It’s that time of year (maybe a little delayed) where I do my best’s and worst’s of the year. I purposely waited a little bit to post it for several reasons. One being that you get inundated with lists at the end of the year and none in the beginning of the year and two because some of the movie on the best list get re-released so you can go see them in the theater if you haven’t seen them yet. So with that being said I bring you KBay’s Best and Worst of 2014!
With the last and somewhat realistic movie about amateur wrestling being Vision Quest (1985) there comes “Foxcatcher”. A true story that is both disturbing and memorable about an insanely rich man and an Olympic Wrestling Champion family that has the twists and turns with an morbidly shocking ending that you only see in fiction but in this case is absolutely real.
I’ve never been a fan of the acting chops of Channing Tatum. He’s usually quite dull, he uses the same mannerisms and tone in every role he’s given no matter what the genre. That being said he gives his best performance to date as Mark Schultz, who won gold at the 1984 Olympics. In an era where Olympic wrestlers never reach fame or fortune like other Olympic athletes do (I’ve never understood why they don’t and figure skaters, gymnasts, etc do) it seems hard to live life as that kind of athlete. Mark is struggling day to say doing personal appearances for $20 living his life training and surviving.
Mark Shultz’s brother Dave is played by Mark Ruffalo, who to me is the opposite of Tatum. He’s great in all of his roles and one of todays better actors on screen. His transformation as Mark’s older brother Dave, who is arguably, by some wrestling experts, one of the best amateur wrestler of all time, is fantastic. Each actor fully encompass the nuances of a wrestler on and off the wrestling mat. The mental attitude, the rigorous training regimen even the way they walk. Dave (Ruffalo) is charming, extremely likeable, has a great family life and casts a huge although not on purpose shadow over his younger brother Mark (Tatum).
As great as the two previously described actors are Steve Carell as John du Pont is far and away the best thing about this movie. The usual hilarious and scene stealing Carell mimics the mannerisms, vocal tone and dialect as well as the just outright creepiness of the eccentrically weird John du Pont (I looked on some YouTube videos to see what he actually sounded like and looked like).
This movie depicts the way a person/family with an ungodly amount of money can literally pay for the acceptance and camaraderie of other people that they lacked growing up for one reason or another. du Pont starts out as a mentor, friend and father figure to Mark and as the film goes it turns out to be more of an obsession, homo-erotic relationship (though nothing physical happens) in his clouded and odd mind. The relationship and control between a very powerful mother and son also is brought to light and proves damaging to the psyche over a period of time for du Pont.
Directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball) “Foxcatcher” seems to be dialogue heavy but isn’t and moves at a chilling pace. The tone of the back drop has a dreary, grey feeling but is beautifully filmed.
Miller clearly has a love for the sport of wrestling and lifelong wrestling fans will enjoy how truly precise the movie is to the actual sport. The training, the matches and the attitude of the sport is accurately captured in this film. It shows that the neanderthal mentality the public thinks of wrestling is quite the opposite.
Carell’s absolutely terrific! For him a career performance that gets you to feel for du Pont, even though from the beginning you can tell he isn’t all there.
I couldn’t wait to see this movie and being a true story most know what will happen. There are even some funny parts (remember golden eagle or eagle). With an oscar worthy performance and a great cast this is one of my favorite movies of the year.
Going in not knowing at all what this movie was about aside from hearing how great Jake Gyllenhaal was as the lead role, I didn’t know what to expect. That being said buzz about Gyllenhaal was dead on. Playing a man down on his luck with no light at the end of the tunnel having to resort to wheeling and dealing stolen items to make ends meet. He stumbles across a new way to make money after, by coincidence, witnessing a massive car crash on a freeway in LA and seeing how a local, freelance news gatherer (Bill Paxton) shows up on the scene and begins to shoot as much video footage as possible and getting as much graphic content he’s allowed to take to be able to sell to local TV stations for their news shows. Gyllenhaal’s character, Lewis, is absolutely creepy, definitely a sociopath and as about as manipulative as a person can get all the while weirdly clever as well as resourceful as he jumps head first into the profession of being a NIGHTCRAWLER.
