Visiting Some of the Forgotten Movies of 2014
Happy Thanksgiving, fellow COWs! I hope you're all thankful for the bountiful amount of leftovers this glorious day will provide you, so that by Sunday your family is still feasting on the remains of a three-day old turkey like a cast of sea crabs nibbling on a whale corpse that's sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Sorry, I watch a lot of nature shows. I hope that was an appetizing thought for you.
Anyway, *I'm* thankful for streaming rental services, which have given me the convenient opportunity to check out some of the movies that I remember getting hyped up about earlier this year, and then never bothering to see in theaters for whatever reason and forgetting that they exist. At the very least, I hope this post gives you something to pretend to read on your phone while your uncle and your grandpa argue about politics as you desperately wait for dinner to be ready at your mom's house. Oh god, grandpa is using racial slurs again...! [sits in bathroom pretending to poop for 2 hours]
THE ZERO THEOREM
What is it? It's that Terry Gilliam movie with Christoph Waltz as a worker in a futuristic society where a corporation is trying to solve the titular science equation in order to prove the universe will eventually collapse into nothing. I remember being super hyped up about it at the beginning of the year, then it never got theatrical release anywhere near me, and I forgot about it completely until I randomly browsed through Amazon Prime the other week.
It is any good? Yes and no. The set design/character design/anything design is awesome, as is typical with a Gilliam picture. But also typical with most Gilliam movies, it is confusing and purposefully ridiculous for the sake of being silly. There are lots of *moments* to appreciate throughout The Zero Theorem, and any given scene has its own little merits, but as a giant cohesive project, it kind of gets an "uh, ok?" reaction out of me. Maybe it went over my head, or maybe it intentionally didn't make much sense? Either way, the movie is interesting to look at, yet possibly made me feel stupid, so I'll leave it to your best judgement whether you want to watch it or not. Long story short, it's kind of like a less good version of what Gilliam already did with Brazil.
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? Your uncle Jerry will probably get frustrated and start talking over it and asking a lot of questions, making it harder to follow along. Also, do you want to be sitting next to your grandma while staring at long takes of Christoph Waltz's naked butt? I'd save this for viewing on your own if I were you.
What score would you give it? I wanted to like it more, but I'm realistically settling somewhere around a 6.5 out of 10.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
What is it? A sequel to How to Train Your Dragon 1... ... ... ... ... (quietly coughs into hand) ... ... ... Well, I remember seeing maybe one commercial for this earlier this year, and there was no real hype for it, and I ended up not bothering to check it out until now, even though I enjoyed the first one. This time around there is an evil guy who collects dragons for an army, and the characters from the first movie have to, uh, stop him. And such.
It is any good? It's alright. It's not as good as the first one. It still has a lot of the awesome visuals and dragon designs that made the first one cool (they are pretty great at making the scale of the big dragons seem HUGE), but it kind of lacked the emotional connection and definitely lacked the sense of wonder that the first one had. Much like Toy Story 2, this was just, like, another situation to put these characters in. Let's see if they can bring the third one to another level of emotion, or if it will just end up being another visually interesting, yet mediocre plot.
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? Yeah, I mean, I doubt anyone will really complain. I'm sure kids will like it more than adults will.
What score would you give it? It's, like, fine or whatever. 7.5 out of 10.
EARTH TO ECHO
What is it? It's that found footage movie about a group of kids who are moving away from each other, and they go on one last adventure together and find an alien, and then they like try to send it home or whatever. You see, they'll never forget each other because they'll always have that week when they found life from another planet, got chased by the government, and nearly destroyed their town. You could say it's a commentary on how kids are always recording and broadcasting themselves, but then you'd probably be giving the movie more credit than it deserves. I remember getting bombarded with commercials for this when it first came out, but then I never saw it and it went away from my consciousness.
It is any good? Not really. Similar projects (and by similar I mean 85% the same scenario) like Super 8 and E.T. still have universal appeal that cater to children, teens, adults, and even the elderly! But Earth to Echo really only catered to twelve-year-olds. It had a cast of twelve-year-olds, it has the non stop dialogue of twelve-year-olds, it offers nothing deeper than the yelling antics of twelve-year olds running around. It's basically like watching the highest budgeted YouTube channel from a twelve-year-old ever made. Do you enjoy the entertainment a twelve-year-old provides? If you do, congratulations. Good for you. You have a higher tolerance for twelve-year-olds than I do. It annoyed the crap out of me.
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? Are there any twelve-year-olds over at your place for Thanksgiving? They might enjoy it.
What score would you give it? Again, I'm not really the target audience, but it was undeniably stupid regardless. I'd give it a 4.5 out of 10.
What is it? Some sort of Jon Favreau passion project where he directs himself as a guy who runs a food truck. A logical follow-up to the Iron Man movies, right? I wanted to see this when it came out, and it even played at the theater by me, but for some reason every time I had an opportunity to go see it, I decided to do something else. Then I started noticing it on streaming services a month or two ago, and I still decided to watch other things over it. The other day I had to bite the bullet, stop browsing for options so much, and just rent it. And whoa, Favreau does not look like he did in PCU anymore.
It is any good? Yeah, it was pretty good. It was more entertaining than I thought it would be. It starts out really strong, then hits a slight lag in the middle, but manages to close out nicely. I may be biased because I like watching food shows to begin with, and this movie definitely lends itself to that crowd, but I think it would at least be *watchable* even if you don't care about looking at chefs prepare the most succulent looking slab of carne asada as a form of entertainment. I also liked how Favreau didn't really take any stupid twists just for the sake of adding drama, i.e. they never crashed the food truck or cut off the tips of their fingers or anything like that. It's less of a story involving some great conflict, where he has to overcome some huge threat by the end, than it is a free form(ish) character study of a guy who just really likes to cook for a living. I don't know if that makes you want to see it more or less, but that decision is on you now, pal!
