Hard to believe another year has come and gone. Once more I have tallied up the Oscar noms, and the list below is the list of Oscar nominated movies with the ones who received the most nominations on the top. The list stops at 17 because those are all the multiple nominated movies. All the movies after that have only one nomination. As I'm typing this, I have seen 1 of the 8 Best Picture nominees, which may be a new record low for me, but I will remedy that this weekend, and update this post accordingly! The blurbs are taken from IMDB, because they sum up things better than I can! Also - where possible, I have added the "Honest Trailer" by Cinema Sins, The "Everything Wrong With", or "How It Should Have Ended" videos - because they are hilarious.
1. Birdman (9 nominations) “A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.” Much has been made of the eerie similarities between Michael Keaton and the character he plays in this movie, and he’s long overdue for this type of recognition. I saw this, and while I didn't necessarily "enjoy" it - I did find it watchable. It is for sure not a "comedy", but it does have some funny moments. The cast is exceptional, and I loved the camera work - almost the entire movie is designed to look like a single camera shot - which is very impressive. Check it out - it's worth a look.
2. Grand Budapest Hotel (9 nominations) “The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.” Wes Anderson movies are visually amazing. Each set piece is very still and looks almost like a painting, and the characters are exceptionally quirky and interesting. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was my favorite until I saw this one, and now the Grand Budapest Hotel is my favorite. Each scene is more ridiculous than the last, but you still cannot help but be touched by Zero’s story, and the secret group of hotel concierges that assist him!
3. Imitation Game (8 nominations) “During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.” Cumberbatch does math that helps the Allies win WWII! I’m not a big Cumberbatch fan, but word is he’s really great in this. Turing was a bit of a forgotten hero, so it’s great that his story is being told.
4. American Sniper (6 nominations) “Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.” I’m tired of Clint Eastwood’s knowledge and ability to play the Oscar Game. It seems that every December he releases his annual Oscar bid. In the case of this particular movie, there are many grumbles from the world at large: it feels like American Military propaganda, the real Chris Kyle was a liar and his book was filled with untruths; parts of the movie are embellished from the book, the plastic baby! etc. I don’t think any of that surprises me – based on the director, of course the movie feels like American Military propaganda. Whether or not Chris Kyle lied in his book has little to do with the movie part; and of course they embellished from the book to the movie – you have to movie-fy some things to make it more watchable. I have no explanation for the plastic baby. Regardless of all this, I can tell you that I don’t care much for war movies, I can’t stand Clint Eastwood, and unless he’s in Alias – I cannot stand Bradley Cooper, so that pretty much doomed this movie for me from the start. I did love Sienna Miller in Keen Eddie – so at least there’s that.
5. Boyhood (6 nominations) “The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.” Richard Linklater broke new ground by filming the same actors over the course of 12 years to tell this story. Inventive and different, but is it just a gimmick, or does it play into a quality movie?
6. Foxcatcher (5 nominations) “The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul - a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.” Another based-on-a-horrific-true-story movie. You can read about the real story on Wikipedia – du Pont basically went crazy and murdered one of the Schultz brothers, and then died in prison. The other Schultz brother is still alive, and this movie is based on his book about the circumstances surrounding his brother’s murder.
7. Interstellar (5 nominations) “A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to ensure humanity's survival.” I tried to go see this in the theater, I really did. But three hours plus Matthew McCoughnahey plus Christopher Nolan plus Anne Hathaway plus poor reviews prevented me from getting up enough enthusiasm to check it out. Nolan lost me on Dark Knight rises, I don’t like Hathaway, and I have had enough of McCoughnahey.
8. Theory of Everything (5 nominations) “A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.” His first wife. Eddie Redmayne is swiftly becoming a household name with his performance in this. He’s probably a safe bet for your office pools for best actor.
9. Whiplash (5 nominations) “A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.” J.K.Simmons is also probably a safe bet in your office pool for Best Supporting Actor. Miles Tellar plays the young drummer and J.K. Simmons is the teacher who yells at him for most of the movie. Same deal as Keaton, though – Simmons has been really great for a really long time, it’s nice that he’s finally getting some recognition – even if no part of this movie appeals to me.
