Hugh Jackman (again) does the most angst-ian angst of the movie year as a man whose young daughter has vanished. His pain screams from his toes as he unleashes his own monster who is much more dangerous than the presumed kidnapper. The film is cool and exact and expertly depicts the old classic question of the end justifying the means. The answer is a mixed bag as the film’s end is not exactly happy, but Hugh is happy so we are relieved.
Ok, so this bizarre-o movie didn’t make much of an impact in the multi-plex and to be honest we didn’t see it until it arrived on DVD but what a raucous good time we had. Movie 43 is certainly the silliest movie of the year. It even out-sillied Bad Grandpa and the jokes are so low you have to scrape them off the bottom of your shoes. But I thought I would literally die of laughter during Naomi Watts and Liev Schrieber’s home schooling demo and the blind date between Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, was so riotously funny that I can't even picture Sir Jackman without breaking into a zillion zany pieces.
8. 12 Years a Slave
This was probably the scariest movie of the year. The film grabs you by the short hairs and keeps on tugging and tugging. Every time you think there might be some relief another atrocity goes down and you sink even further. The pace is slow and deliberate and ultimately devastating. But the last 10 minutes of the movie practically upends the whole thing. As soon as Brad Pitt arrives the pace of the film suddenly speeds up as if there were a big red S stitched onto his blouse. You had this odd feeling that Mr. Pitt only had an afternoon to play and they just rushed the end as if Superman swooped in from Krypton and saved Solomon’s life.
7. The Place Beyond the Pines
Ryan Gosling sure did a lot of mumbling this year and he did some of his best beyond the pines. The story hinges on a lot of chance encounters but the movie manages to engineer an amazing shift in that moment Gosling and Cooper briefly meet and absolutely everything in the story and in the telling changes completely. I’m still impressed.
Lost in Space gets a grave updating without Dr. Smith and the lovable robot. Poor Dr. Sandra Bullock hasn’t had much luck in her life and this little foray into outer space with her literal and figurative baggage ends well for her but I couldn’t help wondering if a little stateside psychiatry might have been just as effective and a lot less costly. Whatever, the ride is spectacular even with all the extra sap.
The most lurid movie of the year and possibly the most violent of my favorites, Only God Forgives is populated with some of the most anti-social folks you are likely to encounter this side of a Cheney family reunion. Morally the movie has no core but if we have to endure families like the von Trapps then this house of nasties should also have seats at the table. Brothers Julian and Billy have some rather nasty sexual peccadilloes, but it's mama Crystal who steals the considerable thunder. Eat your heart out, Meryl Streep: Kristin Scott-Thomas gets the award for depraved mother of the year. See this one with your mom next Mother’s Day.
I believe that Mud gets the honor of being the first movie I have seen where there is a boat in a tree. I get it, it’s a metaphor but it’s also a boat in a tree. And it is also the highly entertaining story about a boy beginning to morph from boyhood abandon to the shock and disappointments of grown-up life. Along the way he tangles in the Mud of Matthew McC, a character full of life, salt, spit and vinegar. As he sheds his youth, we know that Ellis will be fine but sadly he will probably never feel as alive as he did that summer he found a boat in a tree.
Don Jon is a wild and weirdly wonderful ride and that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a good chance of shaking me out of my Channing Tatum malaise if he doesn’t watch out. JGL plays DJ as an amorously sly sweetheart who basically just wants to have a little fun. His idea of fun might be a tad off-kilter but it is presented with great affection and respect for our hero. I told Bill W that JGL could watch his nasty movies at our house any time. Too bad that silly Scar Jo just couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. The most audacious and entertaining movie of the year.
WOW. What an energy extravaganza. I loved the sheer excess of this movie. The hair! The costumes! The furniture and even the wallpaper! I didn’t see what the big deal was with Jennifer Lawrence last year but I sure do get her now. And she is in awfully good company here. Every character is carved with such skill and economy, there isn’t a wasted scene or move. Every twitch, every word, every piece of big bad hair propels you happily toward one of the most satisfying final acts in a movie this year.
Urgent and riveting, Fruitvale Station reels us in during the first frame and doesn’t release us until the final frame. Along the way we meet the most compelling characters in a film this year. The acting is spot-on, the direction crisp and the script is taut. That it arrived initially unheralded in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy leant the film extra chops for urgency. Like a bus you can’t escape, Fruitvale Station takes you to many spots you might prefer to miss but know you need to see.
I tried to see this with my fellow Channing Tatum Fan Club Chair, Matt Karp but schedules being what they are, it didn’t happen. The first ten minutes of Side Effects is mesmerizing. Channing Tatum. He is soulful and sincere and humpy without being smarmy. The film takes a fatal detour early on with the premature demise of Chan the Man. The rest of the movie is an odd little thriller but I had trouble focusing as I desperately tried to go see The Conjuring in the screen next door and bring him home. My Sad. I spent the rest of the evening in bed.