Plodding Through the 2014 Holiday Movie Season

Holiday 2014 01

It seemed like for the several weeks leading up to the holidays, all of the film commercials and trailers were ending with “December 25”, “Christmas Day”, or “Just in time for Christmas!”.  It gave me the impression that there was a baker’s dozen of movies all being released on the same day.  I guess that wasn’t really the case, but there were definitely a lot of movies released over the last week or so, and I saw a handful of them.  Surprisingly, none of the films I watched were bad.  Yet I wouldn’t really call them good either.  They all hovered around the same mediocre score for me, ending the year on a remarkably unimpressive note.  They can’t all be Birdman.

 

THE MOVIES I DIDN’T SEE

I never got around to seeing the revamped version of Annie.  Considering that I’ve never seen any version of Annie whatsoever before it, and more importantly that it looked stupid, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it very much anyway.  I will continue to remember “Hard Knock Life” as a Jay-Z song I heard in high school, and not from this film series.

Into the Woods is another one that I don’t think would have been in my wheelhouse.  When I saw the first trailer, I immediately thought “I hope my fiance doesn’t want to see this, I hope my fiance doesn’t want to see this, I hope my fiance doesn’t want to see this…!”  You see, because I thought it looked terrible.  Like another dumb, gritty retelling of fairy tales or something.  No thanks.  Turns out it’s an adaptation of a Broadway show (so says the people on my Facebook wall), and I guess the fans of the show have enjoyed the film plenty (says the same people).  Good for them.

I was strongly considering seeing The Imitation Game (which up until 15 seconds ago I thought was called The Intimidation Game), but ultimately I sort of assumed that it looked kind of long and (potentially) boring, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already seen the entire movie after watching the trailer three times before other movies anyway.  Maybe I can just read a Wikipedia article about Alan Turing and call it a day?

And then there’s Night at the Museum 3.  I’ve never seen any of these movies, and have no real opinion on them.  I’m sure it’s good mild entertainment?  I don’t know.  I’m in no rush to watch them, either.

 

THE MOVIES I DIDN’T SEE, BUT WANTED TO SEE

I was more than willing to hand over my money to see Inherent Vice, Selma, and American Sniper; all of which look great and have been out in limited release for weeks, but are apparently not actually going wide until January…  Soooo, does that make them 2015 movies?  I don’t think I want to count their four city, super limited release bullshit as an actual release.  …Whatever, at least they make January much more interesting than it was when it was just Kevin Hart movies and Mortdecai.  God, I want every copy of Mortdecai to mysteriously catch on fire before January 23rd.  Where are you, Santa?!  That was my one true wish!

 

THE MOVIES I ACTUALLY DID SEE

Holiday 2014 02

The Gambler

This movie is about a literature professor who is also a degenerate gambler (HENCE THE TITLE), played my Mark Wahlberg, who gets $260,000 deep in debt and must find a way to pay off three different sources of loan shark money before the end of the movie.  He must also do this while falling in love with his student, played by Brie Larson.  Larson, for the record, has glasses and homely clothes the first time we see her to indicate she’s smart, but the glasses never come back again after she kisses professor Wahlberg for the first time.  It’s like she’s a different woman!

The movie itself isn’t too bad, even if the pieces come together a little too nicely for my taste.  As his situation gets more complex, the movie gets more interesting.  Undoubtedly, the film is at peak entertainment in the scenes involving Michael K. Williams or John Goodman (the loan sharks), because the rest of it plays out like a more tense version of a Californication episode.  I’d love to see the real life situation that inspired all these notions that a reckless book author can somehow be on the sexual level of an irresistible rock star to women.  Was it Tom Clancy?  I bet it was Tom Clancy.

Anyway, this movie will be about as memorable to me as a trip to Jiffy Lube in the long run.  It’s watchable, and entertaining, but also, who cares?  I’ll give it a nonchalant 7 out of 10, and a huge shrug as to why it was a big Christmas day release.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Holiday 2014 03

Big Eyes

This tells the true story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), an artist in the 50s/60s who painted pictures of little kids with big eyeballs (HENCE THE TITLE), who marries a con artist named Walter (Christoph Waltz) who brazenly takes ownership of her paintings in order to sell them in a male-centric time period.  As the paintings become more popular, so does the dilemma of who deserves the real credit for them; the person with the actual talent, or the insanely determined weirdo who undoubtedly helped make them incredibly popular?

It’s definitely weighted towards Margaret, with good cause (there would be nothing to talk about in the first place without the paintings she painted), but if you reaaaaaaally tried, you could probably form a case that the only reason the paintings became as popular as they did was because of Walter’s scheming and promotion.  But as this movie portrayed the events (and that’s the only way I know about it), I definitely felt bad for Margaret and wanted her to get credit for her work in the end.  Despite anything, Walter kind of took the fame to a disgusting level, and treated Margaret and her daughter like crap.  So, he’s a jerk and a liar, and an obvious villain in this situation.  Boooooo Walter.