10. Mr. Turner (4 nominations) “An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner's life.” Turner was born in 1775 and died in 1851, mainly a landscape painter. His mother went crazy, and his father became his studio assistant. Timothy Spall plays Turner, and does an exceptional job, but honestly, it sounds a bit boring. Turner travels, paints, stays with aristocracy, visits brothels, and is a popular member of the Royal Academy of Arts. He also apparently has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm. A typical award-season biopic.
11. Into the Woods (3 nominations) “A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.” Here’s one I actually saw in the theater! Since I had seen the play many years ago, I was excited to see the movie, and it’s directed by Rob Marshall, who also did Chicago. It wasn’t bad, it was entertaining, but it did feel overly long. It’s also a little slapdash, but that may come from trying to adapt a play to a movie. Streep was great, but she’s great in everything, so I’m not really sure she deserved an Oscar nom for this. It seems like they just lob noms at her for whatever she happens to be in. Also – I found it interesting that Alan Menken did create two original songs that could have been nominated for best song, but neither were used in the movie. So – the one musical on the list has no entries in the best song category.
12. Unbroken (3 nominations) “After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.” An inspiring true story about a true American Hero. Director Angelina Jolie took the time to craft a good movie from an amazing story. Yes, it ends well, and the real Louis did get to see the movie just before he passed last fall. It has some tough scenes, but it’s a good story about a great man.
13. Guardians of the Galaxy (2 nominations) “A group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe.” Easily the best movie not just of last year, but of the last several years. So unbelievably entertaining and fun that you forgot you were watching a movie about C grade comic book heroes, one of which is a talking tree (well, a barely talking tree) and another is a machine-gun toting raccoon. I loved every single minute of it and saw it about 13 times in the theater, but more on that later. Once again, it proves that Marvel knows how to pick the right director and the right cast to make a great movie with just the right balance in action, fun, comedy, and drama. Spectacular.
14. Ida (2 nominations) “Anna, a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, is on the verge of taking her vows when she discovers a dark family secret dating back to the years of the Nazi occupation.” I am not going to lie to you – I had not even heard about this movie before compiling this list. It sounds a bit dark and depressing, and really art-y, so if you’re into those type of Oscar movies, you will no doubt love this.
15. Inherent Vice (2 nominations) “In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.” I do not buy into the camp that thinks Joaquim Phoenix is one of the best actors working today. If you are a fan of his, perhaps you’ll like this. I had no interest, it looks really self-indulgent, though from what I hear – Josh Brolin is entertaining.
16. Selma (2 nominations) “A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.” You can come up with your own opinion about whether or not David Oyelowo was robbed of an Oscar nomination (he was), but you certainly have to admit that this movie is powerful and his performance even more so. Choosing to focus on one specific event in King’s career rather than try to cover his whole life brings a bit of focus to the movie. Add to that the challenge that the movie did not have the rights to any of King’s intellectual properties (which is why none of the real speeches were used), and Oyelowo’s performance is even more impressive. The song, Glory, is nominated – and is another safe bet for the office pool.
17. Wild (2 nominations) “A chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.” What? How is that a movie? Reese Witherspoon walks! Supposedly her performance was really strong, but still - No, thank you.
And now – by comparison, here are my top 20 of the year. Certainly not the most quality, but the ones I enjoyed the most!
