretentious, artsy films that the average moviegoer didn’t even think about before the eve of the ceremony!
God, do I love the Oscars. It’s right up there with my birthday, Christmas, Blue Jays Opening Day, Game 7 of the World Series and Edmonton Comic Expo Weekend in my rankings of my favourite days of the year. For somebody who loves movies as much as I do, it’s so great to see these movies that I’ve grown so attached to in the last few months that I’ve been scrambling to watch them. It’s nice to see them all gathered together where all of them can be celebrated for the joy they’ve brought to people.
So, without further ado, let’s get my official predictions out of the way!!!
(Keep in mind that I haven’t seen 100% of the movies. Merely a lot of them. Don’t blame me, blame school.”
Winner: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
If I were in charge: Interstellar
Interstellar didn’t impress me as much as it did others in terms of story or plot coherence, but I can’t deny the visual majesty that Nolan’s space epic had. That said, when Dawn wins, I will not complain at all, because Apes On Horses.
Will win: Boyhood
If I was in charge: Boyhood
Yeah, as burnt out as I am on hearing people call Boyhood the Citizen Kane of our era or some bullshit, I can’t deny the wonderful editing job done in the film.
Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
If I was in charge: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Makeup and Hairstyling
Will win: Guardians of the Galaxy
If I was in charge: Guardians of the Galaxy
Will win: Birdman
If I was in charge: Birdman
Emmanuel Lubezki. That is all.
Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
If I was in charge: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Best Sound Mixing
Will win: Whiplash
If I was in charge: Whiplash
Man, I’m not exactly being much of a contrarian, am I?
Will win: American Sniper
If I was in charge: Birdman
Will win: “Glory” (Selma)
If I was in charge: “Glory”
Will win: Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything
If I was in charge: Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary- Short Subject, Documentary- Feature
I didn’t watch any of these. Why? I’m really, really lazy, in case you guys haven’t noticed.
Foreign Language Film
Will win: Ida
If I was in charge: Leviathan
Animated Feature Film
Will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
If I was in charge: How to Train Your Dragon 2
While I still think that Dragon is the best animated movie of the year (Yes, even better than The LEGO Movie), I highly suggest any fan of animation to check out The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. You’ll thank me later, trust me.
Will win: The Imitation Game
If I was in charge: The Imitation Game
Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win: Birdman
Will win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
If I was in charge: Patricia Arquette
Again, I’m not a huge Boyhood fan. That said, I think I would’ve liked it more if it focused more on Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke.
Will win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
If I was in charge: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Will win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
If I was in charge: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Admittedly, I haven’t seen Still Alice yet, but with all do respect to Julianne Moore, I don’t see how her performance could be better than Rosamund Pike in the movie that is the biggest Best Picture snub of the year.
Will win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
If I was in charge: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
The sentimental part of my brain wants Michael Keaton to win, as Redmayne’s still young, and we don’t know if Keaton will ever be nominated again, but I know in my heart of hearts that Redmayne was probably better.
Will win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
If I was in charge: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
I LIKED BOYHOOD, ALRIGHT!?!? I JUST THINK IT’S KIND OF OVERRATED!!! AM I REALLY SO WRONG IN THINKING THAT?!?!
Will win: Birdman
If I was in charge: Birdman
My gut actually says that Boyhood is gonna take it, but winning all the Guild Awards is pretty promising, so maybe Birdman has a realistic shot at winning the big prize?
American Sniper is going to sweep the awards now, just because I said that.
I love Clint Eastwood, but I can admit that he hasn’t exactly been on top of his game lately. After the greatness that was Gran Torino, the legendary actor/director hasn’t had that much success, at least critically (I’ll give you Invictus, that was actually pretty great, but Hereafter, J. Edgar and Jersey Boys all kinda sucked).
His latest movie is American Sniper, the story of the late, much-celebrated sniper Chris Kyle, someone who has been quoted as saying that “[he] would like to shoot people with Korans”. In terms of avoiding political controversy, this was probably not the way to go.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Produced by: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper, Peter Morgan
Written by: Jason Hall
Based on: American Sniper by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwan and Jim DeFelice
Genre: Biographical war drama
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Fake Baby
Plot: Searching for a higher calling outside of his lucrative career as a rodeo cowboy, Texan Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), seemingly finds his divine purpose when he is horrified by the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya. Enlisting in the army and eventually becoming a Navy SEAL, he shows a considerable amount of ability as a sniper. He is shipped off to Iraq after 9/11 (Because…Reasons…) and becomes the deadliest sniper in American military history, killing upwards of 160 enemy combatants. However, killing that enormous amount of people doesn’t normally result in a sound mental state, and sure enough, Kyle’s military career, and the resulting PTSD symptoms start affecting his relationships with his wife (Sienna Miller).
