It's all come down to this? After five epic-length movies and 13 years worth of anticipation, Peter Jackson delivers his final episode in the Middle Earth, cinematic mythos. At least for now. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is nothing but what that title suggests, a final, ultimate battle for riches and glory that puts a cap on Bilbo Baggins' journey to there and back again. At 144-minutes, it's the shortest film in the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit sagas and dispenses with any idea of story or narrative arc. The Battle of the Five Armies is all-out war with brief bouts of exposition. Is it too much of a good thing? Yes, somewhat.
Charles Manson really fucked this country up. Sure, a dozen contributing factors over decades have led America to where it is now, but those 1969 murders undoubtedly shook things up. The hippie movement and free love became ostracized, beaten down by the fears and paranoia suddenly knocking on every American door, especially in California. That’s the world shown in Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation, Inherent Vice, a film with an equal hand in parody and satire than it does webbed detective pulp. Immaculately presented, the film proves even when Anderson’s tongue is firmly in his cheek, his eye and feel for storytelling are still full of depth and grand design. It can only be described in two words: Right on!
Continuing our annual tradition of posting Thanksgiving and Christmas Movie Guides every holiday season, our San Francisco contributor, Marco Cerritos, has once again put together a holiday movie guide for Thanksgiving 2014, giving a recap and rundown of what's playing and what's worth seeing (or skipping). Marco has seen everything playing, and while you may not always agree with his opinion, he provides the best reviews he can to make it a bit easier for everyone to choose. There are quite a few wonderful films now playing in theaters, so if you're still a bit unsure of what to watch or need extra tips, then look no further!
Comedy sequels are not easy to pull off. Unlike the horror, action and sci-fi genres, it's seemingly more difficult to improve upon what made the original film so enjoyable to begin with. While all of those genres are able to up the ante with bigger setpieces, explosions, scares and whantot, a comedy can usually only be funnier than its predecessor (or at least as funny) in order to appease audiences. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and Dumb & Dumber To fell short this year, but 22 Jump Street stepped up to the challenge magnificently. And I'm happy to say that this weekend's Horrible Bosses 2 is another comedy that not only matches wit with its predecessor, but may even be superior comedically, despite faltering elsewhere.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I, the first of a two-part finale wrapping up the beloved and lucrative Hunger Games franchise, is a stand-in representation of a number of rages in Hollywood. A dystopian future in which the people, under the control of a brutish government, are beginning to rebel? Check. A tough, female protagonist who finds her emotions torn between two men? Double check. Even the idea of splitting the final novel in Suzanne Collins' young adult series into two films is matching the current "way to do things." Despite its familiar tendencies, Mockingjay - Part I is a solid beginning, a fine launching point for the true finale yet to come, and for what it's worth, it's as entertaining as it is justified.
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light." Wait, wrong movie. I wish we could wait until next year to write about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, because it's a two-part finale and this first one really is just half of a movie. And while I have so much to say, I'm just as anxious to see it conclude properly before I really get into The Hunger Games series in-depth. However, we can't wait a year because Mockingjay - Part 1 is in theaters, and if you want that big screen experience now's the time to make the trip. Unfortunately, Mockingjay seems to be experiencing the same problems as Harry Potter, with the split forcing the story to be drawn out a bit too much taking away from the visceral experience that made the first two films so good.
It's hard to believe that 20 years have passed since The Farrelly Brothers brought audiences the silly comedy Dumb & Dumber. It was the directorial debut of Peter & Bobby Farrelly, and they were lucky to land the rubber faced comedy star that was Jim Carrey just as his career skyrocketed following the release of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask earlier in the same year (yes, all three of these movies came out in 1994), and his pairing with Jeff Daniels was more than intriguing. Now here we are 20 years later, and the lovable idiots Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas are back for another road trip in Dumber & Dumber To, and while the energy is still there, the comedy just doesn't land the same after two decades. More below!
There used to be a time when we would look up at the stars and dream. We would wonder what it was like out there, what we might find out amongst the endless black of space. But then things changed, we became obsessed with ourselves again, with battling each other for money and power, and we forgot how to dream. Along comes Interstellar, an exhilarating science fiction creation that once again reminds us that we can dream, that we get to breathe this fresh air on this beautiful planet, that we get to smile, cry and laugh. And it's those feelings that matter the most. It reminds us that the desire to connect is one of the most important aspects of humanity and that nothing–whether it be time or space or others–can break those bonds of love.
Beyond the glitz and glamour, there's a darkness surrounding Los Angeles that captivates moviegoers when it's presented in film. Writer/director Dan Gilroy understands this and realizes the darkness in its truest form with Nightcrawler, a crime drama that not only dishes on the grimiest of LA grime, but revels in it. With equal parts style, wit, and discomfort - the latter getting the slight edge, especially given the scuzzy-above-all-else performance from Jake Gyllenhaal - the film wallops the viewer's senses and expectations, a hint of satire pushing it well into the forefront of modern crime drama conversations, making it shine.
There's an odd correlation between cineplex screens and toy-store shelves these days. The movies-being-turned-into-toys-being-turned-into-movies cycle is hardly a 2014 revelation. But, with Michael Bay's most recent Transformers movie scraping the well in search for content, it finally felt like that synergistic cycle was a foregone conclusion. Entertainment and, God forbid, story were afterthoughts to the dollars and cents the film ultimately pulled in. I use Transformers as the example, because Bay's horror-movie production company, Platinum Dunes, has a product in which they'd like you to invest. It's called Ouija, and it's awful.
Writer and director David Ayer brings his particular brand of hard-hitting action and remorseless intensity to the muddied front of World War II-torn Europe in Fury, more specifically the metal beasts that rolled through the landscape on rusted tracks. Fury’s heart is in both the hardened men inside those tanks as well as the hellish events that made them that way. It pulls up a number of war movie tropes, some of which give the film a shopworn feel. Regardless, the out-and-out ferocity of Ayer’s camera and action with a staggering slate of performances led by Brad Pitt makes Fury as solid as any good war film before it.
While attending a film festival it's always exciting to hear buzz about films that may not have been on our radar before. One film in particular at Sundance 2014 that I kept hearing my colleagues raving about was actually a documentary, one called The Overnighters. It took a little while but I finally caught up with the film after the fest and was so taken aback, so impressed and surprised and genuinely moved by what I saw, I couldn't help but write about it. Overnighters is a refreshingly modern documentary, an utterly compelling, nuanced film that precariously balances the big questions of one of the great dilemmas of this day and age.
Is this what happens when you get too high? Perhaps. Over the weekend, the New York Film Festival hosted the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, Inherent Vice, starring Joaquin Phoenix as "Doc" Sportello, the stoner private detective character from Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same name. A very faithful adaptation, the film is a smoke-filled mystery that unfurls like Chinatown if Jake kept getting stoned every five minutes. Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, the look and feel is spot on – it's like they made this in the 70s and time traveled forward to 2014 just to premiere it. But does it make any sense? Not really.
It's hard to detect a good reason for Annabelle, the horror prequel to last year's terrifying The Conjuring, to exist. It's not as if the makers behind this latest film have anything groundbreaking to say about haunted house movies, creepy doll movies, or even possession movies despite the film dabbling in all three. Annabelle's creativity appears in its scares, something the film does quite well. But no matter how many times it makes you jump, regardless of the menacing tone it accomplishes in droves, Annabelle ends up being yet another standard, generic supernatural thriller that only succeeds in surface-level horror.