The Too Old to Die Young Teaser


Here’s one for the cinemaphile’s glossary.totdy.jpg

In cinema circles, an Auteur is described as “a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie” (Wikipedia). I’ve looked at films as a three-way set of responsibilities. You have the writer, because without the story, there’s nothing. You’ve the Director, who takes that Writer’s vision and presents it on film, and then there’s the cinematographer, who makes sure that the Director’s work is well-lit and shot. I feel all three roles can tip the ownership of a film in anyone’s favor. A great story can be damaged by a bad director, and a good director can try to the make the best out of a bad story. On top of that, you could also have bad movies that look really good.

There are a number of directors out there who fit this designation. Brian DePalma, Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Terrence Malick (who shows up every half a decade with a film) David Cronenberg, Richard Linklater,  Jean-Luc Godard (who I’m learning a lot about lately), the list is a large and heavily argued one. Each person has their own picks and favorites.

For me, Nicolas Winding Refn fits that role. With films like Valhalla Rising, Drive , Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon, it’s hard not to recognize the color contrasts and flow of his stories. In writing this, I also found out that Refn is colorblind, which makes what he’s done so far more amazing for me.

Refn’s latest project for Amazon Studios is a series called Too Old to Die Young. The most anyone really knows is that is supposedly “explores the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles by following characters’ existential journeys from being killers to becoming samurai in the City of Angels.”

Here’s a teaser starring Miles Teller, Callie Hernandez, Jena Malone, John Hawkes and William Baldwin. It appears to still carry that wild color scheme and may possibly be just as dark and brutal as his previous work. I’m curious as to whether they’ll stick with a standard approach or follow True Detective’s style of a single writer/director pair for all of the episodes. Either way, we’ll find out when it releases next year.

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions for May


Be sure to check out my predictions for April, March, February, and January!

Best Picture

Battles of the Sexes

Blade Runner 2049

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

The Disaster Artist

Downsizing

Dunkirk

The Glass Castle

Mudbound

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Dee Rees for Mudbound

Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Tom Cruise in American Made

Matt Damon in Downsizing

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Miles Teller in Thank You For Your Service

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Brie Larson in The Glass Castle

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

 

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in The Glass Castle

Jason Mitchell in Mudbound

 

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Naomi Watts in The Glass Castle

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions For April


Check out my previous predictions for March, February, and January!

Best Picture

Battles of the Sexes

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Downsizing

Dunkirk

The Glass Castle

The Leisure Seeker

Logan

Mudbound

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

James Mangold for Logan

Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Dee Rees for Mudbound

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Tom Cruise in American Made

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Miles Teller in Thank You For Your Service

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Brie Larson in The Glass Castle

Helen Mirren in The Leisure Seeker

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

 

Best Supporting Actor

James Franco in The Masterpiece

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in The Glass Castle

John Hurt in Darkest Hour

Patrick Stewart in Logan

 

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Naomi Watts in The Glass Castle

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions For March


2013 oscars

It’s that time of month!  Here are my Oscar predictions from March.  As you can tell by comparing this month’s predictions to my predictions for January and February, I’ve learned a bit more about the films that will be coming out over the next few months and I’ve changed my mind on quite a few of the early contenders.

That said, at this time last year, no one had even heard of Moonlight.  At this point, almost all of these predictions are the result of wishful thinking, random guesses, and gut instinct.

Best Picture

Battles of the Sexes

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Downsizing

Dunkirk

The Glass Castle

The Leisure Seeker

Logan

Mudbound

Wonderstruck

I went back and forth on whether or not to include Logan in my predictions.  On the one hand, I think it could be nominated.  On the other hand, regardless of how acclaimed it may be, it is also a comic book movie that came out in March.  In the end, since these predictions are mostly just for fun at this point, I decided to imagine a situation where — like Mad Max: Fury Road two years ago — the film’s box office carries it through the summer and it gets some needed support from the precursors in December.

