RATED: R (pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence)
NOT IN 3D
NOT IN RPX
On practically every website there’s something about The Interview, be it a review, or just some sort of article with news on its release or controversy. The film, for those who don’t know, is the latest film written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Its an action comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco who are tasked with killing North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong Un. The film was forced out of release after North Korea threatened any theater that showed it. The film was aired on VOD the day before its preset release and later put into select theaters. Many people criticized the film, expecting a smart satire on North Korea, which is definitely not what The Interview is. Many probably expected a different film than Seth Rogen’s standard film had it not been canceled for a few days. I enjoyed The Interview, I knew what to expect, its a low brow comedy, it uses low IQ characters to do stupid things and make the audience laugh, and it does a great job of doing so. Seth Rogen and James Franco both gave hilarious performances. The one thing that really stood out the film was Randall Park’s performance, Park played Un. The film mocked Un by making him a man child wishing for his dead father’s approval. It really worked for the character and made for some hilarious moments. The film’s jokes were good, for the most part, but some didn’t work at all and some came off as dumb filler content. The jokes worked most of the time though, and considering the amount of jokes, it succeeded on that front. The Interview is funny, I’d say its just as good as This Is The End, but it won’t be appealing to those who don’t find low brow humor funny, but there is also some political satire to mix it up. The Interview is playing in select theaters and is on VOD services such as iTunes, YouTube, GooglePlay, XBox video, and will soon be on Time Warner Cable, Playstation Network, and Comcast.
RATED: PG-13 (thematic elements and brief strong language)
NOT IN 3D
NOT IN RPX
Big Eyes is a triumph in many ways. Tim Burton’s direction is outstanding, the performances are appropriately quirky and strong and the pacing is spot on. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz both gave performances that were perfect for their characters. The film tells the story of painter Margaret Keane, who was famous for painting sad little children with massive eyes. The film focuses on when her husband, Walter Keane (Waltz) took the credit for her paintings, and became rich and famous for them. The narrative is smart and makes sure that the audience is on Adams’ side.Amy Adams does an excellent job of capturing the quiet and strong Margaret Keane, you can see the skepticism in her eyes, fear and anger. Christoph Waltz also gave a strong performance as Walter Keane. He had all of the charisma, but the darkness was still seen in him. There is one particular scene where Walter is extremely drunk that shows off the two lead’s performances. Showing fear, darkness, desperation and terror. Tim Burton’s direction was also very strong. He was able to take a story about quirky paintings and make an entire quirky world surrounding it, with charming characters and environments alike. There is one particular scene where Adams begins hallucinating and seeing big eyes on everyone where Burton’s direction truly shines. This film certainly was a great choice for Burton and I can’t imagine it being directed by anyone else. The supporting cast was also very strong featuring Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, and many others. Jason Schwartzman’s performance was a great source of comic relief and an outstanding way to make the world even quirkier. He played the owner of the modern art gallery and he despised Walter Keane. Whenever he was on he would make some remark about Keane paintings and the entire audience would laugh in response. Big Eyes is definitely worth watching for fans of Tim Burton, Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, or even just quirky movies. Big Eyes is playing nationwide and has been since Christmas.
RATED: PG-13 (some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking)
NOT IN 3D
NOT IN RPX
The Imitation Game is one of the best films I have seen this year. The film does an excellent job of telling the story of the people who cracked the Enigma Code. For those who don’t know, the Enigma Code was a seemingly indecipherable code devised by the Nazis to communicate about upcoming attacks.The film features outstanding performances, especially from Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Cumberbatch’s performance is one of the best (and possibly THE best) performances from a male lead this year. I was able to tell if his character was lying or his mood simply by looking in his eyes. Many performances fail to capture the character’s emotions on a deeper level, most only show emotion for what’s being said, if that makes sense. Keira Knightley’s performance was also like this, and due to performances that strong, the film succeeds. The rest of the cast also delivered, consisting of Allen Leach, Matthew Goode and many others. The film was also driven by strong writing. The script does an outstanding job of connecting the audience to the characters as well as the task at hand. The dialogue worked, the relationships were believable and I always felt like cracking Enigma was the number one thing to do while watching it. The film, while spectacular also has its flaws. While minor the film had three different decades being followed and it would cycle between them at random times. That might not seem like much of an issue, but when switching from cracking Enigma to several years later, it was difficult to understand which time was being watched. In one scene in particular, I found myself very confused until I figured out which part of the story was being watched. This flaw caused my comprehension to stumble, but only for a moment. The Imitation Game is definitely a film that should be seen, especially by those who are unfamiliar with the story or just want to watch some of the year’s best performances. The film is now in nationwide release and has been since Christmas.
RATED: PG-13 (extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images)
3D IS STUNNING
RPX IS A MUST (IF POSSIBLE SEE IN HFR AS WELL)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the five armies (directed by Peter Jackson) was one my highest anticipated films of the year, and it met its expectations. Once again, the performances are stellar from Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin), Aidan Turner (Kili), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), and everyone else in the massive cast. The film follows Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves’ adventure to kill Smaug and make Thorin the leader of Erebor, but a little corruption and a lot of greed make the film burst into all out war. The special effects are stellar (as always) and Peter Jackson’s direction is masterful. The cinematography is genius, making sure to show as much as it can in each shot without making the audience dizzy. The battles are on an epic scale and deliver in every way. The film is its most impressive when thousands of soldiers are battling on the screen, every CGI texture looking as brilliant as the next. The film’s only flaw was that the first ten or so minutes really could have been in the end of the second Hobbit film. It was a bit confusing, I had to give myself a minute to remember the characters and where we were left since it had been a year since I saw The Desolation of Smaug. It would have been nice to have a little “previously on the Hobbit” in the intro. This film is also worth seeing in HFR, HFR doubles the frame rate of a standard film (24 fps to 48 fps), it looks amazing during scenes where a lot is going on. In the beginning, the HFR was tough to get used to, but once I got used to it, I loved it. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a must see for fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series, and one of the best films of the year.
RATED: PG-13 ( violence including battle sequences and intense images)
3D IS OKAY
GREAT IN RPX
I’ve been looking forward to Exodus ever since it was “Ridley Scott Biblical project starring Christian Bale as Moses”, my thoughts were that this would be like Gladiator, but in a different setting. The film has a massive scope that is fully satisfied, the special effects were amazing, especially the plagues, and Christian Bale’s performance was outstanding. The battle scenes were very well done and were backed by excellent cinematography. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Ben Kingsley in a supporting role. The film, however did have it’s issues. My main issue was that I couldn’t stand Joel Edgerton’s Ramses, his performance was unconvincing at best. The film also had very sluggish pacing, at points it seemed like it was speeding up, and then it suddenly started moving slow once again. The film was also terribly predictable, although this is an extremely well known story, the film used obvious and weak foreshadowing that made the film feel too predictable and at times cliched, but all is forgiven because of that amazing plagues scene. Overall, Exodus is a film worth seeing this holiday season.
RATED: PG-13 ( intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material)
NOT IN 3D
RPX NOT NECESSARY
Mockingjay part one is the series’ best film yet in my book. When I went home after The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I liked them less and less the more that I thought about them, but my opinion on Mockingjay stayed the same. Mockingjay boasts outstanding performances and the best special effects the series has seen (although that isn’t saying much since the first two had awful special effects). The film, while not delivering in the action department, absolutely nailed the political element of the plot. The film was intriguing, and had I not read the book, I’d be dying to know what happens next. The all star cast delivered with all of their performances, some of the cast consisted of Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, and Stanley Tucci. There’s a few more well known actors as well. The film follows Katniss in District 13 and her political war with the Capitol. The only negatives were that the film kind of slowed down towards the middle, but picked itself up again, the cinematography was awful at parts, and Julianne Moore’s Coin is an extremely static character. The issue with the cinematography was at it’s worst in the scene when Katniss visits a makeshift hospital, the camera goes to shakey cam for about three seconds and then stops, it’s as if the director said “Let’s do some shakey cam… wait, no stop, shakey cam is bad.” Coin, along with the rest of District 13 were all very one sided characters that were nearly impossible to sympathise with. Overall, Mockingjay is worth watching for fans of the book (it’s very accurate) and fans of political thrillers.
RATED: R (for strong language including some sexual references)
NOT IN 3D
NOT IN RPX
Whiplash (directed by Damien Chazelle) is intense. As the film continued forwards, my stomach got more and more knotted and I grew closer to the edge of my seat. The film is truly a two man show, a psychological war between Miles Teller and J.K Simmons. Both are great, I wouldn’t be surprised if they both come home with Oscars. The cinematography is also genius, the camera will zoom in on just a single drum to show intensity, and it even went first person at times. Whiplash tells the story of obsession and what it does to someone. A prodigious jazz drummer (named Andrew, played by Teller) goes to Shafer College and is invited to join the Studio Band. The teacher for the studio band (named Fletcher, played by Simmons) assigns Andrew to alternate drums. Fletcher challenges Andrew, he yells at him, he throws obstacles at him, and he constantly brings up Andrew’s tough life as a child. I’m not going to tell anymore because when I saw it, all I knew was that it had J.K Simmons and Miles Teller and it involved drums. I actually think I enjoyed it more having only that much information and I’m glad I didn’t know very much about it. The writing is outstanding and once again, it really got under my skin and sent chills down my spine at scenes. I seriously advise that most if not all people should see this film, it’s definitely one of the year’s best.
RATED: R (strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout)
NOT IN 3D
GREAT IN RPX, AND YOU GET A TEE SHIRT!
Fury (directed by David Ayer) is a raw story of the brutality of war. The acting was superb, and they were able to make every scene seem very intense. The leading cast consisted of Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt, Shia LaBouf, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal. The film is about a fictional WWII tank crew that lasted four years together. The film was based on the accounts of several WWII tank operators, all of the stories were brought together. The film’s main focus is a boy named Norman (Lerman), Norman is thrusted into a tank crew after one of their men just died. Norman evolves from never having killed to killing nazis without a second thought, which is interesting to watch. The other characters slowly become more and more developed, so that you care for each of them. The film takes place at the end of WWII (1945 I believe, possibly 1946), and it really is very different from other WWII films. The tank battle scenes were also extraordinary. I learned that German tanks were all around more powerful than those of the Allies, which was made very clear during the battles. Overall I would say Fury is worth watching for anyone that wants something on the heavy side.
RATED: R (STRONG AND BLOODY VIOLENCE THROUGHOUT, LANGUAGE, AND BRIEF DRUG USE)
NOT IN 3D
GOOD IN RPX, BUT SADLY, NO TEE SHIRT.
Needless to say, John Wick is fun. It serves as a great return to the action genre for Keanu Reeves. If Keanu Reeves says more than twenty words in the movie, I’d be surprised, but the action was so well choreographed, I doubt many people will care. The acting was as good as it gets in the genre of “shoot first, talk never movies” and once again, every fight scene was fun. Some honorable mentions are Willem Dafoe was great as the sniper, Marcus. Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, and Adrianne Palicki were all strong as villains. The film is about an ex-hitman, John Wick (Reeves), John’s wife recently died from disease and she gives him a puppy as her last gift. John encounters these men who want to buy his car, John refuses. Than night, the men invade his home, beat John to a pulp, take the car, and kill the puppy. John is mad, he wants revenge. The villains didn’t know who they did this to, John Wick, the man you’d send to kill the Boogeyman. From then on out, it’s basically John versus the entire agency that he used to work for. If it wasn’t obvious, let me point this out, John Wick is a guy movie, through-and-through. So, if you love action (some of the best action I’ve seen), John Wick is for you.
NOT IN 3D
RPX? Why not? You get a free Tee-shirt.
By no means is The Maze Runner a bad film, it’s better than some of the more recent YA films (I’m looking at you Ender’s Game, Divergent, TFIOS, and the Giver) and it boasts some fine performances, especially from Dylan O’Brien. I’m going to be honest, I hated the book, I almost finished it and just couldn’t bring myself to the end, the movie was definitely better than the book in plenty of ways. The special effects weren’t anything special, but it did what is could with a $34 million budget. The film is about a boy, Thomas, who wakes up in a rusty elevator one day and can’t remember anything but his name. He is brought up to the Glade. The Glade is a grassy area surrounded by a massive maze. It’s difficult to explain the plot much more without giving too much away so I’ll leave it at that. The film’s issues were complication, how predictable it was and poor cinematography. The film did a good job of explaining nearly nothing, which was definitely a bad move. Towards the extremely anti climactic ending, nothing made sense, and it had more sequel set-up than Back To The Future. The idea was fairly unoriginal (amnesiac hero that is in a place where kids kill kids… where have I seen that before?) and the script was full of cliques. The film’s twists were far too obvious (“You’re never gonna go in the maze… gee, I wonder what’s gonna happen next), and I could tell the whole theater was disappointed. The cinematography wasn’t very well done either. During conversations you’d get awkward close ups and shaky cam. When you’d want shaky cam, it wasn’t there. Parts of the film were well done, but others weren’t so. If you loved the book or just want an opinion, I’d see this if I were you.