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (11 out of 10) “Marvel hands you an amazingly entertaining story featuring a tree and a raccoon”. Marvel rules, once again. Here’s the thing, Marvel has picked the right directors and the right actors since they started their carefully planned out Multi-Phase project to bring the ever-expanding Marvel Universe to the big screen. Every single movie (and TV series) is entertaining with an exceptional balance between great action and a wonderful sense of humor. The Guardians were known in comics circles; I was vaguely familiar with them due to their appearance on the exceptional Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series (which explains why I was shocked that Rocket did not have a british accent in this movie), but not well known by casual comic fans. No one was expecting anything, but James Gunn handed us an exceptionally fun story with great action, wonderful acting, and a very typical Marvel strangers-coming-together-to-form-a-family. Pay attention DC – this is how it’s done. Stop telling us you have no interest in honoring the source material or incorporating humor into your movies, and don’t care what the fans think, and pay attention to the genius that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I could go on and on about this, but I will just end with the fact that I cannot wait for the next installment. Avengers 2 is out in May and Ant-Man (Ant-Man of all characters!?!?) is out in July.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (10 out of 10) “As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with another solider, the Black Widow, to battle a new threat from old history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier”. You can pretty much copy what I said about Guardians here, except that the tone with this one was even better, and unique to this storyline. The Russo brothers directed this tight spy-thriller with a throwback feel to 70s intrigue stories. Robert Redford shows up and makes you realize Hyrda has been growing inside SHIELD this whole time, causing Cap’s reanimated life to come crashing down around him. However, since he’s Cap, he focuses on the mission, on saving as many lives as possible, and giving us a great movie in the meantime. And thank you for finally including the Falcon – Anthony Mackie was amazing.
3. Expendables 3 (9 out of 10) “Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates.” In no way does this movie have anywhere near the quality of some of the other movies on this list, but holy crap – is it fun. Stallone manages to old his way through another actioner, rescuing Wesley Snipes in the first 10 minutes of the movie. Snipes then proceeds to steal the first third of this movie, then Antoino Banderas steals the middle third of it, then Harrison Ford (yes, that Harrison Ford – having more fun than you have seen him have in years) steals the last third. And amidst all that, you get to begrudgingly remember why Mel Gibson was once a huge movie star, because I hate to admit it – but he is great as the villain in this.
4. Chef (9 out of 10) “A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.” In the past, the only Jon Favreau movies I have liked have had the words Iron and or Man or Elf in the title. I did not care for Swingers or Made – so I was really unsure about this movie. I was so pleasantly surprised. It’s very straightforward and funny. Favs plays a creatively stifled restaurant chef who loses his job then heads across the country with his son and friend launching their food truck business. The movie was fun, hilarious, touching and charming. Also – the food looked good, and the movie made me hungry.
5. LEGO Movie (9 out of 10) “An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied 'Special', is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.” How this is not nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar is completely beyond me. It was easily my favorite animated movie this year. Chris Pratt stars as Emmett, a regular guy who suddenly gets caught up in a huge adventure to save not only his land, but all the lands by fulfilling his potential – and a prophecy. I loved every minute of this, and the transition into the real world (featuring a beautifully understated performance from Will Ferrell) made me tear up. Luckily, the song “Everything is Awesome” is nominated for best song, so with any luck – we will get to see it performed at the ceremony, and that will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the night!
6. Godzilla (9 out of 10) “The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.” Did I really give this a 9? That seems shockingly high when I look back, but I did really love the reappearance by classic Godzilla. He looks like he used to look, and, since I was always more familiar with Godzilla as a good guy, I was very happy that he was essentially the hero in this movie. I will say that all the humans in the movie were – at best – boring, and at worst – annoying. Ken Wantanabe spent most of the movie looking off into the distance with a confused look on his face, and for a movie that was sold on Bryan Cranston – he’s barely in it. Also – try to get over the fact that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver play a married couple in this before they play siblings in the upcoming Avengers 2. Monster part of this movie, 10 – human part of this movie, 4.
7. Amazing SpiderMan 2 (9 out of 10) “When New York is put under siege by Oscorp, it is up to Spider-Man to save the city he swore to protect as well as his loved ones.” Yikes – I gave this a 9 too? That seems crazy as well, but I will say, it was much better than its predecessor, but not as good as the Tobey MacGuire Spider Man 2. I think Jamie Foxx did what he could with the crazy he was given, I liked the action, and I still feel that the relationship between Gwen and Peter is well done. Peter is still more of an ass in this version than I prefer my Peter Parker to be, but his arrogance didn’t bother me nearly as much in this one as it did in the previous version. I loved the potential build up for the Sinister Six, but I found Dane Dehaan’s goblin a little unnecessary – however, big bonus points for Gwen’s death sequence (spoiler alert) looking exactly like it did in the comics. Don’t get upset about that spoiler alert – that happened like 50 years ago.