Look, this is a super controversial movie, and there is absolutely no getting around that. I’d be remiss to not go into at least some of the controversy surrounding this movie. That said, even considering the divisive nature of the film, it’s fairly easy to forget that, in a lot of respects, this is a super well made movie.
I fully admit that I went into this movie not expecting to like it and yeah, I kind of didn’t, but even I’ll admit that this movie shows a lot of potential. The cinematography looks like that of your standard Iraq War movie, which is appropriate considering, y’know, that the movie’s about the damn Iraq War. It also sounds terrific, as is par for the course with a lot of war movies, and is most likely going to win some sort of Oscar for sound editing or sound mixing, or whatever (I still don’t understand the difference between those two, frankly).
The sound and atmosphere really help contribute to this super intense atmosphere that Eastwood has always done a very good job of creating. You don’t exactly expect a lax atmosphere from a movie in which a small child is being aimed at through the crosshairs of a sniper rifle, at one point. Eastwood’s technically skilled direction takes the inherent intensity that comes with a movie like this and multiplies it twentyfold. It’s a flawed movie, but it was never boring, and in the end, that may do it for some people.
Something else that I would have be a complete idiot to skip over without praising is Bradley Cooper. Now, I am a Bradley Cooper fan, let’s get that straight. The first movie I ever saw him in was The Hangover, and if you would have told me way back in 2009 that he would go on to be nominated for three consecutive Academy Awards (As well as voice Rocket Racoon) after that (Brilliantly hilarious) movie, I probably would have laughed in your face. And then shot you in the kneecap. I was a pretty hardcore 12-year old.
If he does win the Oscar, I’ll still be pissed off, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that his performance is pretty outstanding. From the 100% authentic sounding accent that one would swear had been lifted off of a bona-fide god-fearing Texan without having warped it into something stereotypical and cartoonish.
All around, Cooper sells Chris Kyle as a likable, humble human being. You know, when he isn’t referring to the Iraqis as “savages”, but more on that later.
The action in American Sniper is also very good, as one would expect from a Clint Eastwood movie. It kind of ties into that “intensity” crap I was rambling about earlier. However, this is where some of the flaws in the movie start rearing their ugly heads. See, while the action scenes are very well done, it kinda looks like somebody drew the line for the budget at realistic-looking blood. Instead of that, they used the shitty, cartoony looking CGI blood that one would expect from Kick-Ass, or something.
Yeah, it worked in Kick-Ass, but in a movie that’s supposed to be gritty and ultra-realistic, CGI blood is super distracting. In fact, it kind of fucking sucks. What the hell, Clint!?
Also, while the actors do genuinely good jobs, with the obvious highlight being Cooper, the characters that weren’t Chris Kyle are either insultingly given the shaft in terms of character insight (*Cough* Sienna Miller *cough) or are really underdeveloped. Kyle’s fellow soldiers definitely fall into the latter category. At no point did I really feel any genuine camaraderie between them and the main character. I mean, I get that they were supposed to be friends, but it doesn’t spend enough time showing them just hanging out with each other and forming genuine connections. For all its flaws, the movie feels very brisk, I wouldn’t have minded a couple more scenes of Kyle socializing with his comrades.
I guess we get some semblance of a connection when we see Chris’s reaction to them getting shot in the face. Not the worst, I suppose, but it could have been handled a lot better.
Also, there’s supposed to be a rivalry of sorts between Chris and some Iraqi sniper. It’s really dumb.
If only my complaints would end there. If fucking only.
So, American Sniper is not really an anti-war film, but it, for all the accusations of jingoistic nationalism thrown at it, is not really a pro-war film either, or al least tries not to be. That’s a pretty sound creative decision, considering the film is supposed to be a character study of Chris Kyle. So, how does it stack up as a character piece?
In that respect, it is a complete and utter fucking failure.
I’m pretty sure you’re getting sick and tired of hearing this, as his criticism has been bandied about plenty since the film’s release, but Chris Kyle was an objectively bad person, as the quote I mentioned in the intro would suggest. How exactly does one hear one of his many quotes mentioning his liking for killing Iraqis (Just look it up, it’s not exactly tough to find) and try to give off the illusion that this is essentially a good guy we’re dealing with? I would expect this from somebody who has maybe only heard about him in passing as a war hero, but not from a motherfucking biography of the man!!!