The first word of the title is the only accurate thing about this movie HORRIBLE! The first one wasn’t even that great of a comedy. It had flashes of funny and a great cast of actors but it made $117 million domestically, so now that equates to a must make sequel.
The title has nothing to do with the movie because there are no horrible bosses. If anything it’s the exact opposite, Nick, Kurt and Dale become promising entrepreneurs and are risking everything to keep their company alive so their employees won’t lose their jobs.
The cast alone would make people want to see this (Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Spacey, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudakis, Jamie Fox, Jennifer Aniston). I mean you have 3 Academy Award Nominees in this group, 2 of the funniest guys around, a gorgeous actress and one of todays leading heart throbs and you still can’t make a barely watchable movie out of it. LAZY MOVIE MAKING!
Bad writing and horrible story plot make even the best of actors unwatchable in this stinker! I can’t believe how utterly annoying Day and Sudeikis are as complete morons. Out is the witty and timely humor of Sudeikis in the first one and in comes flat out stupid remarks playing off of an even bigger idiot played by Charlie Day. The only saving grace of making this movie even barely watchable is the charisma and charm of Bateman and the very, very brief cameo by Kevin Spacey (who is actually good in his 5 or so minutes).
The funniest part in this 2 hours of bore fest is a reference to something from the first movie and I’ll leave it at that. I did laugh sparingly but the laughs are few and far between and it was just flat out BAD.
Whiplash has a military bootcamp style movie (Full Metal Jacket) set to a Jazz school background. This movie chronicles Andrew (Miles Teller: 21 & OVER – THAT AWKWARD MOMENT) a freshman who is a vying to be the top band drummer for the best Jazz Conservatory in the world. While being opposed and taught by the Mystro of the band, Terrence Fletcher (JK Simmons: JUNO) who is a brutal, hard-nosed and militant style teacher that would rather beat his students mentally into submission rather than teach with kindness. We learn that Andrew has a deeper connection and relationship with his drum kit than with the people in his life, his dad (Paul Ryser) and love interest (Melissa Benoist: GLEE).
JK Simmons steals the movie and as one of the better character actors in movies today he gives what I think is his best performance and should warrant a Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting. Usual funny man, Miles Teller, is also excellent in the lead role. Portraying the intenseness and drive a kid seems to have to have be to succeed in that world. For it being a movie about a jazz school the action and drama become very intense.
The writing is very good but the way the movie is editing with quick cuts and a fast pace that makes it flow even with heavy dialogue. The musical scenes will even give the non-jazz fan a reason to like it. This movie resides back to the “old-school” coaching days when coaches screamed and yelled at their players to be better and there wasn’t trophies given out to every kid that participated.
Fantastic performances all around, the music is second to none and I think it will be one of the sleeper picks of the year.
Previews: Interstellar is director Christopher Nolan’s new science fiction drama that was written by his brother Jonathan and was originally meant to be directed by Stephen Spielberg. It stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain.
Feature: The film begins in a dystopian not too distant future where the world has been ravaged by years of environmental decline and overpopulation. Dust storms are frequent, education and careers are minimal, (Children are taught in school that the United States faked the moon landings as a brilliant propaganda ploy to cause the Soviet Union to over spend and go bankrupt.) there are no armies, and the food available comes from the farmers who can only grow corn. Thus, enter the hero. He is a farmer and former astronaut named Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey.
Cooper is a widower who is raising his son and daughter with his father-in-law. He shares a close bond with his daughter Murph, (She is named for Murphy’s Law.) who often accompanies him, when he goes to transform the occasional surviving military drones into practical machines that can do farm work and to examine through science, the unusual phenomena that originates in Murph’s bedroom and that continues to plague their farm. Through his investigations with Murph, Cooper discovers a hidden, old NORAD space station. He is subject to interrogation there first by a highly intelligent robot and then by a scientist named Brand (Anne Hathaway) who is the daughter of his former mentor at NASA, Professor Brand (Michael Caine). After being reunited with his daughter who was taken from him when he arrived at the gate of NORAD, Cooper is informed by Brand, her father who is still alive, and several other scientists that sit around a table in a conference room, that they all the remains of NASA and have been conducting research in secret about flying the last spaceship left into the reaches of space beyond the Earth’s solar system, to find another planet where the remnants of humanity can live or where the human race can be recolonized through frozen eggs Brand has been saving for years. He is also informed that many years before, several astronauts volunteered on a mission codenamed Lazarus to travel via spacecraft to an area beyond our solar system to find a habitable planet. They were able to do this through a wormhole left by someone, no one is certain whom; but nearly all of the astronauts either appeared to have died or found unwelcoming worlds to live on except for three. Cooper is enlisted by Professor Brand to be the pilot of the spaceship and informed by him that he is working on a new theory of gravity that will be proved by the time Cooper’s journey is finished. This will enable the human race to leave by allowing the space station to liftoff from Earth and humanity will be able to begin again on whichever new world Cooper and his team uncover. Cooper agrees over the objections of his family particularly Murph, who do not want him to undertake the journey since he may die or at the very least his family members will have aged significantly by the time he returns. Cooper bids them good-bye and his great space adventure begins.
