We’re 23 days into the new year, and I’ve only seen one film actually released in 2014 so far… But with the trash usually released in January, who can blame me for just catching up on last year’s films? Anyway, here’s a few more flicks I caught at home from last year (and one 80s movie as well!).
Short Term 12
Short Term 12 is a film about a week in the life of Grace (Brie Larson), a supervisor at a foster home for disadvantaged kids [angry-looking teen stares at me menacingly]. Oh sorry, uhhhhhh, “young people who haven’t found their place yet…” (avoids pooping own pants). Much like the kids, Grace has emotional scars from her childhood, and they start to come out in full force when a young girl comes to the home that reminds her of herself at that age. Same thing happens to me when I see someone playing Vectorman. Damn, that game was hard.
Much like last year’s The Spectacular Now, Short Term 12 manages to take a concept that would normally be overwrought with clichés and melodrama, and instead injects it with subtle realism. Enough to turn this would-be forgettable movie into a borderline awesome film. Larson is great as Grace, as is her character’s boyfriend and fellow counselor Mason, played by the guy who plays Jim on The Newsroom (but with a beard!). It has a simple but effective plot that takes the time to develop even the smaller characters, and it has an ending that left me feeling at least slightly good about things. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a great achievement in filmmaking, but as far as little indie films with shakey-cam cinematography and minimalist storytelling go, this one is right up there with the best of its kind.
8.5 out of 10
This is a dramatic retelling of the Beltway Snipers from a few years ago. Remember them? Those two jerks who terrorized Washington DC by shooting random people at gas stations? Yeah, them.
I guess I didn’t know what to fully expect with this movie. I was kind of under the impression it would be good, with its 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the fact that it had great buzz at Sundance last year. What I ended up seeing was… …kinda boring. And also kind of pointless. I’m not sure what the purpose of this film was. It highlighted the odd relationship between the two snipers (one of which was just a teenager), but in the end I felt like I knew just as much about them as I did going in. The older sniper guy was an anti-American nut who made stupid manifestos, and the teenager was a naive youth who fell into the wrong hands. He should have went to Short Term 12!
I guess the most interesting moments came when they were showing actual news reports and footage of the incidents throughout the film, which leads me to believe I would have much rather just watched a documentary about the Beltway Snipers instead of this tripe. And it was full of dumb and questionable moments like the snipers talking, LOUDLY, in the middle of a crowded grocery store about taking out different kinds of targets. You’d think, in the middle of the crisis going on, someone in the grocery store would have overheard that conversation and reported the dudes. Which leads me to believe that that conversation never happened. At least in public. Also, the teen was playing the first Doom on an Xbox in one scene… What’s up with that?!
I guess I was just kind of hoping, based on the positive feedback it was getting, that Blue Caprice was going to elevate itself above the direct-to-DVD serial killer garbage like “Gacy” or “B.T.K.” But I was wrong. If there was ever a problem that serial killers get over-glamorized by Hollywood, Blue Caprice isn’t some sort of brilliantly filmed exception. Ehhhhh, avoid.
3 out of 10
This is a HILARIOUS comedy film about two wristwatch salesman (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) who are past their prime and need a new job, so they apply to be interns at Google. Even after a terrible Skype interview, which they do at a library because they apparently don’t even own computers, they miraculously get chosen for the program, which ends up being less of a learning experience than it is just a weird, week-long competition between 100 people where only five people get offered a job at the end. They manage to scrape by in the program with their group of misfits, even though they have no programming experience (they lied on their resumes). They also both have flip phones in 2013, despite applying for a tech job, which no one seems to care about or find weird for some reason.