Yeah, he does call the Iraqis “savages” at a couple points, but he’s portrayed as a good guy so often that to hear him casually dehumanize an entire country is rather disturbing and out of place (It wouldn’t have been if they’d have decided to, I dunno, show Chris Kyle for the person he was instead of the flawed anti-hero bullshit they came up with. You could make the argument that he saved a lot of lives, but a) So did the enemy sniper, but that doesn’t make him any less of a hateful character, and b) that still doesn’t excuse such a cleaned-up version of what could’ve been a very interesting character. It doesn’t totally ruin the movie, but it does deal some pretty serious blows to its credibility.
Overall: There are worse war movies out there, but that doesn’t make this ultimately wasted attempt any more of a letdown.
If you guys want to read a shorter, less profane review of American Sniper, head over to fellow WordPresser Polar Bears Watch TV where he (She?) delivers a pretty great review in about 1000 less words.
“We are the choices we make. And have to make. We aren’t anything else.”
-Patrick Ness, The Ask and the Answer
Honestly you guys, any lead-in blurb that I’m thinking up is kind of pushing the boundaries of good taste, and I already did an anti-cop joke in my Kingsman review, so yeah. This is Selma.
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Produced by: Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner
Written by: Paul Webb, Ava DuVernay
Genre: Historical drama
Starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Touissant, Stephan James, Wendell Pierce, Common, Alessandro Nivola, Keith Stanfield, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Oprah Winfrey
Music by: Jason Moran
Plot: In 1964, the fight for Civil Rights in America is intensifying, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) is right in the thick of it all. The latest issue to rear its ugly head is the blatant neglect of the right of to vote that is guaranteed to black citizens in more backwards parts of the nation. When putting pressure on President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) doesn’t amount to much (As LBJ has a lot of stuff on his plate, such as the Vietnam War and combating poverty), Dr. King decides to take matters into his own hands, organising a massive, peaceful protest march from Selma, Alabama to the State Capitol in Montgomery, much to the dismay of the segregationist dickhead that is Alabama governor George Wallace (Tim Roth).
Out of all of the movies in this year’s Oscar class, Selma Is definitely the most topical of the bunch. You could argue that American Sniper‘s (More or less) anti-war message is also relevant, but it’s also not a great movie, and I’ll talk more about it later. What with the Trayvon Martin debacle and Ferguson being fresh in our minds, it’s hard not to feel the gravity of the situation, especially when the fantastic “Glory” song plays through the credits. We’re not here to talk about the relevance of the movie, though, we’re here to talk about quality. And, as is the case with all news vaguely related to minorities, I’m legally obligated as a reviewer to say that it was great.
In all seriousness, Selma is a great movie. Is it the best movie of 2014? No, and it’s not even really that close. Is it the most important movie of 2014? Quite possibly, although in terms of measuring the depths of stupidity that the human race has fallen to, I would argue that Left Behind is a better indication of where we are as a species.
While Selma generally does everything well, with terrific cinematography, well directed scenes and a solidly written and fleshed-out script, the biggest thing the film has going for it is the supremely talented cast. While the fact that this movie was produced by and stars Oprah Winfrey in a supporting role kind of makes me roll my eyes and give out an exasperated sigh, but seeing her in the movie (Portraying activist Annie Lee Cooper) kind of makes you remember that she’s an Academy Award-nominated actress, god complex and all. Another solid performer popping up is Cuba Gooding, Jr., believe it or not, and he’s quite solid himself, bringing up the question of why in the world he doesn’t get more work.
Carmen Ejogo is a name that I had to look up, but she gives a spirited performance as Coretta Scott King (A role she actually played before in a 2001 TV movie, believe it or not). Tom Wilkinson is great as LBJ, Common is solid as (Nowadays disgraced, for good reason) James Bevel and so is Orange is the New Black‘s Lorraine Touissant as Amelia Boynton Robinson. Heading over to the “dickhed” end of the spectrum, Tim Roth is deliciously evil as Governor George Wallace. I guess you could argue that he doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table in terms of character depth, but he’s a segregationist. I think the portrayal of Wallace as a pigheaded shitstain is pretty apt, don’t you think?