The astronauts venture past the solar system, find the worm whole and descend onto one of the planets unearthed by one of their predecessors knowing that every hour they spend there will be the equivalent of seven years on Earth. The world they find is that has no land only water and they realize too late they have landed right in front of many large waves. They try to evade the large waves, but are unable to and as a result, one of the astronauts Doyle, (Wes Bentley) dies, the ship is damaged, and Cooper and Brand return to find that twenty-three years have passed since they landed on the planet and that that Romily (David Graysi) the astronaut that they left behind to look after the ship, is nearly an old man due to his not setting foot on the planet or engaging in the hibernation method they use not to age. Furthermore, Cooper receives messages from home (The astronauts cannot contact home nor do those who send them messages know if they can actually see them, but they are sent anyway.) showing his son Tom (Casey Affleck) aging, farming and starting a family. He hears nothing from Murph, but the audience learns through cutaway shots to the present that she (Jessica Chastain) is a grown up scientist herself who is working with Professor Brand on his gravity theory in order to try to save the people that are dying rapidly as the world continues to decay. After working through it, Cooper, Brand and Romily (David Graysi) conclude that they can make it to only one more planet that was reached by one of the astronauts from the Lazarus mission. Cooper and Romily elect to go to a planet that was discovered by one of the Lazarus astronauts named Dr. Mann over Brand’s strenuous protestations, (She was in love with the other astronaut who located the other planet before he began the Lazarus mission.) because his scientific findings seem to support the possibility that the human race could live there. They then make the journey towards the planet.
Much happens in this part of the film and I hesitate to share too much for those that have not seen it yet, and don’t want to hear spoilers. All that I will reveal are these facts: A significant death occurs, the mission is revealed to be different from what the astronauts thought it was, there is an enormous deception that transpires, and Murph becomes the central player in determining whether humanity will be saved. There are also meditations on the meaning of love and how it transcends space and time.
Closing Credits: There is much to like about Interstellar. The cinematography and score are fantastic as Nolan, is able to make the viewer feel, as close to being in space with the astronauts as possible. Additionally, praise should be heaped on it for seeking to impart a deeper message about love beyond being just another space travel drama. Finally, McConaughey and Chastain deliver strong performances especially the reactions of the former when he sees his family messages from Earth.
However, it does have its flaws. It is a very long piece of cinema that is slowly paced. (You may have to take off a few days off from my work to finish it.) Scientists’ might find many of the theoretical physics concepts put forth in it easy to comprehend, but for laymen all of the scientific theories and facts presented can be difficult to follow. This means one has to concentrate a great deal to keep the story straight which is a little frustrating.
In conclusion, if you love science fiction this is the film for you. It has all the hallmarks of a good space quest and all the science you could want. But, if you are only the occasional sci-fi viewer, don’t have a great love for Matthew McConaughey, are not a Christopher Nolan devotee, or can’t stand to watch a movie beyond two and a half hours, you should pass.
Previews: Gone Girl is a movie with a lot of hype lately. I knew it was based on a book written awhile back that I never read about a missing girl and it stars a pre Batman Ben Affleck. Also, it’s directed by David Fincher, so good or bad, the movie would have it’s share of creepiness.
