Sunday, February 1, 2015

January Movie Status

I watched 15 new movies in January, plus rewatched 1 TV show season.

After making a push last month to finish the year with less than 50 entries left on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list, I barely watched any this month.  Instead I switched over to trying to see the Oscar nominated films, as well as other 2014 films to prepare for my coming Top 10 of 2014 list.  As a result, I liked almost every movie I saw in January.

I also didn’t try to finish off the new entries to my Consolidated IMDB List, other than the films also on the Oscar list.  In general, I took it easier in January.

There is a new TSPDT list coming in February, so I may not see too many more films from it this month, either.

Here are the 15 new movies I saw in January.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

TSPDT (3): Wings (1966), The Woman Next Door (1981), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

Oscar (7): The Imitation Game (2014), The Theory of Everything (2014), Selma (2014), American Sniper (2014), Boyhood (2014), Whiplash (2014), Birdman (2014)

Other Movies (5): Surprised By Love (2015), Life Itself (2014), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Lucy (2014), Citizenfour (2014)

Rewatches (1): Archer Season 5

Surprised By Love (2015) – Generic Hallmark movie that I stumbled upon while flipping channels and got a few laughs from.  Not quite enough to recommend it, though.  2.5 stars

Life Itself (2014) – Great documentary on Roger Ebert by the same man who did Hoop Dreams.  When they started filming no one realized Ebert would succumb to cancer in less than a year.  This is a moving review of his career, as well as a man’s struggle with the illness that ultimately takes his life.  4 stars

Wings (1966) – Soviet film about a female former pilot who now is an administrator at a school.  While respected, she is not liked.  Despite the title there are few aerial shots, but what ones they have are beautifully shot, especially one with two planes that is the best scene in the film.  3 stars

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – The first of Steve’s Selections.  3 stars  You can read my review here

The Woman Next Door (1981) – Lesser Truffaut about a couple moving in next door and the wife is the former lover of the neighbor husband.  It ended badly for them years earlier.  It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see things are going to end badly again.  2 stars

The Imitation Game (2014) – Best Picture nominee about Alan Turing.  4 stars  You can read my review here.

The Theory of Everything (2014) – Best Picture nominee about Stephen and Jane Hawking.  3.5 stars  You can read my review here.

Selma (2014) – Best Picture nominee about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march on Selma.  3 stars  You can read my review here.

Lucy (2014) – Luc Besson action film with Scarlett Johannson as a woman who accidentally gets injected with a substance that opens up the complete potential of her mind.  The big box office for it probably made Marvel regret the decision not to do a Black Widow film among the dozen or so they have planned through 2020.  3 stars

American Sniper (2014) – Best Picture nominee about Chris Kyle.  4 stars  You can read my review here.

Boyhood (2014) – Best Picture nominee famously filmed over 12 years.  4 stars  You can read my review here.

Whiplash (2014) – Best Picture nominee about one asshole who wants to become a great jazz drummer, being mentored by another asshole who is a psychopath.  3 stars  My review will be posted in a couple days.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) – Controversial film with a Romanian woman trying to get an illegal abortion in 1987.  Her roommate helps her and ends up much the worse for wear.   3 stars

Birdman (2014) – Best Picture nominee about a former action star trying to adapt, direct, and star in a serious Broadway play.  4 stars  My review will be posted a couple days after the one for Whiplash.

Citizenfour (2014) – Oscar nominee for Best Documentary.  It is about Edward Snowden, the man who blew the cover off the fact that the NSA was spying on millions of American citizens who had no connection whatsoever to terrorism.  This was filmed in the Hong Kong hotel room with him as the stories were actually breaking in the news and is quite a view into those events.  I haven’t watched the other four nominees, but I can’t imagine how this would not win the Oscar – the subject matter is that important.  4 stars

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Movies – Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood is one of the most well known of the 2015 Best Picture nominees.  That is because of how it was made.  Writer/director Richard Linklater filmed it over the course of 12 years, shooting for a week or two each summer.  The result is that we see the characters age throughout the film, especially the main character who goes from six to eighteen during the movie.  The result is a film that requires evaluation on two different levels: as a movie and as a unique undertaking by Linklater.  I’ll start with the latter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Movies – The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything is the last of the four Best Picture nominees based on real events that I have to review.  In this case it’s about Stephen and Jane Hawking.  People looking for a film delving into the great scientific achievements and discoveries of Dr. Hawking may end up being a little disappointed.  While it does mention some of them, especially early on, this movie is actually a relationship drama about the marriage of the two and how Jane had to deal with Stephen’s deteriorating condition from ALS.  While this wasn’t what I was hoping for when I started to watch the film it nevertheless is worth seeing.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Movies – The Imitation Game (2014)

I was at a bit of a loss on how to review The Imitation Game.  It’s the story of three points in Alan Turing’s life – as a teenager in the late 1920s, as a code breaker during WWII, and as a lone man in the early 1950s.  I was very familiar with Alan Turing’s life since he is one of the key pioneers in the field of computers.  Anyone who works in the computer field, or at least anyone who got a degree in the field, should have no surprises from this film.  The problem is that, as presented, the movie keeps a key secret about Turing until more than halfway through the film.  It’s played as a mystery that is hinted at a few times.  And the consequences to Turing when that secret came out were also well-known to me.  They make up a key part of the ending.

The problem is, some people will never have even heard of Alan Turing, and all the events in this film will be new to them.  Most any review for this movie will spoil it for them, since the filmmakers and actors themselves are talking quite openly about what is revealed.  It’s as if they have decided most everyone already knows the story, too.

I finally decided that I will mark a couple of spoiler sections in this post, with labels as to who they will be spoilers for.  I will still have a regular review for those who just want to get a sense of what the film is about and if they might want to see it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Movies – American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It is based on Chris Kyle’s 2012 best selling book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.  I confess that I don’t ever remember hearing of Chris Kyle or his book prior to this film coming out.  I didn’t even know this was a movie about a real person until I started looking into the Best Picture nominees for my Oscars observations post six days ago.  Overall, this is a moving film and it is guaranteed to get people talking afterwards.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Movies – Selma (2014)

It seemed appropriate to review Selma – the film about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s protests for voter registration reform – on this day named in his honor.  I only wish I could write a glowing recommendation for this movie.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good movie about an important topic.  It’s just that Dr. King deserved better, especially since I’ve now read that this is the first theatrically released film about him.  I have to admit that that surprised me, but when I wracked my brain I could not come up with another movie where he was more than a supporting character in someone else’s story.  If Malcolm X can get a great movie made about him thanks to Spike Lee, then Dr. King should have the same.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Observations on the 2015 Oscar Nominations (with No Bitching About What Didn’t Make It)

The 2015 Oscar nominations were announced today.  Going down through them there are a few eyebrow raisers, but no out and out WTFs like a couple years ago when Ben Affleck didn’t even get nominated for Best Director for the movie that ended up winning Best Picture (Argo).

Here are the eight Best Picture nominees:

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

I will post reviews for as many of these movies as I can prior to the Oscar telecast on February 22nd.  At this point I have seen only a few of them.  I will also post my predictions in the days leading up to the ceremony.  And I will have another Oscar quiz like last year’s on the titles of Best Picture nominees.

Click “Read more” for a complete list of the nominees, what got the most nominations, and some other things of interest.