(It should be noted that Wallace later recanted his views and apologized to the black community and made a record number of black appointments to state positions. Take that for what it’s worth, I guess)
However, the heart and soul of Selma resides with English actor David Oyelowo (The asshole from Rise of the Planet of the Apes), who is completely spellbinding as one of the greatest men of the 20th century. There was a lot of outrage when he and Jake Gyllenhaal were snubbed for Best Actor nominations, and I was just as righteously pissed as anybody. I found that the best part of his performance was the humanity that he helped instill into the character. It would’ve been easy to portray him as a stoic badass, but Oyelowo knows that this is a human being he’s portraying, and no human being is 100% infallible.
In fact, this whole movie does a pretty spectacular job of humanizing Dr. King. Though history frequently portrays him as this immaculate bastion of a man, he had his flaws. He didn’t always have total faith in his cause, or in his ability to go about things the right way. Hell, he had a weakness for women! The FBI tried to blackmail him! He was an objectively flawed man, but he was still a hero, and his portrayal in Selma reflects that perfectly.
Now, in the way of flaws, there are some historical inaccuracies. Now, I don’t usually nitpick these kinds of things, as they’re usually done for some reasonable artistic reason. However, I feel like I should point out that as much as I dislike President Johnson, he wasn’t actually the one who started surveilling Dr. King. It was Bobby Kennedy who authorized it and J. Edgar Hoover who executed it. Granted, LBJ went along with it, but isn’t that kind of strange creative decision to show Johnson ordering Hoover to start spying on Dr. King? Am I alone in thinking that? Eh. At least they got Hoover’s personality down. Specifically, raging dickhole.
I realize that historical dramas tend to be on the talkier side. History wasn’t all sex scenes and explosions, unfortunately. However, there were several scenes in the movie that did go a bit too long for my taste. It wasn’t the worst, per se, but it did get to the point where I felt that the emotions conveyed could’ve been communicated in much less words. Ah well. Better to be too talky than an underdeveloped mess.
Overall: Honouring Dr. King without being overly reverent, Selma is an important film that commands respect.
How bizarre is it that on Valentine’s Day weekend, when moviegoing couples are looking for a movie that they can snuggle to/furiously make out to, that the supposed “romantic” movie is glorified Twilight fanfiction that is getting absolutely demolished by the critics, and the superior film is, in fact, a movie from the director of Kick-Ass that includes forced amputations, profuse swearing, and spontaneous cranial combustion. Funny how that works.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Produced by: Adam Bohling, David Reed, Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Genres: Spy, Action, Comedy
Based on: The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill
Music by: Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson
Plot: Look up a picture definition of the word “directionless” in the dictionary, and it’s very likely that you’ll find a photo of Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (No word yet on why the bloody hell he’s nicknamed “Eggsy”). Eggsy, who was raised by his sad sack of a mother after his father was cut down in his prime. Now living in a shitty part of London with his mom, baby sister and thuggish jerkwad of a stepfather, he has flunked out of the Marines, and has done absolutely nothing in the ways of capitalizing on his talent as a gymnast and high intelligence. One day, after his penchant for juvenile delinquency gets him into serious trouble, Eggs meets a mysterious man in an impeccable suit named Harry Hart (Colin Firth) who takes the troubled land under his wing and trains him to be a Kingsman. That is, a member of a British spy organisation who engages ultra-dangerous threats to world security, while also dressed in the most badass way possible: tip to toe in the finest suits known to mankind.
While he doesn’t get as much acclaim or publicity as some of his contemporaries, I believe that Matthew Vaughn is one of the finer writer/directors working today. After his directorial debut in 2004’s Layer Cake, he has gone on to make more solid contributions to movies, including directing of my favourite movies of all time, Kick-Ass, the CPR to a dying franchise (X-Men: First Class) and contributing the storyline to one of my favourite movies of last year, X-Men: Days of Future Past. His appealing blend of snappy dialogue, a often uneven mix of action and comedy, and stylistic, brutal ultraviolence (Toned down for X-Men, obviously) has appealed to many, many people, including yours truly. That’s why I was so hyped for this movie after the early reviews came in.
What was my reaction to the first few minutes of the movie? I don’t know if I’ve ever been so underwhelmed.
The movie opens with a scene that is so poorly CGI’d that it took me right out of the movie. All of the action takes place off-screen and, all in all, it just feels like a giant cop-out. After that initial scene, the movie does improve, but the whole first act is plagued by pacing problems that were pretty annoying for me. The first act of the movie It wasn’t that bad, but it was certainly pretty off-putting.