Feature: The movie begins jarringly with Ben Affleck’s character Nick Dunne (nice last name) talking about cracking open his pretty wife’s head so he can scoop out her brains to see what she is thinking. In films you never get a second chance for your characters to give a first impression and Nick’s inner thoughts unnerve right away. What follows are some very welcome speedy credits that appear and disappear on screen like ghosts. Nick leaves his picturesque Midwestern house early in the morning for a morning drink at the local dive. He happens to own it with his a little too close twin sister/bartender Margo. There they play subtlety mundane game of Life on his 5 year anniversary when he is called back home to bring in the cat. This is the inciting incident where upon arriving home Nick finds the house empty and in immaculate shape except for a broken glass table. Oh yeah, and missing one wife. Strangely though, Nick takes her disappearance in stride and chooses to call not her, but the police first instead.
Since his wife is clearly gone from the get go we only initially see Amy, distantly played by Rosamund Pike, through flashbacks written in her journal. Through Amy’s journals we learn their marriage is not all that it seems and that Amy, and later on their marriage, has ample baggage. Amy is a highly educated trust fund baby and semi has been celebrity as her parents have written a whole series children’s books about her overly embellished life. However, “Amazing Amy is resentful of her parents profiting off her disappointing childhood while her literary alter ego gets the perfectly written happy ending. Until one boring house party later where she meets too cool for school Nick and the fireworks begin. It’s an effective way to layer in the troubled couple’s back story while providing us a way to peek inside Amy’s head to see what really goes on inside her brain. On top of that she is a writer like her parents so her choice of words in the diary are poetic and insightful. Sometimes too much,
Armed with her ever present cup of joe and a pack of sticky notes, the local detective arrives at Nick’s crime scene house looking for clues from the clueless Nick. Luckily, a missing person’s case is just what the police department needs to break up the small town monotony and Amy’s case is put on the fast track for investigation. And fast it is. Usually it takes 24 hours to file a missing person’s case but within 24 hours Nick is already holding a press conference, and the town has organized a search to find Amazing Amy. Through it all Nick seems dis-attached and unmoved by Amy’s disappearance which makes us want to crack open his skull and see what’s going on inside..
Thankfully Amy’s diary helps us see what Nick is unwilling to share, and her entries reveal a short honeymoon period for the newlywed couple as the 2008 recession hits Nick and Amy hard. Nick has lost his job at a men’s magazine and instead of finding work is content to spend his days gunning people down in Call of Duty. He convinces Amy to move to his hometown in Missouri to look after hos dying mother. Amy loves Nick’s mom and agrees but quickly resents small town life having grown up in New York. Nick however, hasn’t grown much beyond the college party scene and Amy views her husband as a leech sucking her life away and her money dry. To make matters worse Amy’s job is tenuous and to ratchet up the financial pressure her parents need to raid her million dollar trust fund to get by. Nobody cares about Amazing Amy anymore it seems, even Nick, as he uses Amy for sex then runs off for guy’s nights out. The cherry on top is an abusive fight with Nick after a baby saving marriage talk ends up with her in the stairs. This is a side of Nick she hasn’t seen before and she is terrified. She is afraid her husband will kill her, and so are we.
During the investigation evidence against Nick grows as it appears Amy has left a trail of seductive anniversary treasure hunt style clues about her disappearance. A mountain of mysterious credit card bills show up along with a multi-million dollar life insurance policy against Amy with Nick’s signature. And everything, the house, the car, Nick’s bar, appears to be in Amy’s name. Nick feels the investigation turn against him as he claims he never made the mysterious purchases and it was Amy’s idea to have him take out the insurance policy long ago. To make matters worse Nick is visited late one night by a young college hottie who he has been having an affair with. Oh, and it turns out Amy was pregnant at the time of her disappearance, bewildering Nick as it turns out neither of them really wanted a child. At this point, almost half way through the movie, all the evidence clearly paints Nick as just another Scott Peterson. It’s almost too perfect when Amy’s half burnt diary falls in the hands of the police damning Nick in his lost wife’s own words. But with no body or weapon there can be no arrest, so the mountain of evidence builds and builds to the point where there seems to be no question Nick is guilty of the heinous murder of his wife.