8. John Wick (8 out of 10) “An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.” They kill his dog, which was a gift from his late wife – he goes out and gets every single one of them. That’s it – nothing more, nothing less. It’s Keanu whupping ass. He did a great job in this because he’s best when he’s quietly determined. The other bit players were entertaining – Lance Reddick and Ian McShane in particular. And I also really enjoyed Adrienne Palicki’s role – even if she was a bad guy.
9. Gone Girl (8 out of 10) “With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.” This movie literally made my mouth fall open with shock. I cannot remember the last time that happened. There is so much crazy that happens, honestly, I cannot even sum it up – but Rosamund Pike is deservedly nominated for Best Actress and really should win if there was any justice (I recommend picking Julianne Moore for your office pool). I don’t know that I would consider this movie to be enjoyable, but it certainly was gripping, and Hey! Scoot McNairy!
10. X-Men: Days of Future Past (8 out of 10) “The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.” Nevermind that they changed this a bunch from the original comic line (because we all need more Hugh Jackman), it was still really well put together, and brought the First Class mutants into the same movie as the original X-Men Mutants, and gave Bryan Singer the opportunity to wipe Brett Ratner’s X3. It gave them the chance to say mutants as much as possible, since Fox owns the rights to it, and they won’t be able to mention it in the Disney Marvel Studio movies (they’re stuck going with ‘magic’ and ‘Inhuman’). It also made me look forward to the next one, because Apocalypse has always been one of my favorites (“I am as far beyond mutants as they are beyond you!”).
11. Draft Day (8 out of 10) “At the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must decide what he's willing to sacrifice on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with NFL dreams.” Probably my biggest surprise of the year. I was not expecting anything from this movie, but I knew that I loved Ivan Reitman movies. It’s got some really slick directing in the conversation scenes, which is great – because a lot of the movie is conversations. Kevin Costner was great as an aging football coach (which I doubted, since he’s usually an aging baseball player). I also enjoyed that after watching this, for the first time ever I had some clue what was happening in the actual NFL Draft, and what do you know, the whole Johnny Football nonsense paralleled the movie almost exactly!
12. Transformers: Age of Extinction (8 out of 10) “Autobots must escape sight from a bounty hunter who takes control of the human serendipity: Unexpectedly, Optimus Prime and his remaining gang turn to a mechanic and his daughter for help.” Yes – I know, 8 is probably too many points for this as well, but it looked fantastic. T.J. Miller got killed far too quickly, there is an actual scene in which Mark Whalberg listens to his daughter’s boyfriend explain that it’s not statutory rape because of an obscure Texas law, and there’s far too much John Goodman for a movie in which John Goodman does not appear on screen. All that is true, and there are so many other flaws, but – it looks great, and there are dinobots – admittedly, there are only dinobots for like 15 minutes, but still – dinobots!
13. Book of Life (8 out of 10) “Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.” Two animated movies in my top 20? Shocking! However, this has epically beautiful animation done in the style of wooden dolls celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead. It also features a touching story of the pull between deciding to honor what your family wants for you versus what your heart tells you to do. It is absolutely beautiful. Check it out if you missed it.
14. Beyond the Lights (8 out of 10) “The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be.” A very simple rom-drama about the love story between a pop-tart diva and her handsome police officer who has machinations on politics. What elevates it beyond that are the performances. Minnie Driver is elegantly horrible as Noni’s mom-ager, who pushes her way too hard into a lifestyle she doesn’t want. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is wonderful as Noni, and Nate Parker is fantastic as Kaz. It’s a surprise that I would put a little romance movie this high up, but I really enjoyed it, and felt like the performances were fantastic. Noni’s transition as she finally realizes her own self-worth is beautiful.