Which is too bad, because if it wasn’t for the overly slow first act, this would possibly surpass Kick-Ass as my favourite Matthew Vaughn movie.
As unspectacular as the first act is, the middle and end are downright fantastic. At no point did I feel that the movie dragged, and I was genuinely interested and focused on what the characters were doing. Sure, one would have preferred that I feel this way throughout the whole movie, but things being the way they are, I’d say that the ball-busting action and quick pace of the rest of the movie more than makes up for the shortcomings of the first act.
Vaughn has always been a terrific action director, and Kingsman is definitely no exception. While he does use some shaky-cam, a technique that I despise more than anybody, he uses it very well, when it makes sense in the movie, and not purely for some bullshit stylistic purpose. Every action scene in this movie is so well done by the actors and director. It’s not so often that I catch myself replaying action scenes in my head because of their sheer badassery, but this film had me trying to re-enact the damn things at home. I was pretending to be Colin Firth, of all people. Who the hell would’ve thought that???
Speaking of Kick-Ass, Henry Jackman does the score for this movie along with Matthew Margeson, and they do just a terrific job. I think the score for Kick-Ass is one of the more unfairly ignored ones, and this movie’s music is even better. Not bad for a guy who made his debut as a film score composer in a straight-to-DVD Kung Fu Panda short film.
The dialogue in this movie, among other things, makes playful fun of the old British spy movies of the 60’s and 70’s, and isn’t afraid to reference them and other movies, frequently making reference to movies as far ranging from 007 to My Fair Lady. Being the Tarantino lover that I am, I can appreciate pop culture references, as long as they seem natural and well-placed. Not hard to do, but it’s done very well here.
Kingsman features a cast of veterans (Firth, Jackson, Strong,Caine, Hamill) that all do very well, although the standout is Firth who, as I mentioned before, is not necessarily one actor that we’d imagine to secretly be a badass action star, but hey, I guess that just goes to show how stupid we all are.
Samuel L. Jackson is gleefully over-the-top as a megalomaniacal Bill Gates/Spike Lee/Jules Winnfield/Whatever his character in Unbroken was, and is honestly really damn entertaining, which, at this point, is par for the course for him. The comparisons to Kick-Ass just keep coming as Mark Strong has a supporting role in this movie, although he’s actually a hero in Kingsman. Shocking, I know, but he’s actually really funny in this role. Michael Caine is always great, and there’s no point to me talking about that, while Mark Hamill has a smaller supporting role. I was kinda anxiously worried for his performance, knowing that his return as Luke Skywalker is fast approaching, but he does a great job as well, although he reminded me more of the Joker than a Jedi. Eh, I’ll take it.
Another great performance comes from Taron Egerton, in his first ever role, as Eggsy. I hope we get to see a lot more of this guy in the future. He just has this aura of charisma about him that seems like it could work to his benefit. Sofia Boutella is another newcomer playing the part of Samuel Jackson’s right-hand woman, and really seems to be channeling Jaws or Oddjob because, well, fucking look at her!!!
Newcomer Sophie Cookson is also in this movie, and, while her character isn’t as interesting as, say, the girl with cutlery for feet, she’s a perfectly good character. On that somewhat lukewarm note, what didn’t I like about this movie?
Well, as I mentioned before, the first act of the movie is not all that impressive. Also, some of the action, spectacular as it is, hinges on the unrealistic side, but then again, I’d be a damn hypocrite to rag on that after cheering on Hit-Girl massacre a room full of armed adults who can’t aim for shit despite being experienced mobsters. It’s still distracting as hell though. Also, this is more of a pet peeve of mine, but they do that thing where the protagonist cloaks his torso in some form of bulletproof shield while the idiot bad guys don’t think to shoot at his legs. That’s stupid. What are they, cops?
Also, I find it weird that for all the violence in this movie, there’s little to no blood. There’s actually a scene where somebody gets sliced in half right down the middle, and just about no blood was actually spilled. It’s not a major complaint, but I would’ve liked some more over-the-top, fake looking CGI blood. At least it makes sense in this movie.
Overall: If it wasn’t for a super disappointing first act, this would stand as one of the better spy movies, and a solid contender for one of the better movies of 2015. As it stands though, being a merely great movie ain’t bad. Bring on a sequel, please!
I realize I’ve been neglectful, but the second semester of my last year of high school really kicked in and I haven’t had much time to devote myself to PKTM. I don’t like it, but c’est la vie.
“I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.”
– Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes