Sunday, January 25, 2015

Best and Worst Films of 2014

On today's episode of Sounds of Cinema I counted down my picks of the best and worst films of 2014.



2. Birdman

3. Whiplash

4. Noah

5. Gone Girl

6. Happy Valley

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel

8. Life Itself

9. Selma

10. Nymphomaniac

  1. America: Imagine a World Without Her 
  2. A Haunted House 2 
  3. No Good Deed 
  4. Persecuted 
  5. The Expendables 3 
  6. And So It Goes 
  7. Deliver Us from Evil 
  8. Sabotage 
  9. Transcendence 
  10. Men, Women & Children 

You can find more information, including rationales for each film and lists of honorable mentions and cinematic trends of 2014, here.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Film Reviews: January 4 and 11, 2015

Here is a summary of films reviewed recently:

January 11, 2015:

The Gambler has an awful lot of good stuff in it but for a movie that fancies itself as a throwback to 1970s-era grittiness, the film’s edge is dulled by commercial concessions. It’s a satisfactory piece of entertainment but it could have been much more. 

The Interview may not be the subversive political satire that some viewers have been led to believe. However, it is very funny, highly entertaining, and the filmmakers accomplish exactly what they set out to do.

Tim Burton’s directorial career has been uneven lately, suffering from a lot of disappointing remakes, but he mostly rights himself with Big Eyes. This is neither Burton’s best work nor his worst but it is a successful drama about the relationship between an artist and her work.

At its most basic level, Wild successfully tells the story of a woman putting herself through a physical challenge and it features a career-best performance by Reese Witherspoon. The film comes up short in its deeper aspirations but what the movie does right far outweighs what it does wrong. 

Calvary combines thoughtful filmmaking with wit, sensitivity, and compelling characters. This is a picture that has somehow slipped beneath the radar of a lot of audiences and critics but the picture is worth a look by both religious viewers and general audiences. 

January 4, 2015 
Top Five is the third feature film that Chris Rock has directed and he’s showing steady growth as a filmmaker. The movie is strained by some of its excesses but those flaws are far outweighed by its sincerity and the likable chemistry between Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson.

The 2014 remake of Annie is an admirable attempt and it’s well cast but the movie is lacking in too many critical areas. It’s dramatically limp and it fails to yoke the feel-good sentiment that viewers of this kind of thing will be looking for. 

Night at the Museum: The Secret of the Tomb is at best a mediocre capstone to what’s been an unexceptional series. The first movie was fun but the sequels never justified their existence and the last entry is an underwhelming finale. 

Into the Woods has a lot of talent in front of the camera but the filmmakers do not marshal the skills of their cast to serve a story that is interesting. The movie is ambitious but that ambition is never realized on the screen. 

The tale of Unbroken is extraordinary and in terms of cinematic craft it is well made. Those two qualities carry the movie and make it an acceptable piece of entertainment. But as a dramatization it ultimately misses the most interesting part of its subject.

Adult World is a movie that could have been great but is merely good. That’s enough to merit a recommendation. Adult World is a pretty standard coming of age tale but has enough bite to distinguish the film from similar titles. 

Remember that you can find the full text of each review in the Sounds of Cinema review archive.