(For the record, if I had decided not to include Logan, I would have replaced it with Blade Runner 2049.)

 

Best Director

James Mangold for Logan

Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Dee Rees for Mudbound

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

If Logan were to get a best picture nomination, I imagine that James Mangold would get a nomination along with it.

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Tom Cruise in American Made

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Miles Teller in Thank You For Your Service

Donald Sutherland in The Leisure Seeker

The two additions here are Teller and Sutherland.  Teller seems destined to be nominated some day, assuming that he spends more time making films like Whiplash and less time on stuff like Fantastic Four.  Despite a long and distinguished career, Sutherland has never been nominated.  In The Leisure Seeker, he plays a man suffering from Alzheimer’s.  It sounds like a role for which he could not only be nominated but for which he could also win.

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Brie Larson in The Glass Castle

Helen Mirren in The Leisure Seeker

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

The two new contenders here are Mirren and Larson.  Mirren always has to be considered to be a contender and Larson’s upcoming film, The Glass Castle, sounds like pure Oscar bait.

 

Best Supporting Actor

James Franco in The Masterpiece

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in The Glass Castle

John Hurt in Darkest Hour

Patrick Stewart in Logan

Yes, I’m still predicting that James Franco will be nominated for playing Tommy Wiseau.  It may be wishful thinking on my part but so be it.  Every year, Armie Hammer seems to be on the verge of being nominated for something.  Harrelson is included as a part of The Glass Castle package.  Stewart is overdue for a nomination.  As for John Hurt, he was nominated but never won an Oscar during his lifetime.  Darkest Hour could provide the Academy with a chance to honor the man’s distinguished career, in much the same way that The Dark Knight allowed them to honor Heath Ledger.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Naomi Watts in The Glass Castle

I don’t know much about Moore’s role in Wonderstruck but the film is directed by Todd Haynes, a filmmaker who previously directed Moore in her finest performance in Safe.

Oscar1

Film Review: The Divergent Series: Allegiant (dir by Robert Schwentke)


Oh, Who Gives A Fuck About This Fucking Movie?

Oh, who cares?

I really hate to start my review with such a negative statement but seriously, after watching Allegiant today, I am now convinced that the Divergent movies are perhaps the least interesting film franchise since the Paranormal Activity sequels.  Not only are the films so derivative of The Hunger Games that I’m always surprised that Donald Sutherland isn’t lurking around in the background but they’ve also managed to waste the talents of some of the best actors of my generation.  When you’ve got performers like Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller at your disposal, there’s no excuse not to be interesting.

I watched Allegiant with my BFF Evelyn and I’ll admit right now that we talked throughout the entire movie.  We laughed at the most serious of moments.  When Jeff Daniels showed up, we had a very long discussion about how, when he’s good, Jeff Daniels is really good but when he’s bad, he manages to come across as being the most boring man on the planet.  When Miles Teller betrayed his allies, Evelyn said, “Again!?” and then she had to remind me that Miles Teller always ends up betraying everyone in every Divergent film.

(It makes you wonder why the Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) always bring Miles Teller with them as opposed to just killing him.  I suppose some of it might have to do with the fact that he’s Miles Teller and he’s a badass.  In fact, he probably should be playing Four.  He certainly has more chemistry with Shailene Woodley than Theo James does.  In fact, Theo James always looks like he’d rather be doing anything other than appearing in another goddamn Divergent film.)

And yes, Evelyn and I did get a few dirty looks from some people in the audience but you know what?  I fully understand that it’s rude to talk through a movie but oh my God, we had to do something.  Allegiant is such a boring movie.  The film moves slowly, as if the filmmakers don’t understand that everyone in the audience has seen enough YA adaptations to already know everything that’s going to happen.  If you want to truly understand what film critics mean when they say that a film is “draggy,” try to watch an entire Divergent film without standing up to stretch your legs or get something to drink.  Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make while watching Allegiant is to actually concentrate on what’s slowly playing out on screen.

The Divergent films aren’t terribly complicated and yet, I always find myself struggling to follow them.  They’re so bland and forgettable that I can never remember what happened in the previous film.  As Allegiant started, I was like, “Why is Naomi Watts in charge of Chicago now?  Oh yeah, Kate Winslet did die at the end of the last movie!”  And then I remembered that Evelyn was Four’s mother.

And then my BFF Evelyn (as opposed to the film’s Evelyn) said, “Four is a stupid name,” and I started laughing way too hard.  In fact, we made many jokes about Four’s nickname and then eventually, I remembered that he was called Four because he only has four fears.  But it took me a while to remember and, once I did remember, I couldn’t help but think about how stupid a backstory that was.

Anyway, the plot of the film is that the movie’s Evelyn is now in charge of Chicago but she’s turning out to be just as bad as the system that she’s replacing.  So, Tris, Four, and friends escape from Chicago and explore the barren landscape that surrounds the city.  Eventually, they are found by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.  The Bureau is headed up by a boring guy named David (Jeff Daniels).  At first, David seems to be a good guy but then it turns out that the Bureau was behind the whole Faction experiment.  And now the Bureau wants to attack Chicago, wipe the slate clean, and start the experiment all over again.

Will Four and Tris go along with David’s plan or will they try to stop him?

At this point, who cares?

The thing that’s annoying about the Divergent films is that the storyline has potential.  At the heart of it all, the battle between the Factions and the Factionless has the potential to be a powerful, if simplistic, metaphor.  But the films are so plodding and take such an obvious approach that most of that potential is wasted.  Add to that, Shailene Woodley is a great actress.  In fact, I think it can be argued that she actually has more range than Jennifer Lawrence.  (Just check out her performance in The Spectacular Now.)  But the franchise has never known what to do with her uniquely off-center style.  Instead, it simply gives her speeches that feel as if they’ve been lifted from every other dystopian YA franchise.  The films insist on trying to make Shailene Woodley predictable and she deserves better on that.

As is typical of big franchise films nowadays, Allegiant is just part one of the Divergent finale and even the “to be continued” ending feels annoying because it’s so obviously lifted from every other franchise finale that’s ever been produced.  As with all the Divergent films, Allegiant never escapes the shadow of The Hunger Games.  The best that can be said about this franchise is that it will be over soon.  Hopefully, Shailene Woodley will be able to move onto a film more worthy of her considerable talents.

Here Are the Reliably Boring Razzie Nominations!


Yawn!  The Razzies are always so boring!  Here are this year’s predictable nominations.  Talk about them on twitter and impress your friends.

Worst Picture
Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jupiter Ascending
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Pixels

Worst Director
Andy Fickman, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tom Six, Human Centipede 3
Sam Taylor-Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actor
Johnny Depp, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler, The Cobbler and Pixels
Channing Tatum, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Actress
Katherine Heigl, Home Sweet Hell
Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending
Jennifer Lopez, The Boy Next Door
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mortdecai

Worst Supporting Actor
Chevy Chase, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Vacation
Josh Gad, Pixels and The Wedding Ringer
Kevin James, Pixels
Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip
Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending

Worst Supporting Actress
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip and The Wedding Ringer
Rooney Mara, Pan
Michelle Monaghan, Pixels
Julianne Moore, Seventh Son
Amanda Seyfried, Love the Coopers and Pan

Worst Screenplay
Simon Kinberg, Jeremy Slater and Josh Trank, Fantastic Four
Kelly Marcel, Fifty Shades of Grey
Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending
Kevin James and Nick Bakay, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, Pixels

Worst Remake or Sequel
Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Fantastic Four
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Human Centipede 3
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2

Worst Screen Combo
Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, Fantastic Four
Johnny Depp and his glued-on mustache, Mortdecai
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
Kevin James and either his Segway or glued-on mustache, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
Adam Sandler and any pair of shoes, The Cobbler

Razzies Redeemer Award
Elizabeth Banks
M. Night Shyamalan
Will Smith
Sylvester Stallone

Face Front, True Believers! The New Fantastic Four Is As Bad As The Old Fantastic Four!


FFFace front, true believers!

This is the one you’ve been waiting for!  There’s a new Fantastic Four movie out, looking to cash in on this cozy crazy comic book fad!  It’s been getting terrifyingly terrible reviews and the ravenous reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes have given it a scintillating score of 9%.  But don’t let my manic misplaced modifiers put you off, pilgrim!  The ancient prophecy is true!  Fantastic Four is as boldly bad as everyone says!  Not even the merriest members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society will find much to marvel at here!

This is the latest attempt to start a Fantastic Four film franchise.  This time Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) are both unlikely teenagers.  Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) recruits Reed to help work on a “Quantum Gate” that will transport explorers to the Negative Zone.  Instead of being transformed by gamma rays, Reed and his friends become super human as a result of going to Planet Zero and getting splashed by green goo.  Reed has the power to stretch.  Ben develops a rock-like hide.  Dr. Storm’s son, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), becomes a human torch while his adopted daughter, Sue (Kate Mara), is given the power of invisibility.

Doctor-DoomIt takes over an hour for Reed and friends to become fantastic and, even after they do, there’s no sense of wonder or excitement to Fantastic Four.  It’s obvious that a lot of money was spent on special effects but there is not a single scene that can match the power or imagination of a Jack Kirby illustration.  Worst of all is what is done to Dr. Doom (Toby Kebbell).  One of Marvel’s most complex and iconic characters is reduced to being just another vaguely motivated movie bad guy.  Fantastic Four feels like a throwback to the worst comic book movies of the 90s.  Nuff said?

This version of Fantastic Four was directed by Josh Trank, who previously directed the excellent ChronicleFantastic Four is so joyless and rudimentary in its approach that it feels like the anti-Chronicle.  After the initial negative reviews came out, Trank tweeted, “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”  (He later deleted the tweet.)  Perhaps studio interference explains why Fantastic Four feels so disjointed.  It seems to be missing key scenes.  For instance, do you remember all of those cool moments from the trailer?  Most of them are not in the actual movie.

fant_fourIf you count the never released Roger Corman-produced 1994 film, this is the fourth attempt to reboot The Fantastic Four.  When I was growing up and reading comics, I never really cared about The Fantastic Four.  The only time I ever read Fantastic Four was if they were doing a crossover with the X-Men or Spider-man.  I knew they were important to the history of the Marvel Universe but they also seemed old-fashioned and almost corny.  It’s hard to take seriously a scientific genius who can not come up with a better name than Mr. Fantastic.  As characters, the Thing, the Human Torch, the Invisible Woman, and Mr. Fantastic all feel like they still belong in 1961 and maybe that is why all the recent film adaptations of The Fantastic Four have failed.   Perhaps the fifth attempt should take a retro approach and set the story in the 1960s.

Perhaps then the flashy, fulsome, and far-out Fantastic Four will get the marvelous movie masterpiece that they deserve!

Excelsior!

031611_ff

 

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Film Reviews: Avengers Grimm, Bad Asses On The Bayou, Hayride 2, Insurgent, Poltergeist, Tomorrowland


Here are 6 films that I saw during the first half of 2015.  Some of them are on Netflix and some of them were major studio releases.  Some of them are worth seeing.  Some of them most definitely are not.

Avengers_Grimm

Avengers Grimm (dir by Jeremy M. Inman)

Obviously made to capitalize on the popularity of Avengers: Age of UltronAvengers Grimm opens with a war in the world of fairy tales.  Evil Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) uses Snow White’s (Laura Parkinson) magic mirror to cross over into our world and he takes Snow White with him!  It’s now up to Cinderella (Milynn Sharley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough), and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) to cross over into our world, save Snow White, and defeat Rumpelstiltskin.  Also sneaking over is rebellious Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Petersen) who is determined to kill Rumpelstiltskin’s henchman, The Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo).  

