Movies of 2015 – January

Unlike previous years, I am going to try to keep track of every single movie I watch in 2015, so these will be listed in the order I saw them and will include movies both from 2015 and previous years. Expect frequent updates.

Inherent Vice (2014) – Paul Thomas Anderson

inherent-vice-trailer2Inherent Vice was pretty much Chinatown+marijuana. I never read the book, and I probably never will since Pynchon’s works usually go over my head. The movie, however, was great but mostly for the smaller funny moments throughout and the ridiculous characters rather than the overarching plot. – 8/10

Whiplash (2014) – Damien Chazelle

Whiplash-4I wish I would have watched Whiplash last year because it probably would have made my top ten of 2014 in 2014 list. Whiplash explores the physical, emotional, interpersonal, and mental sacrifices that have to be made to truly be good at something, in this case drumming, and it doesn’t hold anything back. The duel of egos between the two main characters is incredibly intense, and the way the cinematographer shot the scenes of jazz music being played reminded me of the way Edgar Wright shoots action scenes. – 9/10

 Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – Wes Anderson

fmf2Watching my students laugh their cusses off during Fantastic Mr. Fox during the ECC International Cinema Club screening helped me realize that it is probably Wes Anderson’s best movie. Anderson doesn’t sacrifice a single bit of his signature style but manages to actually add to it with brilliant stop-motion animation and a story that can appeal to both kids and adults. – 10/10

Foxcatcher (2014) – Bennett Miller

foxcatcher_aI should probably like Foxcatcher more than I do. While the acting was great, the whole movie (including the acting) was just off-putting to me. The slow pace, the color palette, the awkwardness of the characters, the look of Tatum sticking out his chin, and the look of Carell sticking out his nose just made for an uncomfortable experience. I honestly felt like the two leads were playing their characters as if they were autistic, and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. This movie also includes the most obvious use of Chekhov’s gun I’ve ever seen in a movie (and this is coming from someone who didn’t know the ending before seeing the film). I know that there is someone who’s going to read this who will hate me for writing this review (hi, Paul), but I can’t honestly say I enjoyed it at all.  – 5/10

Coherence (2013) – James Byrkit

Emily-Baldoni-and-or-Foxler-in-Coherence-movie-620xThis is one of those mindbending/timebending/realitybending movies that have popped up in recent years after the cult success of Primer and Triangle. These movies tend to have a very strong premise and clearly are crafted expertly in order to keep viewers guessing the whole time. Coherence does this pretty well but doesn’t really live up to the standards set by the two other movies I mentioned. One of the things it does really well like Primer, however, is create a sense of confusion while at the same time leaving hints for viewers to find in a second viewing. Maybe I’ll give it another shot in the future and will appreciate it more then. – 7/10

John Wick (2014) – David Leatch, Chad Stahelski

_1416165890Everything I read online about this movie made it seem like it was going to be the coolest action film of all time. Instead, I found it to be mostly a run-of-the-mill action movie that was a little more self-aware than some others of its kind (like Taken, for example). The fights were cool. The premise was silly. The casting was great, with Keanu Reeves and Alfie Allen both perfect in their roles (even if their roles were pretty much caricatures of other roles both have played in the past. I do want to add that this movie doesn’t shy away from showing real violence and people really getting hurt like some other big action movies such as The Expendables, which glorifies the violence but doesn’t show it honestly the way John Wick does. – 7/10

Tokyo Godfathers (2003) – Satoshi Kon

Tokyo-GodfathersThis movie continued the ECC International Cinema Club’s series on animated films. I showed Millennium Actress (one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time) last year to the club as my annual Satoshi Kon representative, and I taught it in my class as well, so I thought that I would change it up and show Tokyo Godfathers this time instead. I must admit I had never watched it before, so I took a chance and watched it for the first time with my students (something I have never done before). The movie is probably Kon’s weakest overall since the plot is just a series of completely absurd coincidences one after the other from the first scene all the way to the last. The characters are totally compelling though, and the atmosphere and tone are poignant. – 8/10

Selma (2014) – Ava DuVernay

selma-bridgeThis film encapsulates the drama, tension, strategy, tragedy, hardships, and victories of the entire Civil Rights movement by focusing on one specific city and one specific struggle – that which led to the Voting Rights Act. I did not think I would enjoy it as much as I did. DuVernay pulled no punches in her honest portrayal of Dr. King, the SCLC members, Gov. Wallace, Pres. Johnson, or anyone else involved in this chapter of history. While many may write this movie off as a boring biopic, I found it to be extremely compelling; it felt more like a political thriller than a biography, and the film succeeds because of this. – 9/10

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