15. Horrible Bosses 2 (8 out of 10) “Dale, Kurt, and Nick decide to start their own business but things don’t go as planned because of a slick investor which prompts the trio to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme”. There are crazy comedies, and then there are sequels to crazy comedies. The first Horrible Bosses was insanely dirty and hilarious due mainly to the performances of Jason Sudekis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day. Once again, they are the best part of this sequel, with added hilarity from Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine. It is still dirty and crazy, and man – I laughed out loud a whole bunch! I could have watched the montage of the three of them planning their kidnapping over and over again – zip line!
16. Non-Stop (8 out of 10) “An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.” Liam Neeson’s action career didn’t really start until he was near 60. This seems very much like it’s Taken, just on a plane, and it’s very easy to believe that this is the same character – just as an air marshall with a checkered past. The plot is iffy, but it really does keep you on the edge of your seat, Corey Stoll is worth watching, not just because he’s the villain in Ant-Man, but because he’s really good in this. And – Hey! Scoot McNairy!
17. Grand Budapest Hotel (8 out of 10) “The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.” Again – I just loved this. Wes Anderson movies are always going to be Wes Anderson movies. Even if I don’t like the movie, I certainly enjoy his style. This one was just wonderful, and featured all his regular players in a zany story. And the set design once again is just stunning.
18. No Good Deed (7 out of 10) “An unstable escaped convict terrorizes a woman who is alone with her two children.” Idris Elba’s crazy convict breaks out and seems to terrorize Taraji P. Henson and her kids for no reason, until you learn the reason. A fun thriller – this was a pleasant way to kill a couple of hours. Both are great in the roles, and I had a good time yelling things at the screen. “Don’t tell him you’re home alone!” “Don’t let him in!” “I don’t care how sexy he is – don’t leave him alone with the kitchen knives!”
19. About Last Night (7 out of 10) “Follow two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world.” A remake of an 80s classic with Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant. Super fun, true to the original, but still funny with touching parts. Also - Ealy and Hart work really well together.
20. Live, Die, Repeat (Edge of Tomorrow) (7 out of 10) “A Military officier is brought into an alien war against an extraterrestrial enemy who can reset the day and know the future. When this officer is enabled with the same power, he teams up with a Special Forces warrior to try and end the war.” Directed by Doug Liman, this sci-fi thriller featured a bunch of things we had seen before, but put together in an entertaining way. Say what you want about Tom Cruise, but he will commit 100% to whatever he is working on, and his determination to get through the day works well in this movie. Emily Blunt was okay, but not who I would have cast – it’s a little tough to buy her as an action hero. I also would have liked better alien design, and then allow us to actually see them (they moved way too fast and had way too many tentacles). And Hey! Bill Paxton!
My Bottom 10 of the year (featuring not one, but two Hercules movies!):
10. Hercules (6 out of 10) “Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord.” Listen, we all love the Rock, but we would love him more if he could find the right vehicle. I can’t even begin to guess what that would be, but I love him most in action-comedies – so maybe that? I will say I liked the idea this movie had of humanizing Hercules – he and his posse accomplished all his labors, but he uses the rumor of his demi-god-ness to spook a town before he gets there, and help make money. The rest of the story was a bit lame, the conspiracy was a little complicated, and the final battle was a bit much. Rufus Sewell was easily the most entertaining part, having a really good time and chewing every piece of scenery he could find. Also - in this day and age, can we really not find a better fake beard for the Rock?
9. Pompeii (6 out of 10) “A slave-turned-gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him.” Kit Harrington may have a movie career beyond Jon Snow, but choosing this as the first piece may not have been a smart move. He basically plays Jon Snow in ancient Pompeii, gladiator-ing his way into a local rich girl’s heart, while evil Kiefer Sutherland (so – regular Kiefer Sutherland?) plays the local Roman governor who also wants the girl. Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje was the bright spot here (as he is in almost everything he’s in), playing Jon Snow’s – I mean Milo’s – gladiator buddy.
8. November Man (6 out of 10) “An ex-CIA operative is brought back in on a very personal mission and finds himself pitted against his former pupil in a deadly game involving high level CIA officials and the Russian president-elect.” Listen, Pierce Brosnan is great, we all know that. I loved Remington Steele, and he’s easily my second favorite Bond (I grew up with Roger Moore – so he’s my favorite). However, I felt like this meandered a bit much, and asked me to buy just a bit much with him as the world’s best operative going up against his protégé. I’d rather watch him in the Thomas Crown Affair remake again, that’s where he was the absolute best.