Got all that?

Avengers Grimm is another enjoyably insane mockbuster from The Asylum.  The budget’s low, the performances are intentionally melodramatic, and it’s all lot of fun.  Casper Van Dien has a lot of fun playing evil, the women all get to kick ass, and Lou Ferrigno is well-cast as a labor leader named Iron John.

Avengers Grimm is currently available on Netflix.

Bad_Asses_on_the_Bayou

Bad Asses On The Bayou (dir by Craig Moss)

Apparently, this is the third film in which Danny Trejo and Danny Glover have respectively played Frank Vega and Bernie Pope, two old guys who kick ass in between worrying about their prostates.  I haven’t seen the previous two Bad Asses films but I imagine that it really doesn’t matter.

In this film, Trejo and Glover go to Louisiana to attend a friend’s wedding.  When she’s kidnapped, they have to rescue her and impart some important life lessons to her younger brother.  It’s all pretty predictable but then again, it’s also pretty good for a film called Bad Asses On The Bayou.  This is a film that promises two things: Danny Trejo kicking ass and lots of bayou action.  And it delivers on both counts.

In fact, I would say that Bad Asses On The Bayou is a better showcase for Danny Trejo’s unique style than the better known Machete films.  Danny Trejo is a surprisingly adept comedic actor and he gives a performance here that shows his talent goes beyond mere physical presence.

Bad Asses On The Bayou is currently available on Netflix.

hayride-2

Hayride 2 (dir by Terron R. Parsons)

I should admit up front that I haven’t seen the first Hayride film.  Luckily, Hayride 2 picks up directly from the end of the first film and is filled with so many flashbacks and so much conversation about what happened that it probably doesn’t matter.

Essentially, Pitchfork (Wayne Dean) is a murderous urban legend who turns out to be real.  He killed a lot of people in the first film and he stalks those that escaped throughout the 2nd film.  Like all good slasher villains, Pitchfork is a relentless killer.  He’s also an unrepentant racist, which leads to a genuinely unpleasant scene where he attacks a black detective (Corlandos Scott).  Say whatever else you will about the film, Hayride 2 deserves some credit for being on the side of the victims.  No attempt is made to turn Pitchfork into an anti-hero and the movie is relentlessly grim.

Hayride 2 is an odd film.  The film’s low-budget is obvious in every single scene.  The pacing is abysmal and the performances are amateurish.  And yet, when taken on its own meager terms, it has a dream-like intensity to it that I appreciated.  Then again, I always have had a weakness for low-budget, regional horror films.

Hayride 2 is available on Netflix.

Insurgent_poster

Insurgent (dir by Robert Schwentke)

Insurgent is both the sequel to Divergent and was also 2015’s first YA dystopia film.  Shailene Woodley is as good as ever and I guess it’s good that she has a commercially successful franchise, which will hopefully inspire audiences to track down better Shailene Woodley films like The Spectacular Now.  

All that said, Insurgent often felt even more pointless than Divergent.  For a two-hour film featuring performers like Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller, Insurgent has no excuse for being as forgettable and boring as it actually was.  The next installment in The Hunger Games can not get here soon enough.

Poltergeist_2015_poster

Poltergeist (dir by Gil Kenan)

When a family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house, they discover that everything is not what it seems.  For one thing, they come across a bunch of creepy clown dolls.  They also hear a lot of scary sounds.  They discover that the house was built on an old cemetery.  Their youngest daughter vanishes.  And finally, someone says, “Isn’t this like that old movie that was on TCM last night?”

Okay, they don’t actually say that.  However, as everyone knows, the 2015 Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 Poltergeist.  Since the 1982 Poltergeist still holds up fairly well, the 2015 Poltergeist feels incredibly unnecessary.  It has a few good jump scenes and it’s always good to see Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in lead roles but ultimately, who cares?  It’s just all so pointless.

Watch the wall-dancing original.  Ignore the remake.

