Let’s Talk About All the 2014 Movies, Part 2

19 Feb

So, it occurred to me that by not putting a “Part 1” after the first blog’s title or saying “To Be Continued” at the end, that some readers were confused. I will rectify this with future installments.

Now, let’s get into the movies I kinda sorta liked last year.

26. Godzilla

Movie marketing is a veritable Pan, a trickster whose mission is to polish turds. Drive, a moody neo-noir thriller, was advertised as a Fast and the Furious action car chase extravaganza. Rent-a-director Brett Ratner’s Hercules was advertised as a Greco-Roman fantasy full of magical creatures, when in fact it was just two hours of The Rock flexing his pecs.

Often studios realize the movie they’ve been handed is difficult to sell, or rather, they simply aren’t smart or talented enough to know how to sell it. Is Chappie really “Humanity’s Last Hope?” Probably not, but it sounds exciting, don’t it?

Godzilla was pitched to us as the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight take on the titular lizard monster. In actuality, it was just a solid Godzilla movie with some really silly crap thrown in for good measure. So I get that some people were disappointed by how dumb it was, and I was disappointed Bryan Cranston wasn’t the main character, but for whatever reason I still managed to forgive it and enjoy myself.

Maybe it’s because I like kaiju so much; I similarly gave the poorly-scripted Pacific Rim a pass last year. Giant, skyscraper-sized monsters just seem to do it for me; it’s why I love Cloverfield and Monsters, which are arguably pretty mediocre films. I guess what I’m beginning to realize is that the kaiju genre is an inherently silly one, and as such, the movies that take themselves less seriously, that have a little fun, are the ones that excel.

I would be happy to never see Aaron Taylor-Johnson in a movie again, but Godzilla isn’t really about the humans. I know director Gareth Edwards went for the slow burn Jaws approach and didn’t actually put Godzilla into his Godzilla movie until the final act, but the kaiju stuff was so amazing, the special effects so incredible, that he still managed to awaken my inner child.


Also, Godzilla is a straight badass, the Walter White and/or Omar of the kaiju world, a monster who gives so few fucks that after ripping a rival’s head off he just tosses it in the East River, as if he’s dropping the mic after killing it at the Apollo. Godzilla had more character than all the humans combined, and even though he probably killed thousands of innocents just by taking a few steps, I found myself rooting for him in the end.

As an added bonus, this movie features the most hilarious news headline in cinematic history: King of the Monsters. Savior of Our City? 

25. The Interview

When I thought North Korea was bullying an American subsidiary of a Japanese entertainment conglomerate into self-censoring itself, I got pretty mad and probably tweeted/Facebooked a bunch of hyperbolic bullshit. What can I say. I love free speech. Obama still thinks Kim Jong-Un did it, but since most of us aren’t so sure anymore, I don’t really care. Sony Pictures got hacked. ‘Nuff said.

The movie itself? It was okay. Not one of Franco or Rogen’s best, and certainly miles behind last year’s This is the End and the duo’s masterpiece, Pineapple Express. The second half is a lot better than the first; once they get to North Korea the jokes come hard and fast. Rogen is fine but Franco gives one of the worst performances I’ve seen him give, which was odd.

Randall Park, who plays Kim and now stars in ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, steals the show, and gives one of the more nuanced performances I’ve seen in a comedy. His Kim isn’t a caricature, but a real character that you at first pity, then loathe. A lot of the film’s best comedy comes from him.

For six bucks, this provided some decent YouTube entertainment on Christmas Eve. It’s on Netflix now, so go nuts. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I wouldn’t call it bad either. It’s just sorta there, which makes all the hullabaloo even more ridiculous in hindsight.

24. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1

A.K.A. The Hunger Games: Katniss Talks to People in Corridors. This may be the most boring blockbuster to make $750 million, though it isn’t entirely without merit. The acting is top-notch across the board, particularly Jennifer Lawrence and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I absolutely love as propaganda master Plutarch Heavensbee. There was one of two cool setpieces, and a lot of interesting character development/world building. President Snow is one of the nastiest villains in pop culture, and he really gets to shine in this one.

But the thing is, I loved Catching Fire. It was tightly-written, had amazing action, and used the IMAX format better than any movie that came before it. Coming off a movie with so much vibrant energy and then being presented with two hours of people moping about in dimly-lit industrial corridors, well, it was a tad disappointing.

There are intangibles in filmmaking, and while the lackluster production design, slow pace and lack of action detract from Mockingjay’s quality, there is just something unknowable that makes Catching Fire so superior. In the end, it’s most likely because Catching Fire was adapted from a single book and had a tighter script. Lionsgate followed their Twilight model and split the final Hunger Games book into two movies, and I hope Mockingjay marks the beginning of the end for that shitty business model.

You might be thinking, “Well, if it made $750 million, they probably aren’t going to stop doing that anytime soon.” You might be right, but keep in mind that Mockingjay opened under expectations. Lionsgate told its shareholders that the movie would open north of Catching Fire’s debut, and when it didn’t, their stock took a significant hit. They are slow on the draw, but general audiences always catch on, and I think they are beginning to see through this ruse. “Part 1? Oh, so Part 2 is coming out next year then, huh. Guess I’ll save my money and just wait for that one then.”

Since money is what talks in Hollywood, I hope they’ll take the hint, as artistic integrity isn’t their prerogative. This was an hour of story that, as Bilbo Baggins would say, “felt thin, like butter spread over too much bread.” But who knows? When I lamented The Hobbit’s split into three films last November, a coworker said she didn’t care, that she would gladly pay to spend two hours in that world, regardless.

Gotta love that “Hanging Tree” song, though.

23. A Most Violent Year

The next three films on my list were all Oscar contenders and they’re all super mediocre. I noticed some distressing trends with the awards season films this year, none of which impressed me save for Birdman. They’re all too long. This is a problem with films in general; everything from biopics to Transformers is now contractually obligated to run for at least two hours and thirty minutes, if not more. All the awards movies were also dark and grim and humorless, like they’re finally catching on to the Christopher Nolan “Grim Dark” trend. I guess Inherent Vice had humor, but like A Most Violent Year, it barely had any plot.

These movies seem to have endless strings of dialogue, but the dialogue is all meaningless. People talk and talk and talk but by the time the credits roll you realize only a fraction of what they said built character or advanced the plot. That’s because these movies have shoestring plots; in the end, they’re about nothing at all.

Why was A Most Violent Year called A Most Violent Year? There’s barely any violence and only two people die. Why was it set in 1981, the most violent year in New York’s history? That sounds like a great backdrop for a crime story, but the setting has little impact on the plot. We don’t see random muggings or rapes; we just hear news reports on the radio. I guess Oscar Isaac’s trucks are getting jacked constantly, but it’s not like that doesn’t happen nowadays too, so this could have been set in 2014 and been just as believable. It’s not like the heating oil industry is any less corrupt now than it was then.

It’s just a weird trend to me. I’d rather our awards movies were of the Crash vein, where they’re pretentious as hell, but at least they’re trying to say something. What is A Most Violent Year trying to say? That power corrupts? That you can’t escape your dark side? I don’t know. I really don’t. I just know this movie was so boring I almost fell asleep.

Continue to #22-20

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