I ended up sort of enjoying myself while hate-watching this. It’s a movie so implausible that it almost became laughable just in that regard. But the jokes themselves are certainly not funny. The only time I had an actual audible laugh was when Vince Vaughn was talking and he spit all over the place on accident, and the editor left that take in the film. I laughed for probably a solid 45 seconds at that, and it wasn’t even an intended joke in the movie. People spitting when they talk just cracks me up, what can I say? But anyway, one of the events to get a job at Google is to play Quiddich, which makes sense because the script was written by Vince Vaughn, who hasn’t made a logical career move since Wedding Crashers, which is basically just a funnier version of The Internship. This is a movie that opens with Vince Vaughn singing four verses of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”, and also has them tricked into asking if a bald guy in a wheelchair is “Charles Xavier”, because it’s hilarious that old people don’t know what X-Men is. Then they get punched in the balls. Ha.
3.5 out of 10
The Butler. Sorry, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Because Lee Daniels is Full of Himself.
The Butler is a film about Cecil Gaines (Forest Whittaker) , who grew up as a slave on a plantation in the 1920’s and – what, what? Oh, I guess his parents were just sharecroppers… but then why is everyone dressed like they’re in the 1860’s and a cruel slave driver rapes his mother and kills his father without consequence? Oh, whatever. Anyway, he learns to become a butler, and eventually becomes the butler at the White house in the 1950s and has a 34 year career there, until he retires because they won’t give him a raise. Cecil’s story is paralleled by his son’s story, who goes through literally every major event of the civil rights movement, CONVENIENTLY. This film also features many actors playing presidents over the span of Cecil’s career. Some of the choices, like Alan Rickman as Reagan and John Cusack as Nixon, kind of look like the guys they’re playing if you squint really hard. But the accents are still terrible. And other choices like Robin Williams as Eisenhower and James Marsden as Kennedy are just weird. To be honest, they’re all kind of weird. The film ends in 2008 with Cecil (in terrible old age make-up) getting ready to visit the first African-American president (Obama I think his name is) at the White house, set to cheesy orchestral music. OH, LEE DANIELS, PUT YOUR NAME IN FRONT OF EVERYTHING.
To call this movie Oscar bait is an understatement. And it seems like all the actors were really hoping it gave them a chance at glory. Tough luck, Oprah. And as someone who has never had my lips firmly planted on Oprah’s buttocks, I can tell you her performance was average at best. She never got me lost in the film, and every time I saw her I was just like “Oh, there’s Oprah.” In addition to that, Whitaker’s old person voiceover throughout the movie was kind of hilariously cliché. It turned the whole movie into something of a spoof of what it was trying to become. Also, Mariah Carey was cast in a non-speaking role as an African-American cotton farmer. Uh? Ok? And Lenny Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Jr. are in it for some reason as well. There are some watchable scenes in the film, but as a whole, it’s really clunky (the editing is horrible), and it’s trying way too hard to be something better than it is. This is 2013’s The Help, but without the humor or poop eating scenes. In the end, I’m happy that the Oscars completely snubbed this desperate grab for awards of any nominations, because it feels like slight redemption from when Lee Daniels’ other popular awards grabber, Precious, somehow beat Up in the Air for Best Screenplay. SOMEHOW. I still don’t understand how.
4.5 out of 10
The Wraith is a 1986 “horror” film that I decided to watch on a whim the other day. I knew nothing about it going in, but here’s what I found out. The film is about a group of “street pirates”, who are essentially a gang of young punks that target lonely cars driving at night, and then they challenge them to midnight races for ownership of their victims’ cars. Sounds stupid enough as is, right? It gets better. There’s a supernatural, super black, super window-tinted Dodge Interceptor that’s killing the gang members one-by-one. It’s one part 1980s teen drivel, one part Troma-esk dumb violence, one part terrible neon special effects, and then multiply everything by Clint Howard with an afro.
I’m surprised I’ve never heard of a movie this weird before, especially because it stars a young Charlie Sheen (young Sheen = tolerable Sheen). And if you’re a Twin Peaks fan, you get to see Sherilyn Fenn be kind of awesome in this. But it’s super eighties. Regardless of the scene, whether it be a shot of a car driving, people talking on a beach, or Sheen making out, there is ALWAYS dumb pop music playing. It’s great. And there’s some epic explosions in it, too. I don’t know if this movie made much sense, but I enjoyed it regardless.
As a Novelty: 8 out of 10
As an Actual Movie: 5 out of 10