Tomorrowland_poster

Tomorrowland (dir by Brad Bird)

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!  Wow, is it ever boring!

Actually, I feel a little bit bad about just how much I disliked Tomorrowland because this is a film that really did have the best intentions.  Watching the film, you get the sinking feeling that the people involved actually did think that they were going to make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, their idea of a better world is boring and almost oppressively optimistic.  There is no room for cynicism in Tomorrowland.  Bleh.  What fun is that?

Anyway, the film basically steals its general idea from the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Tomorrowland is a secret place that is inhabited by inventors, dreamers, and iconoclasts.  Years ago, Frank (George Clooney) was banished from Tomorrowland because, after learning that the Earth was destined to end, he lost “hope” in mankind’s future.  Fortunately, he meets Casey (Britt Robertson), who is full of hope and through her, he gets to return.  They also get a chance to save the world and battle a cartoonish super villain played by Hugh Laurie.  (Why is he a villain?  Because he’s played by Hugh Laurie, of course!)

After all the hype and build-up, Tomorrowland turned out to be dull and predictable.  What a shame.  The Atlas Shrugged trilogy was at least fun because it annoyed the hipsters at the AV Club.  Tomorrowland is just forgettable.

Trailer: The Fantastic Four


Here’s the official trailer for Interstellar 2!

Oh wait…sorry…

This film is called The Fantastic Four.  Apparently, somebody realized just how bad the previous Fantastic Four films were and decided to just reboot the whole franchise.

Anyway, judging from this trailer, it looks like this film might be more like Man of Steel than Guardians of the Galaxy.

6 More Film Reviews From 2014: At Middleton, Barefoot, Divergent, Gimme Shelter, The Other Woman, and more!


Let’s continue to get caught up with 6 more reviews of 6 more films that I saw in 2014!

At Middleton (dir by Adam Rodgers)

“Charming, but slight.”  I’ve always liked that term and I think it’s the perfect description for At Middleton, a dramedy that came out in January and did not really get that much attention.  Vera Farmiga is a businesswoman who is touring colleges with her daughter (Taissa Farmiga, who is actually Vera’s younger sister).  Andy Garcia is a surgeon who is doing the same thing with his son.  All four of them end up touring Middleton College at the same time.  While their respective children tour the school, Vera and Andy end up walking around the campus and talking.  And that’s pretty much the entire film!

But you know what?  Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia are both such good performers and have such a strong chemistry that it doesn’t matter that not much happens.  Or, at the very least, it doesn’t matter was much as you might think it would.

Hence, charming but slight.

Barefoot (dir by Andrew Fleming)

Well, fuck it.

Sorry, I know that’s not the best way to start a review but Barefoot really bothered me.  In Barefoot, Scott Speedman plays a guy who invites Evan Rachel Wood to his brother’s wedding.  The twist is that Wood has spent most of her life in a mental institution.  Originally, Speedman only invites her so that he can trick his father (Treat Williams) into believing that Speedman has finally become a responsible adult.  But, of course, he ends up falling in love with her and Wood’s simple, mentally unbalanced charm brings delight to everyone who meets her.  I wanted to like this film because I love both Scott Speedman and Evan Rachel Wood but, ultimately, it’s all rather condescending and insulting.  Yes, the film may be saying, mental illness is difficult but at least it helped Scott Speedman find love…

On the plus side, the always great J.K. Simmons shows up, playing a psychiatrist.  At no point does he say, “Not my tempo” but he was probably thinking it.

Divergent (dir by Neil Burger)

There’s a lot of good things that can be said about Divergent.  Shailene Woodley is a likable heroine.  The film’s depiction of a dystopian future is well-done. Kate Winslet has fun playing a villain.  Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort are well-cast.  But, ultimately, Divergent suffers from the same problem as The Maze Runner and countless other YA adaptations.  The film never escapes from the shadow of the far superior Hunger Games franchise.  Perhaps, if Divergent had been released first, we’d be referring to the Hunger Games as being a Divergent rip-off.