7. Lucy (6 out of 10) “A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic”. I love Luc Besson movies, but I felt like this one just ran away with itself. Yes, she evolves into a merciless warrior, but then way too much speculative philosophy comes into the movie. Couldn’t she just have stayed a merciless warrior? Those were the coolest parts! But no, she eventually keeps evolving, time-traveling all over the place before transforming right into a liquidy, black computer that spits out a flash drive with her brain on it. Seriously – that’s what happens. The first half of this movie is awesome. The second half is too weird.
6. This is Where I leave You (6 out of 10) “When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens.” I need to remember that just because it’s filled with actors I like – I still will probably not enjoy a weepy family drama. I think I allowed myself to be misled by the marketing to think this was a straight comedy, which it is not. It’s filled with a lot of quality comedians, but it’s still really strong on the drama. It had some fun parts, but not enough, it just felt heavy, and a bit forced here and there. It could easily appear on someone else’s best list. Hey! Corey Stoll!
5. Legend of Hercules (6 out of 10) “The origin story of the mythical Greek hero. Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom.” The second of the two Hercules movies – this one features Kellan Lutz, who played Emmett in the Twilight movies. Here he travels all the way to Egypt and back before taking on the cruel king to step into power. So – in theory this one could work as the prequel to the Rock’s Hercules. Scott Adkins steals much of this as the King that Hercules has to overthrow.
4. Maze Runner (6 out of 10) “Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they're all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow "runners" for a shot at escape.” Okay – I didn’t read the book, so maybe the issues I had with this are all due to the book, but it’s just a bit silly. The beginning was interesting – Hey! You just woke up here, you don’t know who you are, but you are here with a bunch of us in this glen surrounded by a maze – we all have jobs to help us survive. Okay – fine, that part is great, but once they get into the maze, and Thomas starts remembering things (he worked on the maze and helped dropped people in?), then they get through and out – the 10 minutes of exposition at the end make no sense, and undermines all the interesting things that happened at the beginning.
3. Sex Tape (6 out of 10) “A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts.” I think the reason this one is on my bad list is that it had the potential to be super hilarious, and just ended up being okay. Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz seem like the perfect pairing for this type of crazy hijinks movie, but it really ends up with a surprising lack of hijinks. They only go after one of the lost iPads (in theory, there were several), and then end up at a porn-site hub with their kids. It started strong, but just trailed off.
2. Transcendence (5 out of 10) “A scientist's drive for artificial intelligence, takes on dangerous implications when his consciousness is uploaded into one such program.” Once again, completely wasted potential, and just another reason to be annoyed with Johnny Depp. This could have been so interesting, but it also fell flat. A living AI attempts to spread through a virus into human hosts, and “transcend” them to higher beings, but encounters a human resistance cell, living off the grid. Just read Michael Crichton’s Prey – and wish that had been this movie instead.
1. Sabotage (3 out of 10) “Members of an elite DEA task force find themselves being taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house.” Easily and without a doubt my most hated movie of the year. I hated every single character in it, and found the action to be sub-par. Also – feel free to read my review for further ranting on this, but if we are elevating action movies, then we need to elevate women in action movies. In this particular action movie- there are two strong female roles….I’m sorry – there are two potentially strong female roles, however, they are devalued to (1) strung-out, crazed, drug addict and (2) cop who is out to get the bad guy but suddenly has to sleep with the ‘hero’, and promptly becomes too personally involved in the case. It’s awful, it’s insulting, it’s terrible. If you really want Schwarzenegger, watch Last Stand, or No Escape, and if you want a better female action role – watch Haywire.
There you have it! Far more information than you wanted or needed. As always, these are just my opinions, and you are certainly entitled to your own! The Oscars will be on February 22, 2015, with Neil Patrick Harris hosting for the first time. He’s a great host, so it should be a fun show. Enjoy!