However at this point the film throws one of it’s first major curve balls. In a move straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo, the film is flipped on it’s head when they mystery of Amy’s disappearance is solved halfway through the movie. We see Amy is indeed gone, but very much alive and loving her new life as a missing person. Her disappearance is no mystery but a carefully calculated plan but into motion months if not years ago to frame her husband. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and Amy must have a summer trust funded residence down below for the levels of depravity, and glee, she shows in setting up her aloof husband. Fueled by a need for revenge on her cheating husband and well informed on how to cover up a crime by watching hours of murder porn on Discovery ID, she made the credit card purchases, took out the life insurance policy, and faked the pregnancy all to make Nick look guilty and provide him with plenty of motive. She’s even not afraid to draw a bucket of her own blood to splatter behind as evidence. But not before she cleans it up in craptastic fashion, as her lazy husband would do. Even her deepest thoughts, locked away in the diary, have been a set up, purposely left behind and made up as evidence to frame poor Nick. Like her parents when she was younger, Amy learned how to turn fiction into non-fiction convincingly. So complete is her plan she has even mapped out her revenge on a calendar, complete with a day picked out to kill herself in a place where her body can be found. All to send Nick to the chair. They have the death penalty in Missouri after all.
Gone Girl is like a two and a half hour episode of Law and Order. The beginning is all about the crime investigation while the back end focuses on the pursuing legal battle. With Nick, and now us, knowing he is truly innocent he hires a hot shot $100,000 retainer lawyer played by scene stealing Tyler Perry, who helps to plan his legal and public defense with the help of his loyal sister. It turns out Amy has done this before by setting up an ex with charges of rape years before meeting Nick and now his only hope for redemption is to track her down to prove his innocence.
While Nick wages a PR campaign to clear his name, Amy goes from trailer park hiding to shacking up with her former millionaire college lover, the infatuated Doogie Houser. The Doog is all too happy to have won her back and sets Amy up in his cabin penthouse/fortress/prison complete with heated bathroom floors and a web of security cameras that would make Fort Knox jealous. Confident he’ll rekindle his romance with the one who got away the Doog leaves Amy to gather her thoughts after being hooked by her story of abuse at Nick’s hands. He promises her, there is no way he’ll ever let her out of his grasp ever again, trapping Amy again in a subservient relationship she wants no part of.
However, a desperate, impassioned, and nationally televised plea from Nick for Amy’s return leads to the second major curve ball the movie has to throw. Amy watches it, and sees in Nick the ambitious go getter she once knew and misses again. Unfortunately she has the world and her captor convinced she was the victim of a horrible crime and just can’t show up at Nick’s door step. Or can she? To plot her latest escape Amy uses the cabin’s ever present security cameras in place of her diary to set up Doogie for rape, and one of the most blood soaked throat slashes in movie history. In a movie so much about violence unseen it’s quite shocking when it happens. Before the Doog has finished bleeding out Amy is back home, soaked in blood and crying about escape from her torturous ex boyfriend’s clutches.
Knowing better, Nick doesn’t buy her story for a second but the public eats it up. The police buy her story and she is free to return home with her husband, There, still covered in blood she confesses everything to him in the shower as she washes it and her lies away. And poor Nick, caught between an utterly psycho wife and a suddenly lucrative, as if written for TV, story chooses to stay with her. Amy makes a convincing argument for her love in the fact that she really has killed for him. Or is it that she may really be pregnant again? Or maybe, just maybe, Nick wants her still. That beneath all their squabbles with alleged kidnappings, abuse, and that whole death penalty thing, Nick may be codependent when all is said and done and can’t live with his unpredictable wife as much as he can without her.
Roll Credits: Gone Girl goes a long way in setting back the gains made in male and female relations over the past few centuries. The film validates every husband’s concern that their wife is just as secretly unhinged and treacherous as they’ve always believed her to be. And every woman’s fear that their dopey and childish husbands are just a 20 year old away from having an affair. And the best way to deal with those long held issues isn’t through therapy or sacrifice, but a long planned revenge. David Fincher does a good job of making the whole film feel awkward and unnerving. For two and a half hours run time the film doesn’t drag but leaves you wanting a final resolution that never seems to come, until the end when it does abruptly. Because of that it’s hard not to leave Gone Girl without feeling uncomfortable. After all, as Amy tells Nick towards the end, this is how marriages are supposed to work. It’s a spouses job to make the other miserable.