However, I kind of doubt it.  The Hunger Games works on so many levels.  Divergent is an entertaining adventure film that features a good performance from Shailene Woodley but it’s never anything more than that.  Considering that director Neil Burger previously gave us Interview with the Assassin and Limitless, it’s hard not to be disappointed that there’s not more to Divergent.

Gimme Shelter (dir by Ron Krauss)

Gimme Shelter, which is apparently based on a true story, is about a teenage girl named Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) who flees her abusive, drug addicted mother (Rosario Dawson).  She eventually tracks down her wealthy father (Brendan Fraser), who at first takes Apple in.  However, when he discovers that she’s pregnant, he demands that she get an abortion.  When Apple refuses, he kicks her out of the house.  Apple eventually meets a kindly priest (James Earl Jones) and moves into a shelter that’s run by the tough Kathy (Ann Dowd).

Gimme Shelter came out in January and it was briefly controversial because a lot of critics felt that, by celebrating Apple’s decision not to abort her baby, the movie was pushing an overly pro-life message.  Interestingly enough, a lot of those outraged critics were men and, as I read their angry reviews, it was hard not to feel that they were more concerned with showing off their political bona fides than with reviewing the actual film.  Yes, the film does celebrate Apple’s decision to keep her baby but the film also emphasizes that it was Apple’s decision to make, just as surely as it would have been her decision to make if she had chosen to have an abortion.

To be honest, the worst thing about Gimme Shelter is that it doesn’t take advantage of the fact that it shares its name with a great song by the Rolling Stones.  Otherwise, it’s a well-done (if rather uneven) look at life on the margins.  Yes, the script and the direction are heavy-handed but the film is redeemed by a strong performance from Vanessa Hudgens, who deserves to be known for more than just being “that girl from High School Musical.”

Heaven is For Real (dir by Randall Wallace)

You can tell that Heaven is For Real is supposed to be based on a true story by the fact that the main character is named Todd Burpo.  Todd Burpo is one of those names that’s just so ripe for ridicule that you know he has to be a real person.

Anyway, Heaven Is For Real is based on a book of the same name.  Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is the pastor of a small church in Nebraska.  After Todd’s son, Colton, has a near death experience, he claims to have visited Heaven where he not only met a sister who died before he was born but also had a conversation with Jesus.  As Colton’s story starts to get national attention, Todd struggles to determine whether Colton actually went to Heaven or if he was just having a hallucination.

You can probably guess which side the movie comes down on.

Usually, as a self-described heathen, I watch about zero faith-based movies a year.  For some reason, I ended up watching three over the course of 2014: Left Behind, Rumors of War, and this one.  Heaven is For Real is not as preachy (or terrible) as Left Behind but it’s also not as much fun as Rumors of War.  (Rumors of War, after all, featured Eric Roberts.)  Instead, Heaven Is For Real is probably as close to mainstream as a faith-based movie can get.  I doubt that the film changed anyone’s opinion regarding whether or not heaven is for real but it’s still well-done in a made-for-TV sort of way.

The Other Woman (dir by Nick Cassavetes)

According to my BFF Evelyn, we really liked The Other Woman when we saw it earlier this year.  And, despite how bored I was with the film when I recently tired to rewatch it, we probably did enjoy it that first time.  It’s a girlfriend film, the type of movie that’s enjoyable as long as you’re seeing it for the first time and you’re seeing it with your best girlfriends.  It’s a lot of fun the first time you see it but since the entire film is on the surface, there’s nothing left to discover on repeat viewings.  Instead, you just find yourself very aware of the fact that the film often substitutes easy shock for genuine comedy. (To be honest, I think that — even with the recent missteps of Labor Day and Men, Women, and Children — Jason Reitman could have done wonders with this material.  Nick Cassavetes however…)   Leslie Mann gives a good performance and the scenes where she bonds with Cameron Diaz are a lot of fun but otherwise, it’s the type of film that you enjoy when you see it and then you forget about it.