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? It's not really family friendly at times, but there's a TON of appetizing shots of delicious meals throughout. Might make you hungrier while waiting for your actual dinner. "HEY GRANDMA. WHEN'S THAT TURKEY GONNA BE DONE? GRANDMA. GRANDMA! YOU MAKING THAT GOOD CASSEROLE AGAIN? YOU BETTER BE MAKING THAT CASSEROLE. I'M STARVING. GRANDMA!"
What score would you give it? It's a good, simple, maybe not great, but rewardingly pleasant movie. 8 out of 10.
3 DAYS TO KILL
What is it? It's another one of those movies where Kevin Costner is trying to revive his career, but he keeps picking stupid projects to do so. I had to choose between this or Draft Day, because I certainly wasn't going to watch two modern Costner movies. There's only so much monotone speaking I can take in a week. If you'd like me to be more specific, this is his comeback movie where he pretends that the Liam Neeson "old guy with a violent skill set" formula will also work on him (it doesn't). I just looked up who directed this, and hahaha, it's McG. Almost twenty years in show business, and this 46-year-old man still professionally calls himself "McG". That's some hilariously sad dedication right there. Even Ludacris calls himself Chris Bridges now.
It is any good? I got super bored during this movie. It really struggled to hold my attention. Don't get me wrong, it's loud and full of gun stuff, but it's not really interesting loud gun stuff. Did I mention that there's a subplot about him reconnecting with his daughter, played by Amber Heard? I don't know what it is about her, but she's kind of movie poison. Let's just say this movie wanted to be way cooler than it actually was, but it ended up just being straight-to-DVD quality bland action stuff. NOT TOO GOOD.
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? Perhaps...?! It's kind of *just* bland and generic and PG-13 enough that almost any adult can kind of sit there and watch it blankly. Who watches a *good* movie with their family on Thanksgiving anyway? It's almost always just whatever is on TNT that day.
What score would you give it? It's about on par with completely unrelated Earth to Echo. 4.5 out of 10.
What is it? A critically acclaimed indie comedy about a penniless stand up comedian (Jenny Slate) who has a one night stand and gets pregnant, and decides to have an abortion. Of course she runs into the guy who knocked her up a handful of times and it complicates matters. I heard a lot of good things about it over the summer, but it never played in suburban Illinois, I guess. However, by playing the ole' waiting game, I only had to pay one dollar to watch it with Redbox!
It is any good? Yeah, it's pretty good, especially if you go in with medium expectations like I did. It falls into a few quirky indie movie potholes here and there (in one scene, the main character has an entire conversation in a cardboard box...), but overall it was surprisingly realistic. And it was a really great vehicle for Slate, who is very capable of showing good acting range, apparently. At 84 minutes, there isn't a whole bunch of filler, either. And even though the subject matter is (or can be) uncomfortable terrain, I thought it was handled kind of sweetly.
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? That depends, how awkward would you like the conversation to be at dinner?
What score would you give it? I'll probably never watch it again, but I thought it was pretty decent. 8 out of 10.
What is it? A movie directed by yet another Coppola I haven't heard of (I guess they can't do anything other than work on films?), Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis Ford; about a bunch of spoiled teenagers in the titular city in California. More of a slice of life type film than having a real driving story. A lot of the characters/actors are very punchable. James Franco plays a gym teacher. It screened at a lot of film festivals, but I didn't get to see it until it finally showed up on Netflix.
It is any good? Eh, it's more of a hate-watch than anything legitimately good. I sort of despised all of the characters, as they are all little "Joffreys", but I was kind of entertained to see what dumb things they were going to do next. You have to have a pretty high tolerance for dealing with crappy characters to get anything out of this. And even then, you may not really get anything out of it. I'd definitely lean towards it being not that good.
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? Hahaha, that would be pretty funny.
What score would you give it? It will make you feel sad and angry about the next generation. Now I feel old. 5.5 out of 10.
What is it? It's that movie your mom probably enjoys where a bunch of dudes from Jersey in the '50s form a boy band or something. The only things I knew about it going in were that it's based on some Broadway musical, and it's directed by Clint Eastwood for some reason. Didn't he direct American Sniper this year, as well? When does that come out?
It is any good? I'll be honest with you, I don't really care for jukebox musicals, or for that doo-woppy 1950's music. There's nothing wrong with that if *you* like it, it's just not my thing. So, from something of an outside perspective (of the target audience), it just felt like a bland period piece about some whiney pretty boys. Plus, if you've seen Goodfellas fifteen times like I have, how can you possibly take this hokey crap seriously? I do like Vincent Piazza, though (Lucky Luciano from Boardwalk Empire), he was born to play the old timey, sleazy New York/New Jersey gangster type, which (according to his Wikipedia page) is pretty much all he's been doing since 2010. Jersey Boys could have used 20x the grime and 50x the violence. But, whatever, I guess this can be the "gangster" movie for old women, Broadway fans, and people who don't like watching a guy get stabbed in the trunk of a car in the first scene of the film.
Should I put it on the TV right now as Thanksgiving entertainment for my family? Sure. Seemed harmless enough, I guess. Plus, the music in this will make your grandparents tap their toes more than if you selfishly put on Metallica: Through the Never. For shame. I mean, they didn't even play "Fade to Black" in that movie, and that's Great-Grandma Betsy's favorite track from Ride the Lightning... It would be insulting!
What score would you give it? A generic score for a pretty generic movie. 6 out of 10.
That's it! Go eat! Or watch football! Or talk to your cousin Dave about work while trying not to stare at his lazy eye! Happy Thanksgiving!