As for the movie as a movie, it’s entertaining from start to finish, and probably has the best Christoph Waltz performance outside of a Tarantino movie.  It felt a little long, despite it being the shortest of the movies I saw in this post, and there were a few moments that probably could have been trimmed.  I’m not sure what caused Tim Burton to decide to make this movie and not include a bunch of heavy eye shadow and black and white stripes, but I’m happy he did make it.  It’s a neat bio pic (sort of) about some people that I was completely unaware of until I saw the movie.  Probably one of the better choices to watch this holiday season, I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

 

Holiday 2014 04

The Interview

I’m sure you’ve heard of this movie (because even my mom has) about Seth Rogen and James Franco plotting to kill the Supreme Leader of North Korea during a television interview (HENCE THE TITLE).  As expected from the trailer or any of the commercials, the Americans are way too stupid to actually pull it off as planned, and it has all the (love it or hate it) low brow comedy you’d expect from the creative team.

I thought the first scene with Eminem was great, then the remaining 30 minutes or so spent in America (with the CIA and such) were kind of full of flat, unfunny jokes; but then it picks up again when they get to North Korea, mainly because Randall Park’s portrayal of Kim Jong Un was the best part of the movie.

I totally hated James Franco’s character in the movie.  And I know we’re probably supposed to hate him to a degree, but I hated him because he functioned with the same level of impossibly moronic behavior that made me hate Horrible Bosses 2 so much last month.  There’s a lot of “Why would any normal person do/say that?” when it comes to Franco’s character.  It’s so frustrating that it takes away from the jokes.  At least his drug dealer guy from Pineapple Express had a reason to act the way he did.  This was just dumb for the sake of being dumb.

But there are a decent amount of funny jokes in the movie, and I usually like Rogen’s comedy style, so I thought it was much more good than bad.  But there were definitely a lot of scenes that really fell flat.  Like, more than usual for Rogen.  I’m sure this film will probably be remembered for reasons not relating to its actual quality, but if I was to judge it solely on its comedy merits, it’s like a 7.5 out of 10, and sits somewhere in the middle of what these guys have done before.  It’s no This is the End, but it’s certainly better than The Guilt Trip.

 

Holiday 2014 05

Unbroken

This movie tells the crazy true story of Louis Zamperini, a troubled youth (he smokes!) who becomes an olympic runner who goes to WW2 where he becomes shipwrecked and then becomes a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp.  And that spirit of his?  You guessed it.  It can’t be broken (HENCE THE TITLE).  Directed by Angelina Jolie.  Which is something I feel obliged to mention for some reason and I don’t know why.

This was kind of a tough movie to judge, because I thought it was pretty interesting from a historical perspective, but also totally generic on the filmmaking side of things.  Louis’ story is certainly worth telling, simply because no other individual true WW2 story I’ve ever heard of has had so many spectacular elements.  The guy undoubtedly lived an interesting life.  However, this film doesn’t really provide any insight into his thought process during all of this, and basically just shows a very by-the-books telling of what Louis went through.  Almost like bullet points.  So in a lot of ways, this amazing, unique experience ends up looking kind of like something I’ve already seen a bunch of times in other movies.  Which is a shame.

I guess the elements that are well done (like cinematography, costumes, etc) are decent enough, but some of the acting is questionable.  Oh man, the kid who plays “young Louis” was such a terrible actor.  He doesn’t have any dialogue for the first bunch of minutes, but then in one scene he’s given a ton of lines that are supposed to build the character up, and I couldn’t even process what he was saying because he sounded so stupid and his voice was distractingly horrible.  Haha.   And then some of the other stock characters (who I sort of cringe calling “stock”, because they were real people) have weird irrational moments, or literally shout out inspirational quotes like “One moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory!”  Nobody shouted that in real life.  We both know that.  That’s why this movie ended up being like it was.

I did, however, get legitimately startled by an unexpected shark attack jump scare; more than I’ve ever been startled at a horror movie jump scare in theaters…  So thanks for that, Jolie.  The rest of the movie wasn’t that shocking, though.  But it could have been.  7.5 out of 10.

 

Holiday 2014 06

Bonus home video movie:  Muppets Most Wanted

I loved the Muppet “reboot” from a few years ago, but for some reason I didn’t get hyped up in any way for this sequel.  I didn’t even think about going to see it when it was in theaters.  But I set my DVR to record it last week on HBO and I watched it over the holidays, and I’m definitely happy that I didn’t pay to watch it earlier.  It has moments, I guess, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable or special as the other movie.  Also, the songs weren’t as good.  Felt kinda half assed.  6 out of 10.  (quietly coughs into hand)

Happy New Year!

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